- Understanding the process of personalized search, requires understanding search intent and the role of search engines. Remember, the goal of a search engine is to provide the best results to a specific person at just the right time and in the right place and to do that, there is personalization that's being done. Two different people doing the same search may see different results. So how does this personalization impact your SEO strategy? Well first, you have to understand that there are many factors that influence personalized search results.
Search engines take into account things like the device you are using, the location the device is connecting from, and even your previous search history. Let's take a look at how location influences the search results that you might get. Search engines can use location information from an IP address, GPS, or other signals to understand where you physically are. So a search for 'pizza place' done from New York will give some very different results than that same search done in Seattle. But searchers can also indicate a location by adding it to the search query.
For example, if I'm in a Seattle airport, about to board my flight to New York, and I want to find a pizza place to go to when I land, I might type in 'New York pizza place'. Here I might see results showing both New York style pizza places in Seattle as well as restaurants located in New York. This complexity means that your strategy for keyword targeting should absolutely consider location based search intent and what people are really looking for with the different searches that they're doing.
Personalization is also done at the device level and you'll probably notice that search engine results with the same query can be different across mobile and desktop. Knowing that many mobile searchers are on the go, search engines often adjust the mobile results to cater to maps, paid results, knowledge graph results, and even the ordering of mobile rankings. Keep in mind that search engines test interactions with these results often, refining those results to provide you with the relevant information and then evolving your personalized experience.
Last, your search history can be used to populate future results. The websites that you visited in the past, as well as your personal search settings, and linked account activity, will influence the way that search engines provide information in the future. There are a few ways that they do this. And it's important to know that this can effect both paid and organic results. On the paid side, clicking on a search result can activate targeting criteria that advertisers can use to show you related ads regardless if they're related to that initial website.
On the organic side, search engines are always prodding and testing because they want to understand your click preferences. Take the example of a search on the term 'avatar'. At first a search engine doesn't know your intent with this search so you might be presented with generic options at first. If I were to click on the results related to the movie rather than those related to online personas, the search engines would remember this, and when I perform future searches, my preferences can be used and results related to the film are more likely to be displayed.
As search engines continue to evolve with voice inputs and adapt to increasingly complex queries, their ability to solve human problems like where I might like to eat or the best place for me to purchase something are tailored more and more to the individual conducting those queries. Personalization means that the future of search is about catering results to the individual. And as we develop and refine our SEO strategies, knowing that the search experience will provide more personally relevant ads and organic results will help us stay ahead of the curve and leverage this personalization ourselves.
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