This column ran last week, but I just realized I forgot to post it – hence the double-header this week. You can also find this at MediaPost; it continues in the extended entry here.
Personalized search as now gone mainstream, thanks to
Google. What’s a marketer to do about it? I can sum up the best strategy in one
Google has experimented with personalized search results in beta,
and during that trial, you could turn the personalized search results on or off.
Now, if you’re searching while logged into your Google account, you get the
personalized search results automatically, as mentioned
on the Google Blog. You’ll see the message “Personalized search results 1-10
of about [the number of results]” in the light blue bar above the natural and
paid results when it’s on.
It’s easy to overreact to the change. What should you make of
articles such as those on SearchEngineLand by Nick Wilson, who spent over 1,000 words
in his “3 Ranking Survival Tips for Google’s New Personalized Results”? He
advises optimizing for Google services, social search, and social networks and
These are all great suggestions, and they’re all helpful in their
own ways. They can also be used to no benefit of the marketer. For instance, one
could offer buttons, tags, and widgets that make it easier for Google users to
add marketers’ content to users’ personalized home pages to the detriment of the
overall customer experience on the marketer’s site. Marketers could post content
to digg, the social news site, only to be seriously rebuffed by the site’s
cabal; if the marketer is successful, it could drive a swarm of traffic that has
no interest in anything beyond the marketer’s one buzz-worthy link of the day. A
marketer can also engage in blogs and social networking yet do so in silos, thus
offering no lasting benefits.
The other option for optimizing for personalized search is simply
optimizing for the best possible rankings in Google’s non-personalized listings.
There are three advantages to this strategy:
1) Most Google users won’t be logged in while searching. Google’s
empire is growing, with logging in required for its personalized homepage,
Gmail, Docs & Spreadsheets, Checkout, and other services in its smorgasbord,
but the homepage at Google.com is the primary starting point, and no
registration’s required for that. (Google was not able to offer any numbers on
the volume of searches conducted from users logged in with a Google account.)
2) For searchers who are logged in and are amassing a search
history for personalization, most searches won’t be significantly affected.
Certain sites might rise a couple of notches for certain users’ queries, and
sometimes there might be a major shift, with a result that ranked eighteenth now
ranking second, but the changes will not usually be that pronounced.
3) It’s easier. Consider a query in Google that could have any of
25 different links that could wind up on the first page (set at the default 10
results displayed) of a user’s personalized results listings. That could lead to
roughly 11.9 trillion permutations, or about 1,750 permutations for every person
Nick Wilson, in his recommendations for grappling with
personalized search, offered some great advice: consider engaging in strategies
such as blogging and blogger relations, social media marketing, and others along
with your on-site and off-site optimization programs, he said. Yet that’s true
regardless of whether Google and the other search engines build in
personalization. These strategies are some of the new search engine optimization
So, should you optimize for one, or for 11.9 trillion? It’s your