Google’s Personalized Search: How Much Should We Care?

Executive Summary: Google Goes Personal, How Much Should We Care?

Last week, it was announced that Google will automatically sign-up Google Account users to additional services by default, including “Personalized Search”, which will gives users unique Search Results (SERPs), basing rankings of websites on past search history and other behavioral data.

So now, what ranks on Google will depend on each Google user, ending the notion of different people being able to see the same search results. While people are asking “How will SEO change because of this?”, another question also needs to be asked is “How much will this effect the average Google Search?”

For example, Nick Wilson puts heavy emphasis on using leveraging Social Media to optimize for Google’s Personalized Services, but how many Google users are actually using social media with Google (E.G. Google Reader)? This is a question that needs to be considered before making changes to how you do SEO.

The Google Personalized Ranking Variables and the SEO Tactics

Here’s a quick recap on the new variables that will effect organic rankings and what SEO needs to do to address them. See Nick Wilson’s SEL article for more.

  • Google Search History:
    What it is: Keeps a log of all search queries were conducted and what links on the results page (SERPs) were clicked on
    How it effects SEO: Page titles need to not only help a webpage rank high, but be attractive to be clicked on
    SEO Tactics: Page titles need to concentrate on CTR as much as getting the ranking.
  • Google Personalized Homepage
    What it Is: Like Yahoo’s “Personal Homepage”, but with the ability to add various widgets and RSS Feeds
    How it may effect SEO: 1) What widgets are being used; 2) What RSS feeds are being subscribed to and clicked on
    SEO Tactic: 1) Create helpful Widgets; 2) Do Blogging; 3) Engage in promoting Widgets and Blogs via linkbait, WoM etc
  • Google Reader
    What it is: Google’s fast raising web-based RSS Reader
    How it may effect SEO: What RSS feeds are being subscribed to, which one’s are being read and to what frequency
    SEO Tactic: 1) Do Blogging; 2) Engage in promoting Blog via linkbait, WoM etc
  • Google Bookmarks:
    What it is: Bookmarking tool, like etc
    How it may effect SEO: What pages are being bookmarked by the user
    SEO Tactic: 1) Create “Bookmark worthy” content and tools; 2) SMO with “Add to Google” Links; 3) Do WoM, Viral, Linkbait etc.

How much will this change Ranking for Google?
From everything I gathered, Google’s new move will only effect those logged into a Google Accounts when doing a search, so…

  1. What percentage of users is this?
  2. How many of these users use the advance services like Google Reader, Bookmarks, or Personalized Homepage with widgets and RSS feeds? The features that are now used in ranking?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any readily available satisfying answers for Question #1, other than there are ~51 million Gmail users (so at least that many accounts) and there are ~103m US searchers per day on Google. Unfortunately, these statistics doesnt bring us any closer to how many searches were done under a Google Account. And we can’t even deduce users did all 103 million searches per day.

However on Question #2, the use of Google services, even popular services like Google Reader, while fastly growing, are not market leaders (in traffic terms) as of yet. And Google Bookmarks is a virtual unknown, while I would assume Google Personalized Homepage’s more advance features are only slightly more used.

So what about and who should be worried about the new system?

  • Search History is one service that is guaranteed to be used, so attractive titles and descriptions are a must to increase CTR.
  • If your website is targeting tech-savvy, early adopters (who are likely to use Google Accounts) than you should worry about Google Reader, Google Personalized Homepage Widgets and so on.

Of course, as part of SEO, one must think about blog marketing, widget creation and social media marketing (all what Nick Wilson emphasized), but right now for Google, it doesnt seem to be necessarily needed until services like Google Reader are more popularly used.

What are your thoughts on this?


UPDATE from February 14, 2007:

I just remember I’ve previously written about this topic in “Google Co-Op, Custom Search and the impact on SEO”, which declared:

“In short, if a website is badly position with the audience, has little content, not crawlable by search engines, not attractive enough to be linked to – than you have a problem with search engines, coop or no coop, personalized or not. If, however, the websites has all this issues addressed, than generally it will be well positioned not only on traditional Yahoo, Google search engines but also in personalized searches as well.”



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7 responses to “Google’s Personalized Search: How Much Should We Care?”

  1. […] Posted on February 12, 2007 Тэги: seoОдин из моих предыдущих постов об опасности персонализации для СЕО вызвал живые дискуссию в некоторых кругах. Предлагаются как разумные, так и совсем безумные методы “борьбы” с этим явлением. Но большая часть откликов обычно сводится к русскому “авось” и “Фигня-война, главное маневры. Прорвемся”. Ð’ принципе, это ожидаемые реакционные отзывы, с которыми трудно не согласиться. Уже не в первый раз на “хитрый фильтр находился скрипт винтом” 🙂 Но в большей степени, меня поразила в очередной раз некая деструктивность мышления – “сломаем, найдем дырку, обманем”. Тоже логично – такие действия проще автоматизировать и запустить массово. Однако, по моему личному убеждению не стоит сосредотачиваться только на таких методах – возможно стоит все же обратить свое внимание на тактики предлагаемые “белыми”, позаимствовать их решения и автоматизировать их. Что же на текущий момент предлагают “белые”? Одну из самых лучших тактик я пока что прочел в заметке Google’s Personalized Search: How Much Should We Care? на сайте Emergence Media. Привожу краткий перевод: Возможности персонализации Google и тактика СЕО: […]

  2. Mike Avatar

    I agree that the personalised search results become, the more difficult SEO becomes.

    As a user though, I don’t like personalised search. I want to see what Google thinks is number one for a particular term, not what it thinks I’d like to see. I trust Google when it comes to evaluating website; not when it comes to evaluating ME.

  3. ddas77 Avatar

    Personalized search is good in the sense that you can keep track of the searches you made and the resultant links you clicked on. It helps when you are trying to find that hard to remember URL or web page that you had visited weeks ago.

    I use Google search rapidly and also the Search history often. More of all I heavily use the Bookmarks & Personalized Home also. Google Reader is also in my usage list though limited. But they are all friendly and helpful.

    I think we should care about it. If not there is infringement or leak of our personal/private preferences and other information, causing harm.

  4. Daniel R Avatar
    Daniel R

    Ddas77 and Mike,

    Personalization can be a great tool, but obviously can get in the way sometimes. I’d like to see something like’s recommendation system, where they show you the “generic” results along with “Recommended Links”.

    To Mike:

    SEO will continue to evolve to something more complex for sure, but my question is: Are enough people using Google Accounts at this time to make Google Personalization matter?

  5. Yolanda Applegate Avatar
    Yolanda Applegate

    Does it bother no one that this company (Google) gets all this personal information on you free-of-charge? Last time I checked they were a for-profit corporation in the bizness of making money and here you are giving away your 411 with no grease on the backside?

  6. Daniel R Avatar
    Daniel R

    @ Yolanda:

    Great point! Personal Information is already commoditized via Claritas and others, but people cant commoditized they own personal information to sell to companies.

    That would be a very interesting paradigm shift – like people getting paid to wear t-shirts that say CK or purses that has the “Coach” logo all over them? Instead of paying more because of them.

  7. […] Google’s Personalized Search: How Much Should We Care? […]

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