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What will personalized search mean for rankings?

Andrew Goodman weighs in with some interesting thoughts on what personalized search will mean to search marketers. I agree with most of those thoughts, and want to amplify one that Bill Hunt and I mention in our book, Search Marketing, Inc.—what will become of rank checking?


Andrew believes that the old organic search marketing task of checking the rank of your pages for various search queries will simply disappear in a personalized search world. He has a point. If most searchers are receiving personalized results, there won’t be any such thing as a #1 result anymore—each person would get their own #1 result. Andrew expects that we’ll have to settle for metrics such as search referrals and conversions.
He may be right. But I can see it going a different way as well. Would search marketers pay search engines to get better metrics? I think the answer is yes.
If search engines know how to personalize search results, they probably have information about the searcher that would allow searcher activities to be broken down by interesting demographic categories. Would search marketers want to know how many of their referrals were from men? From women under age 25? People from France? I think they would, and would pay for this information, just as they want that information for other media.
But what about rankings? Will the concept of rankings just wither away in a personalized world? Not necessarily. Rankings still have value—if your referrals are low, you need to know whether your rankings have dropped or your clickthrough rate is tumbling. You take different actions to correct each problem.
Google and other search engines could sell search marketers the ranking information they crave. You could learn your average ranking for a particular keyword on a certain day. So while every searcher might get a different #1 result from a search, search marketers could find the average ranking for their pages for that keyword.
Moreover, search marketers could find the average ranking for any particular demographic group. Would this be valuable enough information for search marketers to pay Google? We may soon find out, since personalized search is on its way.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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