Since the 4th December 2009 Google has automatically customised results based on users previous search history. Prior to this date Google results were only personalised if you were signed in to your Google account. What this now means is that if you don’t want results to be personalised you have to opt out of personalised search.
At a very basic level this change has implications for SEO reporting. Clearly as an agency we have to make sure that we are reporting results that are un-personalised and accurate. At a more detailed level though we must consider how personalised search affects our strategies and respective client performance.
Our thinking is that if websites are favoured based on web history then already established sites with a strong brand reputation are going to benefit the most because they will have a higher click through rate than smaller less known sites. Sites like Amazon and Ebay are therefore likely to capitalise increasingly upon the long tail of search and increase their visibility. Subsequently newer brands and fresh content are going to find it harder to compete for this visibility.
Our approach to this development is twofold. Firstly the advice more than ever to our clients is to make a good impression. Making sure titles and descriptions are spot on to ensure high click through rate is crucially important. Furthermore it is essential that landing page design and content is engaging and targeted in order to ensure that visitors leave with a strong impression of the website and are likely to favour it if they come across it in the SERP’s a second time around.
Although ‘brand’ is such as buzz word at the moment, personalised search provides one more reason to talk about its importance online. Creating and maintaining a brand that has a strong following and loyalty is crucial to maximise the benefits of personalised search. If your brand is stronger than the competing brands within the SERP’s then click through rates will be higher which will lead to stronger personalised search rankings.