SEO 101 – Google Personalized Search



Personalized search
Whether we want it or not, personalized search is being rolled out by the big search engines. Here are some updated tips for site owners.

Another way that Google has changed the playing field as far as search engine optimization is through Personalized Search. With Personalized Search, Google reads your search history, measures your length of stay and clicks on sites and dishes out search results based on what it thinks you want to see, which can be totally different from what others see. For Google to show these personalized results, you have to be signed into a Google account (Gmail, Google Analytics, Google Reader, etc). The problem is that most people will forget that they are signed in and won’t know that the results they are seeing are personalized and different from what others might see.

Why is Google personalizing search? In a nutshell, because Google thinks it’s what we want. Many of us in that big “we” category aren’t convinced that’s so. Regardless, it looks like it’s here to stay.

One advantage Google sees is that by studying your personal search habits, the engine might be able to better distinguish the meaning of your query. For instance, if you have been searching for a new truck lately, the search engine might be able to figure out that you’re current query is for a Tacoma truck and not the city of Tacoma. Narrowing the search down like this can benefit conversion rates.

Of course, the other big engines will follow suit with their own versions of personalized search results (whether we really want them or not). So, in order to optimize your sites for more personalized search friendliness (stickiness and more clicks), here are a few tips.

1. Optimize for your user around themes instead of keywords. Keep the user engaged to keep them on the site longer. Keywords will come naturally with theme optimization.

2. Use long tail optimization. Different words can mean the same thing and catch those extra searches. In other words, don’t just optimize for “round eyeglasses” if your site has visitors that might be searching for “round spectacles” – toss “spectacles” into the content.

3. Videos and images are more important. These catch the eye and keep the user on your site longer.

4. Create a buzz. This has become an SEO tactic that not only drives traffic, but is sticky, at least while the buzz lasts.

5. Widgets, gadgets and RSS feeds will keep visitors coming back and engaged.

6. Buy geotargeted ads while you are optimizing for local search. This will get them started coming to you while your organic strategy takes shape. Localize to associate your site with a region through maps, link relationships, etc.

7. Did you know you have a Personal PageRank? You do. Google assigns values to you as a searcher based on your (logged in) search history. Pages you stay on longer get more weight in your personalized search results. All the more reason to make your site sticky and keep visitors there. Google reads Google Bookmarks, too, so try to get your visitors to Google Bookmark your site.

8. Design for time on your site and page views. Do everything you can to make the site sticky.

9. Link out to authority sites of your choice. I know, conventional wisdom has it that you don’t want to leak link juice, but in this case, Google thinks the visitor found what they wanted on your site and gives your site the weight.

10. Have your site become THE authority on a topic. Talk about being sticky…

11. Be unique. Nothing attracts and retains visitors like unique, useful content. Make that content fresh and breaking and you’ve got a dynamite combination.

12. Promote across social sites. Use MySpace, Facebook, Digg, etc. to get the word out.

13. Broaden the range of services on your site to include all of the above – video, podcasts, news, social content and so forth. SEO is not about 10 blue links anymore.

Notice a theme here? Sticky, sticky, sticky. Keep your users engaged and on your site to do well in personalized search.

This article is intended as a companion piece to S E O 101 and was updated 3/14/2008.

See the entire S E O 101 series.

I go into more detail in my S E O 101 workshop, offered to web site owners and small businesses. Check my blog at http://www.weboptimist.com for more information or contact me to set up a custom workshop for your business group of five or more people in the Palm Springs area of Southern California. Travel is possible for large groups.

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+Richard Burckhardt


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