Friday, February 23, 2007

Personal Search - Good or Bad For SEO?

From the Early Days

It started out as a project to allow you to add the Gmail and Google Headlines to the Google homepage. Google’s personalized search feature was rolled out from Google Labs to the public in September 2006.

Google's personalized search reorders search results based on your history of past searches, giving more weight to topics that interest you.

This means that if you search for "fly fishing" your future results for a search on "bass" will be more heavily weighted toward fishing than the musical instrument, according to Avni Shah, Google product manager.

Why Is It Important Now?

Starting Feb 2nd, anyone who signs-up for any Google service using a Google account (Gmail, Adsense, Google Analytics, Groups, Alerts, etc) will automatically be enrolled into Google personal search.

In the new system, a profile is created automatically. Exactly how this is done isn't explained yet by Google. That it's measuring what you click on and then skewing your results over time to favor sites that fall in particular topics areas seems clear.

If you don't want to see personalized results, or you don’t want Google to see your personal activity, you need to sign out of your Google account.

Impact on SEO

Personalized search re-orders a user’s search results primarily by noting the type of sites the user selects from the search results. That allows Google to look at those sites and give them a boost in rankings as shown to that particular user.

This change is good for SEO, especially for sites with good content. While good title tags and descriptions make the user click to your site from the search results page, the content and usability of the website makes the visitor stay in your site for a longer period of time and makes your site a top pick for the personalized search, assuming that length of stay is part of the personalized search algorithm.

So, as site relevance and stickiness become more important, you should consider some additional SEO tactics. For example, some efforts in terms of blogs and Social Marketing could help. Also, offer a way to easily bookmark your site. Getting bookmarked will help your site be seen as important.

Concluding Thoughts

More and more people are signed into Google personalized search results without knowing it. Privacy issues and SEO impact are two concerns here. Stay tuned to find out how the public and the industry are reacting to these…

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