Google Personalizing & Going Real-Time is Good for SEO
I saw the writing on the wall in February 2007 when Google began personalizing search results based on a user's search history. But back then, a user had to log in to their Google account and opt in to enable Google to track their web history. Now personalized search is widespread, regardless of your log in status.
Your search experience will be customized based upon 180 days of search activity linked to an anonymous cookie on your browser. Clicking the link View customizations will let you see how Google customized your results. A simple two-step process will allow you to turn off this feature. But let's be frank. Not many people knew how to log in or even disable the tracking of web history, so I doubt many users will bother disabling personalization. As a result, a lot of people in the SEO world are freaking out. Why? I'm not quite sure. Yes, users will see different results. Yes, it will have some impact on the way we go about optimizing web sites? But I see it as a chance to step up our optimization efforts as well as force us to innovate right along with Google.
SEO is a nice mix of technical know-how, a bit of creativity and a lot of the unknown. Since creativity is what we control most then why not be compelled to write better Title and Meta tags in order to entice more clicks? Besides, optimizing a web site is about generating traffic and not so much about the rankings. Is it not? And speaking of traffic, let's not lose sight of analytics. Okay, if you do see a dramatic drop in traffic then have a contingency plan. Using a portion of the SEO budget for a pay per click campaign to make up for lost organic traffic sounds like a good contingency to me.
Still not convinced? Well, how about that thing called social media? It is no coincidence that just a few days after announcing personalized search, Google introduced new features that will integrate real-time, relevant content and live updates right on the search results page from social media sites like Twitter and news and blog posts. See screen shot below.
Yes, there are pros and cons to what people post on Twitter and how that might affect search results. But remember, we're in control of the creativity and what we write does influence what people click on. Therefore, if Google is going to rank "hot off the submit button" content then blogging, micro-blogging and pushing content seems like a great strategy as it will influence the end user, rankings and traffic. This new strategy will also force you to:
Establish and maintain a social network status
Increase the number of followers or fans
Communicate with more frequency
Create original content & update older posts
Link to micro-blogging services (ex. TwitterFeed)
Follow solid SEO best practices
Encourage site visitors to react and share your content
Google slamming the worlds of SEO and social media together sounds good to me. As Google states, it will "bring us the freshest, most comprehensive and relevant search results over an ever expanding universe of content." Let's accept the change and move forward to the next big thing like Google Goggles, a visual search application that lets you search for objects using images rather than words, using your camera phone. Now that's something to focus on!