The New Google: Personalized & Universal Search

It is no secret that Google changes its algorithms and search logic many times throughout a given year.  Some of the newest changes however are much more significant than we have ever seen before and will lead a dramatic shift in the way we search.  Google has been rolling out their new (and much anticipated) personalized and universal search features.  First, let’s define each and how they will affect the results that users see in the search engine results pages.  Then we will discuss how this may or may not change the face of search engine optimization forever.  Chances are that any Internet marketing company that is not ready for the shifts, will fall behind…and so will their clients.

Personalized Search: This goes by the basic theory that Google is constantly trying to improve the user experience and give the individual more relevant results.  Google is now tracking a user’s IP address and recording search behavior to create a “profile” using artificial intelligence.  Using the information it collects over time, Google will cater your results based on where you are, what types of searches you do, and what sites you go to.  The result will be that each user may get slightly different results for the same searches.

For example, if you live in Los Angeles and search broad terms like restauants, over time you will get more localized results.  The big question is whether Google’s artificial intelligence will really yield the most accurate results.  Many people are opposed to this shift because they want to get results the same way they always have and sift through them accordingly.  People do not want to recieve results based on what Google “THINKS” they want to see.

Another interesting aspect to this is that over the next few years Google will be shifting to users having their own logins and will be able to delete certain results and post comments on results.  In fact, this is rolling out as we speak.

Universal Search:  Universal search is placing more emphasis on all types of results and digital assets on the web.  Images and video content now carry a huge impact.  Google wants to give rankings to sites that provide the most value and have the best interactive experience.  This includes sites that have videos.

For example, the most relevant video content a site can have currently is YouTube.com videos displayed on their pages.  Google can index videos, images, and even audio files in a similar way to how it looks at regular content.  We have other great blogs about video optimization for SEO that go into greater detail.

So how does this affect Internet marketing strategy and search engine optimization?

Chances are that things like inbound links and page rank will have less value than the site itself.  All the general rules should still apply, but all SEO consultants should keep in mind that there may be different priorities in how we implement a comprehensive SEO campaign.  Rankings will matter less, and overall traffic and conversion will be the focus (and end goal – as it should be anyway).

This also means that Internet marketing companies and search engine optimization firms will have yet more educating to do for their clients.  Most businesses out there are just now getting on board with SEO and online marketing.  Now we are supposed to tell them that getting to the first page of Google won’t matter?  It is not quite this simple but the real emphasis for clients needs to be on traffic and conversions…not just rankings.

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