Personalized search is here and it’s here to stay. With the recent move by Google to make personalized search a default setting, and the multitude of patents from all the major search engines, the complexity of SEO has increased significantly. Staying ahead of the game in today’s competitive market will be the only way to stay afloat. In today’s lesson we’re going to lay out 8 steps you can take to optimize and succeed in the crazy world of personalization.
There is essentially one thing to always keep front and center. Your goal should be to infiltrate everything and be everywhere. The more data the search engines have the better. Let’s begin with your first steps:
1. Make sure your title tags and descriptions are well written and have a strong call to action. Your organic click-through rate will become more important. Take the recent patent application from Microsoft that is using “triplet data sets” to personalize your results based on what users have previously clicked on. I know your first thought…easily spammed right? With the size of the dataset they have now all but the most prolific botnet spammers would be filtered out.
2. Leverage social networks. You should have an official company/site profile on every social network you can, and keep them active as much as possible. The most active users are often prominently placed on the home page which will generate a lot of traffic. This traffic will not convert but that’s not the point right now, it’s building your network. More Friends = More Reputation = Higher Rankings.
3. Build cool widgets with some actual functionality for personalized home pages. All the major engines will eventually have personalized home pages allowing you to add your own tools and services from your favorite sites. At present you can get away with building a simple widget that does some simple searching, but in the long run you’re going to need some creativity. Everyone will have a widget, why should I add yours? Make it stand out from the pack. The more people that have your widget the more trust you will gain, again pushing your rankings up.
4. Prominently market those widgets you just built on your website, and keep improving them. There’s going to be some churn as people add new tools and remove outdated ones from their home pages. Keep gaining new users at a steady rate and keep improving your cool tools to keep people from getting bored and replacing you with the newest gadget.
5. Increase the prominence of your bookmark buttons. Before personalization if your users generally purchased during their first visit and were one time customers, the prominence of your bookmark buttons was less important. Now even if the likelihood of them returning is low, a social bookmark is another piece of data that will build trust in the eyes of the search engines and should be taken advantage of. After they convert casually ask them to bookmark your site on del.icio.us/Furl/Google Bookmarks/Yahoo MyWeb/Whatever. A bookmark is much like the link of old.
6. Concentrate on user engagement and stickiness. Search engines are already measuring events and time stamping those events. Keeping users on your site and keeping them engaged will play a prominent role. Build useful tools and write outstanding content that will keep people on your site (and bookmarking). Pretend like it’s 1998 when content was king.
7. Blog. Consistently. This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. A blog just goes into another network building a significant amount of trust if done correctly and it keeps user engagement at a high level. Reward your users for commenting and keep the conversation going. Don’t automatically delete negative comments but respond to them in a friendly and helpful way. This will go a long way in building trust with your user base, and by association the search engines.
8. Prominently market your feeds. If you think search engines are not trying to figure out how to integrate feed data into their algorithms, you should go sell vacuum cleaners (door-to-door only). This goes back to #7, but if your users can’t find the blog that you’ve worked so hard on there isn’t much point.
That sums it up folks. There are many more ways to optimize for personalized search and this is by no means a total solution. Hopefully these basic steps things will get your brain thinking outside the normal avenues of SEO. It’s all about staying ahead of the game to be successful with your long term marketing goals.
Aaron Chronister, who blogs at The Mad Hat, is an in-house SEO and occassional SEO consultant specializing various forms of search marketing including search engine optimization, affiliate marketing, contextual ads, search arbitrage and web analytics.