SEO guru Danny Sullivan has a thoughtful, and thought-provoking article over at Search Engine Land, wherein he states that “On Friday afternoon, Google made the biggest change that has ever happened in search engines, and the world largely yawned”.
That’s a fairly strong statement, but Danny is one of the world’s top SEO experts, so it’s worth paying attention.
What’s going on here? Google, in a blog post on Friday about Personalized Search, let the world know that the personalization of search results (especially the tailoring of said results to a searcher’s previous search behavior) will in future be applied to all searchers of the Google indices, whether or not they are “logged in” via a Google account.
Previously, as I can certainly attest, if you had a Google account and you were logged in for a session, you could expect to see all kinds of personalization and other tweaks and twitches in your Google search results. Now, everyone will get the same treatment.
What kind of personalization are we talking about here? According to Google, they are trying to give users the most relevant results. Let’s say you have a search history (going back 180 days, which is the current Google holding period for your search history) of looking at sites about big cats, lions, etc. If you search on the term “jaguar” you will probably see results about big cats first. But if your history shows you are a fast car buff, you might be looking at the latest offering from Jaguar Motors. And so on.
Danny thinks it’s all a really big deal. From the perspective of search industry watchers, it really is. And he’s right, it deserved a much bigger announcement from Google. The shift from homogenized search results to personalized, or unique search results, is a ground-shifting change in the essence of search technology.
But does the broader world really care? I doubt it. I think most people — and this is just my opinion — but I think most people are getting a little jaded by the amount of internet-related developments that are churned out in the space of a single 24 hour news cycle. Let’s be honest — it’s getting a little crazy. Hey — now you can tweet all 6,557 of your Facebook friends straight from your mobile app as you are standing outside your favorite restaurant (why is new technology always so concerned about new restaurants) and let them know (in 140 characters or less) that the joint is offering 2-for-1 pitchers of beer between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Hooray! Chalk up another small victory for mankind in the development of civilization. Sorry Danny, but I just don’t think that many people would care about this latest development from Google. They probably think their search results are already personalized anyway.
So did Google underplay the switchover? Of course they did. They released it on a Friday afternoon, for God’s sake, which of course is an automatic acknowledgement that the announcing entity is trying to downplay something. But does the expansion of personalized search matter that much?
Actually, I think it does, in the long run. I think it’s an important technological step, but I don’t think we will be able to see or judge all the ramifications for quite some time. And for all the SEO types who complain and moan about the change — get with the program. This is not new. It has been coming down the pike for years. It doesn’t change the underlying golden rule of SEO — make your content worth linking to. That’s what it’s all about.