How Content Influences Personalized Search - and SEO Rank

How Content Influences Personalized Search - and SEO Rank

By John McTigueOct 1 /2012

google personalized searchI don't often blog about SEO because I'm not an expert, but I do understand the big picture. The fact is, if your content isn't good, relevant and shared widely, your chances of showing up in a search are greatly diminished. Many of our clients still think that if you optimize your pages carefully with keywords, you have a good chance of ranking on page #1 of Google or Bing. Well, it's true that if you don't optimize your content for strategic keywords, you hurt your chances of being found via search. But there's a lot more to the story these days. Here are some key roles that your content plays in determining your search visibility.

Personalized Search

According to Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, most Americans are against search engines collecting their browsing preferences and using them to personalize search engine results (SERPs) for privacy reasons. At the same time, most Americans are happy with the results they get from their searches and think that they have improved (become faster and more relevant) over time. In fact, more than 90% say that they usually find what they are looking for these days, thanks in large part to personalized search. Most people don't know how to turn off personalized search results in Google anyway, so it's a bit of a moot point.

To temporarily disable personalized search, click the globe icon in the upper right hand corner of Google SERPs.

To turn off personalized results for all searches, you need to be logged into your Google+ account. Now go to the gear icon to the right of the globe icon and go to Search Settings, scroll down and select "Do not use personal results" in the Personal Results settings.

How many people know how to do either one of those? Not many.

So, for most of us, and to an ever-increasing degree, our search results will be influenced by our searches, browsing history and social media interactions. If you compare searches on keyword phrases that you commonly use, for example, "great places to eat in San Francisco" your search results will be dramatically different if you have managed to turn off personalized search. Otherwise page rank depends on your personal history and the people and places you engage with frequently online.

What relevance does overall page rank have these days?

Great question. If it's different for nearly all Google and Bing users, it's pretty difficult to interpret. Ideally, you want to be on the first SERP for keyword phrases that are highly relevant to your likely buyers. But how?

What matters most is attracting buyers with high quality content that is optimized for relevant keyword phrases that they are likely to use in searching for your products and services. You must study your marketing automation analytics to find those phrases. Look at first touches by your customers. How did they find you via organic search, and what keywords do they routinely use to find your blogs and other content? Now you know what subject matter appeals to buyers and how to optimize it for search, but that's not enough. You must also:

  • Develop a unique "voice" and write consistently high quality content that solves problems often encountered by your likely buyers
  • Publish your content in likely buyer "watering holes," such as industry-specific blog syndication sites
  • Share your content in relevant social networks, but do so in the context of helpful conversations and forums
  • Be active in Google+ by engaging in relevant circles and sharing your content along with other relevant content from trusted authors
  • Make sure that your content is easily shared via social sharing icons
  • Personalize your blog posts and pages - add a human face to your ideas - the idea is to make it personal for your readers and followers so that they are more likely to return to your content often

Optimizing for Personal Search

The trick here is simple. You need to get likely buyers to view your content frequently. Ideally, they would bookmark your website, subscribe to your blog, share your content in social media and convert on your landing pages frequently. Search engines will pick up on that and rank you higher on your buyers' SERPs. The bottom line, if you are actively working content marketing, lead generation and lead nurturing for your company, you are 90% of the way there. Just make sure you think about targeting your content for your buyer's personalized searches with likely topics and keywords, and the rest will take care of itself.


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The Author

John McTigue

With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn and Twitter.