BAD SEOS BEWARE – Google personalized is here!

As an SEO, I am constantly trying to dispel search myths and misconceptions to the best of my little ability. I also try to get people to evaluate SEO campaigns and companies in the right light. Like any other direct marketing channel, they should be evaluated on ROI. I have always thought that SEO should be evaluated not on rankings or traffic but on sales that result from the effort. Google personalized search should change the way many companies evaluate SEO firms, which has often been by rankings. Many of us know that clients love to type in a few words and see rankings like they were the stock market. Now, can you imagine if the stock market gave different pricing based on who is asking for the price? Well, that just wouldn't work. In search, it totally works, as a search engine attempts to give the searcher the most relevant result possible. Take this example: Suppose you do a Google search on the term "seal." How likely would you be to buy a CD from “Seal” if you were seeking: • information on the mating patterns of seals • a documentary on Navy seals • the Easter Seals web site • seals for a leaky roof. Probably not very likely. Why? Because a CD from the artist "Seal" was not what you were looking for and these other results are not even closely related to music.

The odds of a sale/conversion are VERY slim.

If I am really into music, and I was to search for “seal” and then find results about the guy married to Heidi Klum (oh, and he's an Grammy winning singer), I would have received relevant results for my search. On the other hand, if I am zoologist and find him, I may not have gotten a relevant result as I may have been looking for results about the animal. Personalized search seeks to address this issue, and its impact has many SEO companies concerned, but they shouldn't be.

Good SEO firms don't see success as achieving a high ranking.

They usually evaluate success on traffic / leads / sales / e-newsletter signups and other measures that show VALUE. Ranking well for a term that leads people to “seals” (the animal) or Navy seals who were really seeking “Seal” of Grammy fame is NOT going to lead to the desired result. Amazon's CD store, the iTunes store, or a documentary on Navy seals should not show up in the results for someone looking for information on the animal. That is not going to be a very valuable click either.

Here's why -- good SEO firms know that a client who obsesses over rankings is not focusing on what matters most to a business. A good client obsesses over results and revenues. They don't care as much if they search for a term and see it at 15, and I see it at 7.

We'll never know where each term ranks for each person performing a search. So, what is the next best metric? At the least, it should traffic but ideally it should be leads / sales / revenues. As a frequent searcher myself, anything Google does to make my search experience more relevant to me is a good thing for EVERYONE!

Yahoo is rolling out personalized search too, see info here or here. This is a coming trend, so SEO firms take notice. Your days of analyzing success based on where your client ranks as the MAIN form of analysis are limited. And thank GOD!!!!

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Wil Reynolds
Wil Reynolds
CEO & Vice President