Personalized search is something Google came up with recently and this is hitting people in so many directions. Some website owners are annoyed, while some are happy.
So what Google’s personalized search has done?
Search is personalized to a point where no two people will see the same search engine results page (SERP) for a given search (keyword).
And how does Google do this? Google personalized search is due to a lot of parameters but mostly based on your connection with Google and connection with others in social media.
Let me illustrate with an example. Below is the screenshot of the SERP I got when I search for “Google plus pages” with Google personalized search enabled (of course)
Given that I am friends with people like Kim and Josh and we share things among us, plus one, interact etc., what they share appears in my search results. That is, they have influenced my search results.
Now I bet you won’t see the same page and the same results if you search for the same term. You can go ahead and try it now, I’ll wait right here!
OK so I’m sure you realized that this is the effect of personalized search.
How does Google know that its you who is searching for something (and that its not me), and tailors the search results and displays to you?
Google knows you (hope that doesn’t scare you, lol) from your association with Google itself. I am sure that most of us would be logged in to Gmail or Google plus while browsing (even if you have logged in once and then closed that tab). This makes your search secured (in logged in mode) as well.
Have you noticed the strip that appears on top of your search page?
This confirms that you are logged in to Google; any of its services including, Gmail, Google plus, Orkut, or if you’re using Google Docs, Maps, Adsense, Adwords anything else, basically. And THIS affects your search.
Why Google personalized search is both good and bad?
It is good because, Google tailors the search results for you, based on your interests (Google learns this from your history of searches and using the web in general).
For instance if you make your online purchases mostly with Amazon.com then any product search like searching for a kettle will get you results mostly from Amazon’s pages.
If you are a regular visitor of a particular website and if you share a lot of its stuff through tweeting, sharing on Facebook, sharing on Google plus etc. then if you search for a term for which that website is relevant, you will certainly get that website’s page on your results.
If you are friends with a blogger who is also interested in sharing blogging tips kinda stuff, then your search on “blogging tips” will get pages shared by your friend.
So, it is about your likes, your preferences and those of your friends with whom you are connected. That makes sense!
But what about SEO?
This is where personalized search becomes bad! Bloggers and website owners are spending a lot of time (and money) to get their sites ranked on the first page (preferably on #1 position) on Google.
But due to Google personalized search, the term “ranking” has become relative. Ranking on the first page – according to me or you? That’s the question!
Black box in Analytics
Here’s another thing to worry about! There is an area on Google Analytics which I will call a black box. Look at the picture below
I am trying to look at the keywords that got me traffic in the past X number of days and on the top position what I got is “(not provided)” – a secret, something I would never know.
But that’s not what all bloggers and website owners would like/expect. They want to know what keywords got them traffic, but Google won’t reveal those.
Who decides my visibility with personalized search?
Its YOU. That’s some good news. Now that Google has given the control to you (in some sense via personalized search), how can you decide your visibility in SERPs? Here are some tips to go with –
1. Produce quality content – the type of content that people love to share around the web; the type of content that goes viral. Such content will naturally get links, likes, shares, tweets, plus ones, stumbles, what not! The more you get shared the more chances are that you are influencing the SERPs of more people (friends and friends’ friends and so on).
2. Get connected – Social media is the new marketing avenue and make the most out of it. Make genuine connections (not to spam their space, I mean) and network with people. Help them out while you are there. Interact and clarify their questions. Show your expertise. The more people you are connected with, the more will be your influence on their SERPs!
3. Use Commentluv Premium – Not to mention, this plugin makes the most part of the story easy! With features like social enticements, Twitterlink, Keywordname etc. not only it attracts a lot of people to your blog, but entices those people to share your content as well. That’s an easy way to go viral with the traffic you get. To know more about the features of the plugin, read these posts:
4. Market your content – Content creation is not enough. You need to let people know about it. The more people know about your content, chances are that it will be shared and talked about a lot (if its good enough). To know more about content marketing head over to this page.
5. Know about the importance of Author Markups and set that right.
What if I don’t like Google personalized search!
Well you can turn personalized search off if you don’t want Google to tailor your searches based on your history and usage in any of the following ways:
1. If you’re using Google chrome you can choose the “Incognito window”. If you use Firefox, you can go for “Tools” -> “Start Private Browsing”.
2. Logout of all Google services before you do a search. Make sure you clear your browser cookies.
3. While you’re signed in at any of Google’s services, click on the settings (the gear like icon) on the top right of the page and choose Web History. Once you’re there click “Disable customization”.
4. For Firefox there’s an extension called Google global which has an option to disable personalized searches. This option is cool if you don’t want to mess up with your Google history. The plugin also has an option to view how the search results will be in other countries.
These are for you own use, but you can’t guarantee that a person will disable Google personalized search while doing searches. The chances are extremely less.
Google personalized search takeaway
The way search engines work is continuously changing; Google personalized search is one such aspect. This is both good and bad as I just explained.
The best part about personalized search is that black hat techniques will fail (and will get seriously hit) due to these changes. Since a particular algorithm is not going to work in the long run and the algorithms change from people to people, ranking is now a relative term.
It goes that producing quality content is not enough but you need to market your content smart enough to get people to share your content and make it go viral.
As always I would love to know your thoughts on Google personalized search.
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