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Google Personalization and SEO Advice: Spend Time on Your Content!

Posted by drew on Sept. 16, 2013, 6 p.m.

Lately, I've been contemplating the recent changes from Google regarding personalization, and how those changes may affect my approaches to SEO for my clients. In a never-ending attempt to give users a more intuitive experience, Google will use location information, search history, and other user data to deliver personalized search results. This means the typical idea of ranking is now skewed, because there is no standard SERP (Search Engine Results Page) to base this data off of. 

So, what does this mean for my SEO clients? It means that, now more than ever, quality content and branding should be driving your strategy. Good content compels users to visit your site multiple times—which increases your rank on their personalized SERPs—or to simply search for your brand by name. If you can establish yourself as a local authority on a given topic, you will rank more highly in your local area, where you are more likely to convert.

Often, a website owner doesn't have  the bandwidth to spend time crafting thoughtful and original content, and would instead rather the page rank be driven purely by keywords and link building. Don’t get me wrong: keywords and link building are still important. But the actual content of a page is what drives conversions, brand recognition, and customer loyalty. In the age of personalized SERPs, this is made even more true. Consider how an initial positive experience on your site can drive one or two more visits from the same user. Now, when that user searches for something along the lines of your industry, you will nearly always rank first for him/her, encouraging customer loyalty. 

Another aspect of personalization that Google considers, besides the aforementioned search history and location data, is the social aspect. A user’s social connections—mostly Google+, but also other social media—are able to give them suggestions on what may be useful to them. To take advantage of this fact, you need to create interesting content that is worth sharing, liking, tweeting, etc. so that your initial customers influence the search results for each of their contacts.

As far as SEO goes, content has always been king. But in the age of personalization, it is becoming even more important to rely on white hat SEO techniques and to write great content. Google, and other search engines, are continually trying harder and harder to anticipate user needs before the user even performs a search, so establishing yourself on Google as a local authority, trending topic, or valuable resource helps you get in front of users to meet their needs before they realize they have them.

This shift toward predictive need-fulfilling can be seen in the way Google uses personalized auto-complete, as well as mobile applications like Google Now. Actually typing words into search engines in order to find something new is becoming obsolete as Google tries to predict what you will be searching for, or which results would be most useful to you specifically.

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