Practical Ecommerce

Google Expands Personalized Search

Google’s announcement in December that it would be expanding personalized search to include users not signed in to Google certainly created some anxiety for companies and individuals that are dependent upon search results for income. What exactly does this change mean, and how does an ecommerce company modify its search engine optimization efforts to accommodate the change?

What Is Personalized Search?

Let’s take a closer look at what Google is talking about. For some time, Google has been personalizing the search results of people signed in to most Google accounts. So, if you were signed into a Gmail account while using Google search, those results were affected by your previous browser use. In other words, those search results were not “absolute” search results. Instead, search engine users signed into Google were delivered unique search engine results pages. Now, that function is being applied to all Google users, regardless of whether or not they are signed in.

Google creates these customized search results based on 180 days of search history. That history is recorded by a Google browser-cookie living somewhere deep in the browser’s files. The user can turn off the customized results, but at the moment the default is for them to be turned on. Google feels that this allows it to give even more relevant search results to each individual.

Search Engine Optimization Still Important

So, the days of fairly standard search results in Google look to be gone. What does this mean for search engine optimization, especially for ecommerce sites? Well, first off, remember that search results have already been personalized for many searchers (everyone signed into a Gmail account, for example) and so standard search results have really been minimized for some time. The primary thing to remember is that the basic tenets of search optimization remains important even with personalized search in place: crawlable site architecture, keyword research, quality textual content, and link building. Without them, a site is simply not going to compete in Google results at all. With attention to these SEO entities, quality placement in search results is still very attainable.

I’ve written about the importance of description tags before, and they, along with title tags, remain very influential in user’s click-through decisions. Well-written and accurate title tags help not only to improve search results, but also affect trust and interpretation in the end user. Description tags, while they do little to augment keywords in the eyes of Google, can have a tremendous affect on click-through. Again, well-written, accurate description tags (a call to action can help, too) will put you at an advantage over those that are confusing, poorly written, or nonexistent.

Broaden Marketing Efforts

But Google’s change does underline the need for ecommerce sites to broaden their marketing efforts beyond SEO. While natural search optimization should continue to be core to any ecommerce online marketing campaign, the shift to personalized search results only augments the need for a wider online marketing plan, driving traffic and reinforcing search results by way of paid search, social media marketing and email marketing. Traffic and conversion is the bottom line. SEO is still alive and well in the world of personalized search, but its supporting cast has taken on a more important role.

Jeff Muendel

Jeff Muendel

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  1. Louis Camassa January 6, 2010 Reply

    I don’t see personalized search changing the landscape of the SERP’s too dramatically. It seems that it simply increases the placement of websites that you visit frequently. More importantly, is Google’s shift towards using its Shopping feeds in search results. If you search for samsonite luggage, you will see product images in the Adwords/sponsored link area, pushing down the text ads. They also add the Shopping results above the organic listings.

    Google will slowly start integrating more and more product searches with feeds from their Shopping system. Start getting your products indexed in Google Shopping, and continually optimize your feeds!

  2. Jeff Muendel January 6, 2010 Reply

    Though Google shopping results are somewhat of a separate issue, you make a good point about getting products indexed in Google Shopping, Louis.

  3. Shilpi January 7, 2010 Reply

    I agree with Louis and also in this dynamic field of SEO, new challenges are always welcome to make the internet a better place for search and ecommerce.

  4. Adela January 15, 2010 Reply

    Yes, it’s true: the Internet is a good place for ecommerce and it is important the search engine that you use; through the internet I also found the company that I work with now : http://www.tlgcommerce.com It was a real help for me because I was unsure about using ecommerce software to open up an online store but I found TLG to be very supportive, experienced and reliable. I had personalized ecommerce solution support through the whole process. They are one of the most successful market leaders in ecommerce software in Spain and now I know why. They’re new to the UK and are offering very good value for high quality products. Check out their website, it’s simple, straightforward and offers what I think is the best choice for ecommerce solutions.