Villing & Company

Personalized Search - Google is Changing the Ground Rules

Search engines have the power to send millions of customers to your business. And from the very beginning, there have been companies who try to cheat the system and make unrealistic promises to secure top search engine positions for "free."

Personally, I've always had a problem with this practice. As a consumer, I'm annoyed when I'm trying to find product information about a new digital camera or an honest comparison between two products. These sorts of searches are often impossible due to the amount of commercial spam in the results. Informational links are completely buried behind pages of pseudo-review sites and shopping guides.

In 2009, we're going to see some major changes with Google and the other search engines. In my opinion, these changes will radically improve the consumer experience and radically damage the more shady methods of some SEO companies. In fact, one search engine expert recently told an audience of search engine marketers, "Ranking is dead." Here's why:

The Personalized Search

It's very likely that in 2009 search results will be different based on a number of factors:

  • Your location - based on your IP address or GPS-enabled phone
  • Your search history - what kind of searches have you done in the past
  • Your search intent - shopping-related searches will use a completely different algorithm than research and informational searches

Some of this already exists if you are logged into a Google account, but in the near future it will be based on things like IP address, third-party cookies and other information.

If you're a little skeptical about this, try logging into a Google account like Gmail and doing a normal search. As of late last week, you can now "promote," "add" and "remove" search results. In addition, you can leave comments on each search result, which can be either public or private.

The comment system alone is enough to send shivers down the spine of unscrupulous search-based companies. The value of a high-ranking link would be completely eliminated if it's accompanied by a string of negative comments.

So where does that leave us?

Well, for Villing & Company clients, it will be business as usual. I've always strongly argued that we should work WITH the search engines, instead of trying to game the system. That means making each page distinct and using very specific and relevant page titles and meta tags. It involves paying attention to your web site code to make it easy for Google and other search engines to index your content. It also means being cautious when using plug-ins like Flash. Plus, it's always important to provide interesting, original content that is frequently updated on your site.

Basically, all the things we've been recommending to our clients for years.

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