Jun 5, 2007 113 reads by Navneet Kaushal

Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land's Editor-in-Chief and MC of the event moderated the discussion where speakers were Matt Cutts, Software Engineer, Google, Inc; Michael Gray, Owner, Atlas Web Service; Gord Hotchkiss, President and CEO, Enquiro; Tim Mayer, VP of Product Management, Yahoo! Search and Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief, Search Engine Land.

Danny Sullivan was the first to speak at the occasion. He highlights the fact with a screen shot that Google is moderating the results based on users' searching habits. He points that the changes are not dramatic as usually sites slip off the top 10 chart which has nothing to do with Google.

Common reason that influence personalization include:

  • Add to Google button
  • Google Personalized Homepage Content
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Search History (clicks)
  • Web History (visits)

With Yahoo! MyWeb you can save pages or even block people from visiting the site. These indicates that Yahoo reshapes their results.
Ask.com has got something similar to this but it is just a year old with which you can save information and put it into folders. But it is currently not working in a good way as it should to reshape the SERPs.

The main point for all this research is that Google is now ready for personalization. No doubt, Yahoo! and Ask.com are also doing this but it still is not upto Google's standards. Google's main focus is personalization for reducing spam and providing more relevant results.

The next person to speak was Gord Hotchkiss. Mostly, he basically speculated about the new look of SEO and blackhat.

SEO in pre-personalization period is all about keywords and algorithms and everything revolves around it. But in personalization, it revolves around users: social pattern, search history and web history. The current tasks reflects the above mentioned factors.

Hotchkiss said it was not easy for a marketing person to take care of every individual user. What we are going to do is that we will research the behavior of a group and then work around themes instead of keywords. When personalization fails, there is long tail optimization to look a little bit more. Personalization can boast the presentation of universal search results. If the user is known, you can provide different results. So, it becomes essential to know the user's behavior. Finally, user-centric result is coming up and it will give a push to most of the non user centric sites. On the black-hat side, emerging "buzz sites" will be an SEO tactic. You can check the next hot buzz to find out which will build interests.

Moreover, personalization is bringing people closer to that final click. Personalization will get optimization higher up the funnel. Let people know about your site earlier in the phase (purchase/negotiation/research/awareness).

  • Site Stickiness
  • Build out of content and functionality
  • Sites will become "research bases"
  • We're going to see more content aggregation
  • Comparison Wizards
  • More mash-ups
  • Blackhat: widgets and gadgets

Circles of importance:

Under each “theme”, there will be related sites or specific content. The optimizers will need to identify the circles of importances. These will be inundated for offers for RSS content, widgets and gadgets. From here there will be scraping of content.

User intelligence will become more important.

  • Click stream based intelligence tools
  • Engines will influence more profiling tools for paid, which will be used by SEO
  • Social bookmarking sites will become hotter
  • Personalization enables scalable social search
  • More use of personals in SEO
  • More spyware in watching click behavior for blackhats.

It finally was Michael Gray aka Graywolf to present his views.

Unethical SEO tactics: Tell your clients to use personalized search for their site so that they can show up in the #1 position.

Fear of uncertainty: Different datacenters and geotargeting have already created SERPs with some form of differences. Personalized search adds more uncertainty to the issue. PPC might work better in terms of stability.

So, if you want to take advantage of personalized search, you need to use Google properties like Google Reader and Google Bookmarks.

How is Google dumbing down the user? People assume that Google knows what they want and will provide results according to that. People use Google than other search engines. I don't recommend that.

How do you fix it? Remember that people are logged in in a very obscure part of the screen. You will get a clear picture when the results are personalized search results then the normal ones.

Take advantage of social media sites to get personalized search results.

Tim Mayer is the next speaker. He discusses how Yahoo looks at personalization and their approach in the social area.

The two techniques of search personalization Mayer stressed on were:

  1. Session based personalization – On how to understand user based queries and clicks during a specific session. The challenge of Session based personalization is figuring out the timings of when sessions begin/end. Eg: 'You might want to search for the Florida Marlins but then you switch to fishing and search for "marlins" again but might get the wrong results.'
  2. Interest based personalization – Considering the interests of the user depending on their own declared choices or user's behavior within or outside of the search context. The challenge presented is that occasionally users do things beyond their normal behavior. 'If you are searching for Jaguar the car before, but then you got a Mac, your behavior may be not normal.'

The impact of personalization on search results:

  • Length of queried need to be shortened: recurring average used is ~2.7. Example: [library] vs. [boston library]
  • More links of the SERP should relate to user assuming that intent is related to the query.

Personalization's impact on SEO:

  • Higher relevancy: More matching results turn up
  • Gives the search engine enough content per page to help it determine the topicality of that page.

Yahoo's Approach – we take a more social approach (delicious, Flickr, Yahoo! Answers). By searching and leveraging this data, we help people discover new forms of information. Discovery and recovery. You can store this data and find it at a later date.

Many results are subjective – cool lamps on Google vs. cool lamps on Flickr. People's reputations are on the line on sites like Flickr. There's social incentive for people to help you and tag them appropriately.

Finally, Matt Cutts comes on stage to speak.

Personalized search differs for people in different ways. For example, I can go up to Jane and ask her "What's a Kiwi?" Since she's from New Zealand, she's going to say something different.

In his own words, “One of the coolest things about personalized search was that once, I was looking to make a vignette on Adobe Illustrator and there are like no search results that are relevant for that finding. A few months later, I needed to find this again. How am I supposed to recall the search terms I use? I can look at my Web History and see what I searched for and what I clicked for. There's a whole new era to optimize in personalized search. SEO won't be the same as before, but personalization is not such a huge change that things will be unrecognizable. This is how you disable personalized search: with 6 characters, you can add this parameter to the end of your search – &pws=0. It's easy to opt out.”

Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal is the founder and CEO of PageTraffic, an SEO Agency in India with offices in Chicago, Mumbai and London. A leading search strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. Navneet's expertise has established PageTraffic as one of the most awarded and successful search marketing agencies.
Navneet Kaushal
Navneet Kaushal
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