Google’s Personalized Search Debate

Danny Sullivan does it again, with his in-depth look at Google’s new personalized search feature – Google Ramps up Personalized Search… great article. The topic of personalized search results is stirring up the SEO world – some say it’s a positive change, while others are suggesting it could potentially put a stop to SEO all together. Who’s right, who’s wrong, and what is personalized search anyway? Well here’s some basic information and my initial view on this topic.

What if you had your own personalized search engine, that provided results based on your own past search behavior? What if one of your favorite websites has moved up in ranking because you visit it often? Well this is what Google is now offering – Google has just announced the launch of their new Personalized Search feature that will provide personalized results to you based on your past search history, which sites you click on most often and what topics you seem to search for on a consistent basis. Based on these behaviors, the personalized search feature will rank and provide specific results that relate to your trends as a user.

This personalized search is a feature that will come with every new Google Account and you must be logged into your Google Account in order to use this feature. If you are not logged in, you will see the standard organic search results. For users who already have a Google account, you must enable this feature within your account.

So that was a basic explanation of the process. For more information I highly suggest reading Danny Sullivan’s article (link provided below) as he dives into great detail or going through the Google Help Center for personalized search topics.

Ok, so immediately this raises a few thoughts and theories in my head. It seems like we’re all going to be getting some sort of “batting average” based on our trends as a user while using the Google search engine. So if we do a search multiple times for a specific topic and click on site A five times but only click on site B one time, in theory, site A should rank higher than site B… well for me anyway, not for anyone else, unless their behavior was identical to mine.

Now this makes sense but the ultimate question that comes to mind is – Does our “batting average” as an independent user, have any affect to other user’s personalized searching experience? If ten users all click on site A more often, does this mean that site A will begin to slowly increase for other users the first time they search and prior to them having any personalization on that topic?

If this is the case, then will Google be morphing into some type of social community tagging system like Digg or Delicious? Will the ranking, trends and behaviors of other user’s personalized search also affect my results, for the first time I search on a topic? If so, I think this is great news for the SEO world. Firstly, because this means that optimization of a website will be more strategic and analytical than it is today. Secondly, I believe it will greatly reduce spam, something that is a huge concern with the search engines today.