Anyone who has been using Google since it changed the way we surf the web, has noticed how Google’s searches have changed and how they have now become more tailored to specific user needs. Google does not shy away from the fact that every tweak and update it makes to its algorithm is solely to help it offer more relevant search results for its users.
But Google’s searches weren’t always so attuned to user’s needs. At the very beginning, Google simply focused on providing information. This meant that it would look for similar keywords and provide results related to the keywords no matter where in the world you are. So if you searched for Pizza, it would give you all the results it could find on pizza, regardless of where you were located. If the highest rated pizza place is in New York, someone situated in California would still get the website for the pizzeria in New York.
But in 2004, Google sought to make the search results more relevant. Let’s take a more detailed look at the history of personalization.
Brief History of Personalized Searches
Google started “Personalized Search” in 2004 as a part of Google Labs beta and moved it to non-beta but a separate search function in early 2005. However later in the same year, it decided to integrate it into the main search algorithm for signed in Google users. So, anyone who was signed in would get more personalized search results, while users who are logged out or don’t have an account with Google would receive the same global results.
In 2009, Google decided to integrate the Personalized Search algorithm for all Google searches, regardless of accounts being signed in or not. This provided more relevant search results that also took into consideration factors such as country, location, etc.
In January of 2012, Google introduced the “Search, Plus Your World” that also includes social search learnings into the mix when offering search results. It includes data from content shared within your social network such as photos, posts, profiles of people in your network, people and pages relevant to your searches, etc.
So, what exactly is Google Personalized Searches?
Personalized searches are the results that the user sees that are not just based on the traditional ranking factors – things such as relevance of the webpage to the query or the authority of the website, but instead it also includes additional information that it has on the user such as location, search history, interests, demographics, etc.
The objective of personalization is to provide relevant searches for the users. A person who usually searches for Greek Mythology and then searches for Pandora, would get searches related to the mythology rather than the internet radio brand.
What Influences Searches?
Here are what influences your personalized searches:
Country – Location is a major factor that works regardless of the user being signed into the account or not. Users in different countries will see different results for the same keyword. For example, someone searching for ‘football’ will get American Football in the US and what US refers to as ‘soccer’ in the UK.
Locality – This makes it deeper than the country level, so on a state or a city level. For example, if someone searches ‘pizzerias’ will get results about pizzerias that are near them closer to where they live rather than in different states.
Web History – Now Google also includes your web history into the search results. So, everything you have previously searched on the engine is taken into consideration when looking for results. Looking at the previous example, for someone who searches Greek Mythology often, will get information about the Greek legend, Pandora, rather than anything else.
Social Media – The 2012 update also started including the information that users shared on their social media. It included their photos, the type of posts they like and share, etc. It also includes a lot of their posts on Google+.
Device – It’s not surprise that Google is now pushing for mobile optimization, it wants people to make websites that are more mobile friendly. However, until every website can be made mobile friendly, it does take into consideration the type of device that is being used. When searching on the mobile, the engine automatically removes websites that are not mobile-friendly.
Other Google Products – If you use Gmail, Calendar, Photos, etc. Google also includes that when you make queries. So, if you have booked a flight and you search for your flight details, Google automatically takes this information from your Gmail and your Calendar and gives it to you in the form of results.
Google’s Personalized Search Results doesn’t mean that you get to miss out on great things, rather it allows you to actually target more relevant audience, ones who are easier to turn from leads to sales.
Here are a few tips on how to optimize your search results for Personalized Searches:
How to Optimize for Personalized Search Results
This works wonders if you work in a specific location. When you compose your meta tags and descriptions, ensure that you include the location into the description. Also, if you operate in multiple locations, make sure you have a way to reroute users to the appropriate location based website where they can make purchases. For example – amazon.com operates in the US, while amazon.in delivers in India. Companies should also register their businesses on Google My Business as well as on other companies such as Yelp for Business Owners, Bing Places for Business, etc.
2. Long-Tail Keywords
The days of one-word keywords are long gone, with more people now searching for long-tail keywords. It is estimated that over 80% searches are long-tail keywords. In addition to the competition being lower for long-tail keywords, you also end up getting more relevant users directed to your website. Long-tail keywords can help drive conversions and revenue, resulting in you seeing real ROI from your SEO efforts.
3. Mobile Optimization
Mobiles are the future and it is time we accepted that, Google definitely has. It has started focusing a lot of resources on mobile optimization and it also encourages companies and developers to actually build websites that are mobile friendly. Google also eliminates your websites on queries made from mobiles, which means that you could lose out on a lot of potential target audience that may have made searches using their smart devices. So, it is definitely a good idea to optimize your websites for mobile or invest in app development.
4. Be Omnipresent
Google now takes into consideration your presence on everything, so it is often a good idea for your brand to be omnipresent. Simply having one website is no longer going to cut it, you need to also have social media pages and be present on Google Business if you want to be noticed by Google or your actual audience.
5. Use Google+
It might not seem important, but having a presence on Google+ can significantly boost your ranking and even your visitors. Google does take into consideration Google+ and your posts on the platform when it comes to providing search results. So, having articles on Google+ and creating a page for your brand is a great way to get noticed by Google and receive a boost in your rankings.
6. Social Media Optimization
Social Media has become exceptionally important in today’s world. As a brand if you want to succeed, you definitely need to be on social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. These can definitely help build credibility and even greatly expand your reach. A good Facebook post or a quirky tweet can help users to notice you more than you could get by link building and local directories. So, you should definitely consider social media optimization to help build your brand as well as get on Google’s personalized searches.
The internet is a vast space and we are going to continue seeing more personalization happen as more data is added to the already fast-growing one that we have. As we advance further with AI and Machine Learning, we are definitely going to see more personalization happening. There is also a lot of potential with voice searches that can definitely change that way we surf the internet.