Friday, November 11, 2005

Does Google Personal Search Eliminate The Need For SEO?


Google has announced that they are moving personal search out of the labs and into beta. Personal search allows anyone with a Google account, and the Google toolbar, to have their search behavior tracked. The web sites listed in future searches will depend, in part, on past search behavior. The objective is to deliver more relevent search results to each individual.

This means that potentially everyone will see different search results, even when searching for the same key word or phrase. How does this effect SEO?

As far as I can see, not at all. You still need to create good web stes, that have compelling content that is of interest to your target markets. The site still needs to be easy to navigate and quality IBLs (in-bound links) are still valuable. And you still need to avoid the pitfalls that result in lower search result rankings, or that might even get your site banned.

Although search results will be personalized, not everyone is going to want personalized search results. So for some of your target market nothing has changed.

For those using personalized search you still want your web sites to be at the top of those listings. These will be better targeted search results, so having your site near the top should result in a much better response rate than with untargeted search results. Personalization of search results may even result in your showing up in search results you couldn't get into before.

In addition, reading the Google patent reveals that, with personalized search some web sites that don't match the personalization will be mixed in with the personalized results. Four or five of the top ten personalized search results may be from outside the personalization criteria. Thus, SEO is even more important--to get your sites into these unpersonalized results, they'll need to be in the top 4 or 5 generic results. It will be twice as difficult to appear on the first page of search results.

But the biggest problem for SEO resulting from personalized search results is in getting feedback. You'll no longer know what searchers are seeing because their search results are personalized. Instead of testing to see how you are doing on search results pages you'll now need to put on your SEM hat on and test against conversion rates--which after all has always been the true objective.


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