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Future of Personalized Search Results

18 Sep 2015

Google has been providing personalized search results for many years, at least since the mid-2000s to some extent. Recently, however, A newly registered patent shows Google is taking search personalization to a whole new level. What’s Google’s latest plan and what does it mean for your company’s online search strategy? Let’s discuss.

A Little History of Web Search Personalization by Google

Personalization affects search results. For instance, if you think your company website is sitting near the top of search results–because you often see it there on your own browser—be aware that this information is skewed. Your searches are personalized for you. If you visit your own website often (as you very likely do) it is in your web history, which Google has been using for years to personalize and customize the search results that you see. Google gets more specific and mobile optimized all the time of course.

That means, unfortunately, that a potential new customer may not see your website link in a high search results position (like you do). In order to see what others might see, you would need to go into “incognito” browsing mode (Chrome) or private browsing on other browsers.

Google ‘Reads’ Gmail for your Convenience

personalized search resultsCurrently, if you use Google’s email service, Gmail, Google will show your personal hotel reservations, flights, and restaurant reservations in search results, after extracting the data from your email. With options to hide the flight, view the email associated with the flight, or view past flights.

In 2009, Google even introduced personalized search results for anonymous users (those who are not even signed in to a browser). At that point, your ability to see anonymous search results became even more involved—requiring you to sign out of your browser and turn off search results customization (by turning off History so that it is not saved). You may also need to delete your past Web searches (past history) and empty your browser cache. But you’re still not necessarily seeing what your prospect customer might see—because he or she is likely getting their own personalized results just for them, rather than truly anonymous results.

Recent Personalized Search Improvements

In a recent example of continued search refinement, Google has begun using your location and National Weather Service data to customize storm alerts and preparation checklists for you. If the storm is imminent in your area, you’ll get urgent safety details – for instance where to take shelter in a hurricane. This new Google search feature was keyed to the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated The Gulf a decade ago. Google currently also personalizes your search results according to country, location, IP address, web browsing history (of course), cookies, social activity (liking or sharing on Facebook or retweeting on Twitter) and social connections (what your friends like and share)–and other online browser behavior.

What’s Coming Next in Search Customization: Google Sees What You See (Even Offline)

This patent, issued in late 2014, takes search personalization offline, taking into account your real world activity. The patent describes the search giant’s latest idea for better search results: factoring in the TV show (or even commercial) you’re watching near your laptop, tablet or phone. Google might get this information because you searched for the show online to find the viewing time and station– or by extrapolating from your geo location and the available stations/shows currently running in your area.

If you search for something during the time Google assumes you’re watching a particular show, it will include this fact, coloring your results. For instance, if you search for real estate while watching a home improvement or antique show from a particular city, Google search might surface that city’s homes for sale first. With this patent, Google moves beyond personalizing according to what you do online in your browser—and extends customization based on your real life offline behavior. This type of personalization is in line with Google’s continuing strategy to produce scary good search results. Others speculate that the patent could be used as a spoiler-blocking service to help you enjoy your favorite TV shows.

How to Leverage Google’s TV Rank Customization: Add even more Relevant Specifics

To make the most of Google’s latest patent and perceived direction (likely coming soon), create content in future that (even more closely) fits your specific target audience and your target personas–and incorporate certain relevant newsworthy events for SEO. For instance, continue to create content with your various city names, location nicknames and areas served names. Also, consider producing content related to media, TV shows, books, etc. closely identified with your niche (not just random shows—relevancy is always key). With Google on the job, searchers might not need to enter certain info in the search box. Extra information the search engine “knows” about the user could “automatically” be factored into the search results.

What’s coming next and how can your business prosper despite or because of search engine algorithm changes? Stay tuned to the ZGM blog or contact us to do it for you.