How Much Does Google Personalisation Affect Search?
Google has been personalising everyone’s searches more and more – with that it’s necessary for us SEO’s to understand the effects of this and why certain search results appear when the conventional rules of SEO don’t apply.
This is a very important issue to consider especially if you’re servicing a local area with your products. Depending on the location of where you’re searching you’ll be receiving different tailored results. For instance, shops which have different locations will feature differently depending on where you’re searching from.
Your location history is also taken into account, this includes smart phone, desktop and laptop searches regardless of the fact if you’ve turned off the location sharing option. Google will look at your previous activity that corresponds to your previous locations and tie that in with its suggestions and ranking results.
This is also another important bias which personalisation is using to affect search. Your previous search results will be taken into account when performing brand new searches, how so? Well, I decided to do a little test, searching for general car related terms for the first time. Following that, I simply searched for ‘Fiesta’ – here’s Google already putting the pieces together as to what I could possibly mean by this, associating the term with term ‘car’ affecting my search results:
Then, after completing further searches with the term ‘Ford Fiesta’ and filling my brain with information about the product here’s how when I then search for just ‘Ford’ the general manufacturer, Google (thanks to auto-suggest) wants me to head straight away to the ‘Ford Fiesta’ page rather than their other 8 vehicle ranges:
Even search terms which seem completely unrelated can modify the search results and auto-suggestions. When you experiment a little you’ll see the pattern matching that Google is performing and it really is very powerful. Take this as an example, I did some searches related to beer and then a few more related to Indian beers. Now… if I then start searching for say the term ‘Cobra’ I could now actually be thinking of the snake rather than anything else, but Google puts 2 and 2 together and relates my search query to the beer product:
All of your social connections and email contacts can get taken into consideration by Google as they connect all the dots of your personal profile. Connections and social interactions that you perform will have an influence on the content you’re seeing when you search. If you’re sharing content with a friend or commenting on a particular piece of content then Google will store this information and associate you with particular individuals and industries related to your viewed content to affect your search results.
Augmented Personalisation Effects
Search results and rankings can be subject to changes based on the patterns of lots of people. Depending on search trends, Google will consider ranking terms which have recently seen a huge growth in searches despite them perhaps only previously receiving low amounts. An example would be say an SEO conference which runs in different locations but in one particular location (let’s say New York) now receives a much higher amount of interest/ attention. This higher volume of search will cause Google to feature it more prominently within search results.
Global social shares will be affecting the ranking results too. The quality, quantity and trustworthiness of these shares are all factors which are considered regardless of any traditional SEO factors like links built, anchor text etc. which can force re-ranking of terms.
Auto-suggest will take into account your previous searches to suggest topics which you might find interesting. This can be a help for businesses. Local bias gets taken into account so if you were to search for ‘SEO ebook’ in Brighton you’re more likely to be suggested our ebook (ABC’s of SEO) rather than if you were to search for it in say New York. This is due the amount of local searches for the that term which if they occur in a particular region at any point in time can contribute to changes in results and auto-suggest.
Finally, when users associate brand and incorporate it with a particular term such as ‘SiteVisibility’ and ‘SEO’, auto-suggest and search results have started to be affected by this, as they begin to show your brand for terms which search users are associating you with. We’ve seen this change occuring within anchor text links more and more.
How Should I Adapt to This?
The important thing to take away here is firstly to make sure you’re aware of these effects on people’s searches. Your SEO campaigns need to consider and take into account that not everyone’s searches are the same now. The next thing is to think of how to capitalise on these issues. For example, by building more brand related content and getting your name out there you’ll be able to grow searches to your site to get around searches with several meanings. Build a strong social fan base and make sure your fans are regularly sharing your content, especially using Google+ will help you to capitalise on the Social influence that it’s having on search.
If you’ve noticed other factors affecting personalisation of search results then do share your comments and opinions below.