Chapter 8: Personalization & Search Engine Rankings

Years ago, everyone saw exactly the same search results. Today, no one sees exactly the same search results, not on Google, not on Bing. Everyone’s getting a personalized experience.

Of course, there’s still a lot commonality that’s shared. It’s not that everyone sees completely different listings. Instead, everyone sees many of the same “generic” listings. But there will also be some listings appearing because of where someone is, who they know or how they surf the web.


Pc: What Country?

One of the easiest personalization ranking factors to understand is that people are shown results relevant to the country they’re in.

Someone in the US searching for “football” will get results about American football; someone in the UK will get results about the type of football that Americans would call soccer.

If your site isn’t deemed relevant to a particular country, then you’ve got no change of showing up when country personalization happens. If you feel you should be relevant, then you’ll probably have to work on your international SEO. The articles below offer some tips on this:

  • Local SEO & International SEO Have Lots In Common
  • Coping With The Increasing Complexity Of International SEO

Be sure to also see our Multinational Search column.

Pl: What City Or Locality?

Search engines don’t stop personalizing at the country level. They’ll tailor results to match the city or metropolitan area that someone is in.

As with country personalization, the same holds true. If you want to appear when someone gets city-specific results, you need to ensure your site is relevant to that city.

The articles below provide some advice here:

  • New Place Search Shows Google’s Commitment To Local
  • Local SEO Primer: How To Rank Higher In Google Place Search
  • 10 Unorthodox Ideas For Local Citations & Links

Also be sure to see our Locals Only column.

Beyond that, there are dedicated local search engines that people specifically use when they “overtly” want local results (rather than the search engine guessing they may want these, even if they issue a query that might not seem local in nature).

Those interested in this should check out the Local Search Ranking Factors survey that’s done on a regular basis.

Ph: Personal History

What has someone been searching on and choosing from their search results? What sites do they regularly visit? Have they “Liked” a site using Facebook, shared it via Twitter or perhaps Google +1′d it?

This type of personal history is used by both Google and Bing to help influence what will show up for someone. Unlike with country or city personalization, there’s no easy (or easier) way to try and make yourself relevant to them.

Instead, it’s largely a case of first impressions count. If you’ve been in front of them at some point through “regular” search rankings, you want to ensure you’re presenting a great experience so they’ll come again, reinforcing your site as one that they should be shown more frequently. Even better, perhaps they’ll favor you with a Like or a +1.

For more on this type of personalization, see the stories below:

  • Google Now Notifies Of “Search Customization” & Gives Searchers Control
  • Google Now Personalizes Everyone’s Search Results
  • Google’s Personalized Results: The “New Normal” That Deserves Extraordinary Attention
  • Bing Results Get Localized & Personalized

Ps: Personal Social Connections

What do someone’s friends think about a web site? This is one of the newest ranking factors to be impacting search results. Someone’s social connections can influence what they see on Google and Bing.

Here, you have both a case of first impressions counting plus the need to ensure you’re participating in social networks. If someone can follow you, or easily share your content, that helps get your site into their circle of trust and increases the odds that others they know will find you.

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