Google is increasingly personalising its search results. This is great news for the everyday consumer, not such great news for SEOs! Tracking search rankings, the main measure of a site’s performance is becoming more challenging, with location, previous search history and browser history now all playing a part. Accuracy within rankings is now a little odd – if there are as many search engine results page variables are there are locations, which is the ‘accurate’ one? Worse still, with so many different personalisation factors coming into play, you might not even be aware that your ranking data is skewed, influenced by a personalisation you haven’t thought of! Might SEOs be making the wrong decision based on skewed data? Here, we run down the different ways Google personalise their search results.
What is personalised search?
Personalised search results are the results a user sees in their search engine which aren’t simply based on traditional ranking factors (such as relevance of a web page, authority etc), but also on information the search engine has about the user. Google in particular have access to huge amounts of data about their users, with links to google+, Facebook, Youtube and Instagram all taking some part. We know for sure that Google and Bing (and Yahoo as well) are personalising their search results, but Google is certainly doing it for more of their searches.
What are the factors affecting personalisation?
What does this all mean?
- Location – we cannot be surprised that Google knows the searcher’s location and uses it in a big part of the searches we make! If location tracking is turned on for your mobile, you would be surprised at the accuracy and preciseness of the location Google tracks you to! If you are using a laptop or PC rather than a mobile, Google can use your IP address to figure out where you are. This is not quite as precise, but it can give Google a sense of where you are in the world. This means Google will place physical businesses and places which are closest to the searcher higher up in the organic rankings. This is perfect for users who are looking for a particular service within their local area.
- Search and browser history – Your previous searches, the search results you have clicked on before and your browser history affect how Google displays search results to you. These allow Google to understand what you are interested in and it tailors the search results to suit. This means there is a personal profile for each searcher based on their browser histroy, SERP clicks and the search results are altered based on our apparent interests! This makes it trickier for SEOs to figure out the accurate rankings for a site, as someone who has clicked on a competitor’s site in the past will likely see that site higher up the list in future.
- Social Media – simply having a Google+ account gives Google access to a huge amount of your personal data which is can use to tailor your search results. Google may add social media posts from your connections to the search results, push results endorsed by your connections higher up the results page, and tailor the search results you get to your social media profile.
- Device – pages are often ranked differently on mobiles compared to desktop devices, and search queries are seen differently too. Mobile friendliness of a site is a large part of the ranking signals now, with mobile friendly sites being placed higher up the list than non-mobile friendly sites.
Personalised search means there is now no consistent search experiecne for users, locations and devices. It is still important to track keyword rankings for SEO purposes, but it is also important to understand that it will not give you a clear picture of what each searcher sees. Speak to us here at SEO Moves if you have any questions about how personalised search might affect your site’s SEO.