The effects were subtle. The average person searching on Google probably didn’t notice. For most, the results of last Friday’s rollout of the long-tested, debated and awaited personalized search results for the masses was an entirely unremarkable event.
For the search marketing industry, it was cataclysmic.
In short, it’s a game changer. Those who adapt quickly or are already ahead of the curve will thrive in the new environment. Those too slow or in denial will perish.
“One page fits all” is now a thing of the past.
Personalized search is now the default and none too easy to escape from either through opt-out. This means that every search result you click, every link you bookmark, every RSS feed you subscribe to using Google services can be used to improve your personal search results.
For most, this should be very welcome, as it promises a far better search experience that will adapt to your interests and evolve over time. For search marketers, it means new skills and techniques are needed to achieve search visibility.
The following three survival tips come with two caveats:
- There is no way to tell yet what works well and what doesn’t. Some things are obvious and will undoubtedly help.
Others are pure, albeit educated, conjecture.
- This is not a "how to rank in Google guide." There’s quite a bit more to it than this. Having said that, for the new personalized search pages, I think these should stand you in good stead.
1) Optimize For Google Services
The three Google services you might want to socially optimize for are:
- Google Personalized Homepage, the widgetized box of
AJAXified customizable tricks now advertised on the main Google.com home page.
- Google Bookmarks, an unexciting but marginally useful bookmarking
- Google Reader, the Bloglines-beating RSS reader I recently fell in love with.
As Danny covered in his write-up on Google Personalized Search last week, information from the first two is now used to influence your search results:
Beyond your search history, Google also looks at the content on your Google Personalized Homepage – what gadgets you have there, feeds you are reading and so on — in order to shape your personalized search results. This is a new signal they’ve just started to use. Another new signal is Google Bookmarks. Pages you save in these also influence the results.
Google Reader information isn’t apparently being used, but it would be very odd if Google doesn’t use your clicking and reading habits from that in the future to also influence search results.
Given the new importance of these services, making your pages easy to add to them makes sense — if you can bear having to promote Google services on every page in your site just to get a leg up the search results!
Personally I tend to avoid such things, reasoning that a clean page sets tone for content. But in light of this recent change in the order of the Googleverse, I may have to rethink.
Want to get going yourself? Google Reader and Google Personalized Homepage have a helpful page explaining how to create buttons for those services. Put these on your site and encourage those subscriptions.
Google doesn’t seem to offer much in terms of Google Bookmark buttons that I could find. But there are third-party solutions such as AddThis, AddToBookmarks and 3spots. Also check out Graywolf’s Social Bookmark Scripts & Widgets guide. If you use FeedBurner, FeedFlares are an easy way to add Google Bookmark buttons to your site, as you’ll see done at the bottom of this column.
2) Optimize For Social Search
Social search sites such as Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit, Bluedot and StumbleUpon are often accused (particularly in the case of Digg) of sending largely useless and even unwanted traffic. And for some kinds of sites they’re just wholly inappropriate. However, if you can, you should get traffic from them to help with Google.
Help with Google? Yes, and here’s why.
It’s not about Digg anymore. It’s about all those slavering technoyobs with the Google toolbar installed, using Google bookmarks or Google Reader. It’s also about how thousands and thousands of bloggers use Digg and similar sites to source content and stories for their own blogs.
The knock-on effect, as we’ve come to know it, is what social search is all about. Thousands or even hundreds of thousands of bloggers and geeky web folks can hit your pages and use Google services to tag them, subscribe to your feeds, shag it™ or just have their interest in your page recorded more quietly. That’s quite possibly very good news indeed.
3. Optimize For Social Networks
People are widely acknowledging the growth and buzz about social search and how those sites can drive traffic. But what about social networks?
Social networking means finding the movers and shakers, those who can swing traffic your way on the blogosphere. It can also mean finding them through formal social networking sites like MySpace.
Establishing a presence inside relevant social networks can be a daunting task. However, more and more organizations are taking the plunge. Here are a few first steps you can make this week:
- Establish a MySpace profile
- Identify and engage with the blog influencers
in your niche
- Start blogging yourself. You can take notes from
- Institute a viral link building program to help propel your blog into circulation
- Build a remarkable widget that can be embedded into profile pages on social networks like Bebo and MySpace that will drive traffic to your site.
The list could go on, and that’s what’s so wonderful about the current changes we’re seeing in search and web marketing. Technical skills are still needed, but imagination and knowledge of the social spaces our customers inhabit are gaining in value, which ultimately means that the sky is the limit on what you can do.
In future articles for Search Engine Land, I’ll go into more details on this last point. In the meantime, do drop comments and questions in the box beneath. I’ll be happy to continue the discussion there.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.