Let's look back at a bit of history with search:
Traditionally, SEO was all about gaining higher rankings for the most important keyword phrases. That was early in the game and back then, some people believed that was ALL you needed. After all if you show up number one for the best keywords then you must become a winner. But then as search engine marketing evolved, people learned that it was not enough just to have top rankings for the right key phrases, but we learned the importance of being able to provide content that compelled the visitor to take action. No one benefits if they click on your number 1 page and just leave again by clicking the back button.
More and more search engines began to reward Webmasters who created in depth, high quality content that served a useful purpose and actually satisfied the reason why the searchers initiated the search in the first place. It still amazes me when I hear people trying to decipher some kind of secret coding when Matt Cutts talks. "Hmmm, I wonder what Matt really means when he talks about quality content," they puzzle. He is simply telling you the truth. Google can recognize the context of a message through Artificial Intelligence. Write content that is written well for a human reader and you will be rewarded with some relevancy.
Let's not forget the advent of the Pay Per Click process which was a pretty big trend when it was first introduced at the time too. I remember some people saying that they would never do Pay Per Click, but it evolved into what it has become today. A well accepted form of paid advertising.
Your job as an SEO professional is to keep up to date in an ever changing environment and keep yourself apprised of current and future trends. You want to keep yourself aware of what is coming next because that way, you'll always be able to assist your customers with up to date skills and advantages regardless of the changing search landscapes.
This time around, we examine a few of the challenges that SEOs will face in the future with the growing popularity of personalization of search. Personalization is the option that people can toggle on to improve their search results based on their personal interests. With personalization turned on, the search engine can gather information about the history of your searches and as the time you use it increases, it can actually become accustomed to your searching habits so as to present information that is more important or more interesting to you personally, than to someone else.
So where does the challenge come in with SEO you ask?
The challenge is that as the popularity of personalization grows so will there likely be a diminishing effect on your ranking reports. In simple, it means that 4 people in the same household could all be taking turns using the very same computer and doing searches for the very same keyword phrase, and yet each person would typically see completely different results because of their personal use of the Internet and a growing history of different interests.
What this means is that you no longer can tell exactly what your ranking reports mean because where you rank for one person will not be the same as where you rank for the next person or the next. Thus ranking reports could very well become meaningless in time.
It should be understood that with personalization turned on, the search engine is not using a different algorithm. Instead, the algorithm is the same, but there is a shuffling of results based on the particular individuals history of usage. The search engines attempt to serve up even more relevant content to that individual based on their personal interests.
This in turn means that it could become very difficult to determine where your ideal buying audience is finding you because you will no longer be able to simply do a search and see who is ranking number 1. Obviously if you are interested in your own products and you own industry, you site may come up in the top results when you search. But what is the rest of the world seeing? With personalization growing in popularity, there is no way you can use the traditional methods to know.
Personalization of Search may bring a new dimension of satisfaction by providing the user with much more personalized results. After all, everyone wants the best search results. However, it is bound to pose a few challenges for those who have never thought out what is really happening and the far reaching impact that it will have with posing certain challenges with respect to traditional search engine marketing. As I mentioned in part 1, there are solutions. But we feel that it's important to help SEO students grasp the implications of how much things could possibly be affected.
So what are others saying about how big this change will be?
Michael Marshall is a respected SEO associate educator and advanced mathematician who has taught with Robin Nobles and I over the last several years. Michael is a technical expert who often teaches at our Ultra Advanced Symposiums.
Here is a recent quote from an article that Michael published he states that:
"Without a reliable means of rank checking, traditional SEO loses its foundations for optimization decisions. They can't tell who the leaders are. They've lost sight of the bellwethers. A bellwether is any entity in a given arena that serves to create or influence trends or to presage future happenings. Without a bellwether, for example, sheep might be left to wander aimlessly. Without a reliable means of rank checking, traditional SEO also loses its metrics for determining its success or failure regarding changes made for the sake of optimization. Traditional SEO is a process the methodology of which is predominantly trial and error."
To read Michael's full article, please see "Personalization of Search and its implications for SEO." http://www.evancarmichael.com/SEO/1279/Personalization-of-Search-and-its-implications-for-SEO.html
In his article, Michael Marshall does far more justice to the topic than I can, on a technical level but also see full quotes he has from an IBM Distinguished Engineer Mike Moran and how large he estimates Personalization will affect the future.
The solution to the challenges of the effect of personalization is being able to grasp the big picture. Gone are the days of counting characters in a Title tag or Description tag. Trying to measure SEO influences separately one at a time will be obsolete.
Advanced competitive intelligence is not just a new "buzz" word.
The type of solutions to these challenges will actually have a variety of excellent benefits other than just gaining genuine visibility.
Try and imagine being able to do search marketing and optimization in only the minimum of moves, making only the minimum of changes for your exact search landscape and making maximum impact.
Will these techniques really be possible in the future you ask?
No, actually they are available right now so you can begin to stabilize your results and prepare for the changes. No one can say for sure the rate at which personalization will make it's impact. The sad thing for some who are unawares is that with only slow and subtle changes over a given period, they may never even realize what is happening other than their traffic is dead and sales have stopped. So we start by making our students and readers aware.
About the Author:
John Alexander is Co-director of Training at http://www.SearchEngineWorkshops.com offering live, SEO Workshops with his partner SEO educator Robin Nobles, author of the very first comprehensive online search engine marketing courses http://www.onlinewebtraining.com. John has taught SEO skills to people from 87 different countries world wide. John is also Director of Search Engine Academy, http://www.searchengineacademy.com.