3 Ranking Survival Tips For Google’s New Personalized Results

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:

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 these guys
  • 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.

Nick Wilson is a contributing writer for Search Engine Land and the CEO and senior strategist for Clickinfluence, a dedicated social media marketing agency.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Google: Personalized Search | Social Media Marketing


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  • http://www.newfangled.com Eric Holter

    Thanks for the news and tips! I wrote a newsletter back in December 2005 called Number One in Google? Not for Long… – I guess the “not for long” part was about one year. I’m generally optimistic about Google collecting the data they need to refine searches that take intent into account. Ultimately, I consider highly targeted searching that delivers content (and even advertising) that closely matches what I am interested in as a good thing. I suspect the targeting will not be very good for awhile, and I am concerned about privacy and protection of the data, but we have to start somewhere and I’m glad Google is pushing ahead.

    I would love to hear from SEO folks about how they intend to adjust the expectations and goals for their services, given the impact personalized search will have on individual search results.

    Eric Holter
    CEO – Newfangled Web Factory

  • http://www.luckylester.com Lucky Lester

    Great article Nick, thanks for taking the time to put it together. I had some questions for you thatI didn’t want to post here so I tried to visit your link but it was password protected, care to send me your email address?
    info at lucky lester dot com

  • Nick Wilson

    Eeek! Sorry about that lucky, the company is new and the site not ready for public yet but the password was an error nonetheless, i’ve fixed that now, thanks!

    Sure you can email me at nick@communicontent.com

  • http://www.aimClear.com aimclear

    Thanks for the post. When you use third party reporting tools (like webPosition) what is the data returned your “personal” search results?

  • Steve Amundsen

    Interesting post, Nick, but I think you are paying too much homage to the social networking scene. There is a good reason companies paid Google more than $10 billion in 2006…they are selling real products to real consumers. And they are paying the piper because they are not well optimized. As personalized search begins to take hold, it will be even more important for companies to reach their customers with an intelligent and compelling web presence.

    People will continue to search the web to find and purchase products, web searches will still begin with a query, and the search engines will still provide the initial SERPs. It is up to the website owner to be relevant enough so that the searcher will click to the site, and keep returning to the site. Personalization from the search engines is the last step in this process. SEO, along with web analytics will thus continue to become even more relevant as personalization permeates the web.

  • http://www.jontusmedia.com jontus_media

    Probably the most intriguing article I read yesterday! It kept me awake thinking.

    As an overview of where things are going, I think you’ve hit the nail the on the head.

    What concerns me given the majority of clients I work for (think small businesses who don’t really understand the net), is that Google have just raised the bar for businesses with limited resources: time, staff, IT-strategy, etc.

    People understand you need to rank highly in Google. But Digg, del.ic.ious, Fark, etc: I meet a lot of managers who (i) haven’t heard of social booking (ii) don’t get it (iii) don’t want to get it because it means changing strategy again.

    It’s going to be hard to persuade small businesses to go after this but it will no doubt be exciting.

    Bottom line: such a major paradigm shift will allow Web 2.0-orientated businesses to come to the fore, excluding a lot of businesses that are excellent but just don’t get IT. And most of them don’t even realise this is happening.

  • Nick Wilson

    @Steve: Yes, I mostly agree with what you’ve said. Maybe I didn’t make myself clear enough, if so my apologies: I was talking about using your presense on social network for example as a way of increasing the “personal” data for Google. IE: all those people using Google services on these networks, all those with the Google toolbar etc. It may only help a little right now, but im convinced that it WILL help, and that in the future it may help a LOT.


    Yep. I hear you. Have them start a blog, network with other similar shops, find the enthusiast sites (and if there are manhy, pick out the influencers for them) and network with them. Link to them, join the conversation.

    Once a blog is setup and initial training and orientation provided it shouldn’t really take them much more than an hour a day to catch up with immportant discussions in their niche and comment on the issues of the day.

  • http://www.globalwarming-awareness2007online.com NunoH

    Useful tips. But I’m somewhat confused what personalized search will mean in the future.

  • Steve Amundsen

    Thanks for the clarification, Nick. I do agree that as Internet searches become ubiquitous in the mobile environment, i.e. the merging of PDAs, phones and other devices, the personal data of which you are speaking will undoubtedly play a key role in delivering increasingly relevant data to the end user.

  • http://www.para-diddledesign.com tblotsky

    Great write up Nick. It sounds like niche domination and geolocation (at least for brick and mortar service providers) will continue to gain importance.

  • http://www.seopractices.com seo beginners

    As long as Google runs the “Search Party”, we are prompted to follow their steps.

    Great article, I am visitin Search Engine Land more often to read, you are in my favorites now, thanks.

  • http://www.emergence-media.com DanielR


    Great Article.

    As we all here have discussed, this puts empahsis on the use of more social media techniques, but really the game hasnt changed all that much in terms of the types of tactics used for a robust SEO Campaign:

    • Ensure website is crawlable by search engines
    • Having content the audience wants and searches for
    • Long term link building strategy (from directories to virals and from word of mouth campaigns to blog outreach)
    • Leverage social media to distribute content and encourage link building
    • Integrate SEO strategy with PPC, Branding and Awareness (Word of Mouth Campaigns etc)

    What I’m interesting in knowing is what percentage of Google searchers are made by users who are logged on into Google Account?

    Blog Marketing, Widget Creation etc can be resource intensive and difficult to the client to learn and grasp.

    Is Google Account use large enough to justify such use of resources? If not now, will it be in 6 months?

    If anyone has stats on how many searches are done under a Google Account, please share!

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