Starting last Friday (Dec. 4), Google is now returning personalized search results regardless if you are signed-in to your Google Account. In the past, you had to be signed-into a Google account with ‘web history’ enabled for personalized search to work. Now, it’s the standard method of delivery for everyone. What that means is instead of returning results that are relevant to the average person, results will be returned based on their relevancy to – YOU.
In the beginning, Google personalized search basically meant that if you modified your search results with the “up arrow” and “X” buttons provided by Google (see image), future search results would include those past modifications.
Please note that this result has not been personalized, we really do rank #1 for “boise internet marketing”, and a number of others ;).
Currently, Google is customizing your search results based on what you’ve clicked on in the past. For example, if you regularly search for “blue widgets” on Google, then proceed to visit the 2nd listed search result instead of the first – eventually the 2nd listing will move up to the 1st result position. This stored personalization only effects your search results. Non-personalized results will remain the same regardless if thousands of other people have the same personalization. For now.
How Will I Know if My Results are Customized?
A “View Customizations” link will be displayed at the top-right of search results that have been personalized. Clicking the link allows you to view what’s been modified, as well as turn off the personalization service. More from Google about this…
This could be a benefit to the user (web searcher) if implemented correctly. Our preferences are vastly different from each other, it only makes sense that improving the relevancy of search results would be driven by a personalized approach. The important thing to remember here is IF implemented correctly.
If this takes hold, it would seem that the same amount of traffic that exists for a particular search phrase would then be divided up. Meaning; focusing on ranking well for 1 and 2 word keywords/phrases would be less important than long-tail targeting (keyphrases composed of multiple words).
As with most personalization-type services, Google makes it fairly easy to opt-out (in spite of automatically opting you in). Signed-out searchers can click on “Web History/Disable Customizations” to turn off personalized search results.
Google isn’t exactly trying to be invasive with a shift towards personalization. They are attempting to improve the quality of their search results by serving up the most relevant content to the user while fending off black hat spammers/affiliate marketing attempts to subvert their ranking criteria at the same time.
As an SEO, I have opted-out of the personalization. My viewing pane has to remain unbiased in order to uphold the relevancy of research results.