What were you doing on Dec. 4, 2009 at 3 in the afternoon? Maybe getting some Christmas shopping done? Maybe tidying up a work project, getting ready to go home? Or maybe, because Dec. 4 at 3 p.m. was a Friday afternoon, you had already started your weekend.
While we were all busy with life and getting ready for the end of 2009, Google posted an innocuous-looking, 267-word memo in its official blog. And while this short message went relatively unnoticed on the Web, the content of Google’s post is extremely significant. The gist? Personalized Search.
Essentially, Google announced that all users of its search engine are, by default, going to be served personal results, based on “180 days of search activity.” It’s tracked by “an anonymous cookie” in each user’s web browser and is completely separate from an individual’s Google account. In other words, you don’t have to be signed in to Google to receive these custom (tailor-made-for-you) results. You just have to Google.
By default, the new Personalized Search monitoring is turned on. Yes, it can be turned off — but the off-button, as it were, is fairly well hidden. You can learn how to turn it off, by going here. And you can get more details about Personalized Search, here.
The main reason (Google stated in its announcement) that the search engine is serving up Personalized Search results is to receive “the most relevant results possible.” If, for example, a user tends to search for a particular term over and over, Google will “remember” if a particular link is clicked more often than another. In future searches, Google will place that link higher than the others to that individual user.
What does this mean for companies interested in Search Engine Optimization? It’s a mixed bag. Initially doing well on SERPs matters more now than ever before. If you do well in the organic results, your site is more likely to be clicked on by a user, and thus more likely to show up higher for his/her Personalized Searches.
It also means that paid-for search ads (Google Adwords, aka “Sponsored Links”) will also play a more prominent role. Sponsored Links will appear on search results, regardless of Personalized Search, which means you can keep your site in front of viewers if you’re willing to run an AdWords campaign. It also means that paid-for search ads will become a more competitive (and subsequently, expensive) endeavor. More sites will advertise because they want to be sure a viewer sees their site’s link, regardless of Personalized Search.
This latest move by Google is extremely strategic with far-reaching implications. Team JLB will be monitoring and reporting more on this issue as it develops.