Search engine optimization (SEO), which is considered by many online marketing specialists to be a rather generic strategy, is facing new challenges in the age of personalization. As the modern online consumer begins to demand more personalized service from the companies they patronize, the idea of personalized SEO Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) is becoming more and more prevalent.
Personalization is finding its way into all aspects of online marketing and communication, and cannot help but find its way into searching out sites that serve customers. After all, the way that people share brands and products online is becoming big business in the modern business landscape.
SEM on Major Search Engines and Personalization
Major search engines have been dealing with personalization since 2005 – this is nothing new for the platform. However, Google revamped its efforts in 2012 with the Venice Update, Google Now, and other initiatives that were created to make Google the preeminent personalization search engine on the Internet.
Day to day users on major search engines definitely have an opinion on receiving personalized service.
As it stands now, about 64% of people were not aware at all that their search results in search engines were not the same as the results delivered to other people. Once they found out that search engines were tracking personal information in order to deliver these results, 54% of the people surveyed expressed unhappiness about it.
Search is Usually Personalized Anyway
SEO SERP professionals often forget that today’s search is usually a personalized experience. It is definitely not enough to try to create a competitive analysis or understand site rankings from the perspective of a neutral search. For instance, we understand that international searches are going to be different based on location.
In order to truly determine how a website is doing for a targeted audience, marketers need to drill down into targeted geographic areas within the country in question.
At the same time, marketers should understand who their competitors are within that small geographic location. In a neutral search, a landing page may be on the first page of results. However, that same page may not rank as highly for cities that are actually more important in terms of reaching the target audience.
Marketers need to understand exactly why this is.
The Venice Update
The Venice Update creates an enhanced localization delivery for the user who is performing a search. The number one metric in these searches is how the SEO SERPs are shaped.
This is an important update because companies that may not have a footprint in the national or international space, still have the ability to rank quite high in a local search. In many cases, the local business is prioritized over the business that has national or international reach, because the local business has a higher priority to the people who are actually in that area.
Additionally, international companies do not take the time to market in smaller geographic areas. Search engines now recognize that fact and don’t give companies with bigger budgets priority just because they are spending more money, at least not in local organic searches.
This is a level of personalization that is working for users of major search engines.
Without it, searches would actually provide poor user experience. This is continually becoming more relevant as commerce moves into the mobile sector. People who look for websites on their phones are more likely to try and find a storefront, or make an immediate purchase. They are looking for solutions in real time, and search engines are designed to provide those experiences.
However, the Venice Update is not the only way that keywords and localized SEO influences how SERPs are personalized in digital marketing. The concept of the “new query” is a rising factor in how users find information on the major search engines.
The so-called “new query” is created not by the user, but by the search engine. Search engines now have the ability to predict the type of search that a user may be implicitly performing. The concept is explained by two search engine optimization specialists here, with the discussion going through localization in terms of certain contexts of explicit and implicit aspects of search.
Creating Local Relevance
Since we now know that localization is a huge part of personalization, we can conclude what determines relevance within search engines. Marketers also have a much shorter path to creating more relevant content that will keep search rankings high.
Relevance on a local level can now be maximized by creating content on off-line events, connecting a website with other local, highly reputable websites, and creating partnerships with local social media influencers. Scammers and unscrupulous marketers will no longer be able to so easily infiltrate listings that have been bolstered in this way.
In other cases, SEO SERPs can be scanned for keywords so marketers can create content that is relevant to users within that context. However, this is a technique that might not be available to the majority of marketers now. It is rather difficult to determine what the user is searching for on a website using major search engines.
Analytics and webmaster tools cannot easily discern this information. Marketers must still obtain it directly from their target customers.
Is There Any Such Thing as a Neutral Search Any More?
Even in the most neutral searches conducted on major search engines, there is evidence of personalization within them. Any marketer can take a look at disambiguation boxes and knowledge graphs to see the effect – how a user is localized through language and position determines how those results are listed in front of that user in digital marketing.
The knowledge base of search engines is continuing to expand based on user searches and patterns.
There are more than 8 trillion searches performed on daily basis. This is big data at its finest, and machine learning strategies are giving search engines an endless amount of opportunity for improvement. Major search engines can even personalize results to local users even if that user is logged out, thanks to cookies.
Search engines use factors such as search history, as well as localization, to personalize search results. The history of past searches may play a larger role in search rankings than localization, depending on the user’s connection to their environment and the relevance of the user’s perspective.
Another factor that plays a huge role in search engine personalization is the “search entity.” Search entity is explained in detail here. But basically, a search entity are how a user searches on the web. Search entity contains documents that are responsible to the search.
For example, Google can record what you click on and how long you view a page. Google can then use this data to predict the probability of success or failure of a certain result, which effects the page’s rank.
Overall, personalization will play an ever-growing role in how we use results appear in SEO SERPs. Look to the metrics above to determine how you can best respond to the upcoming challenges of marketing in an ever-expanding business landscape.
How have you tackeled personalized SERPs? Let us know in the comments!