Google has been working on several additions recently to its core search offering and there have been countless blog posts and reviews popping up all over the web. We will begin exploring some of the more newsworthy improvements in the days and weeks to come. More specifically, how they relate to SEO and your website’s findability online.

We’ve been asked recently by a few prospective clients about “Personalized Search” so we’re going to tackle that one first.

What is Personalized Search All About?

Google defines “Personalized Search” as the ability to use the search history you’ve been building to get better more relevant results . Over time, Google will persist this information and use it to provide you with search results it thinks you want to see.

What kind of information? Things like search requests (topics and keywords) and click-thru results for a given website. For example, whether you clicked on any of its results and which ones in particular.

PS – Phase One

The first phase of the Personalized Search rollout worked well, however, there was a catch. The catch being that you must first have a Google account (Gmail). Second, you must be logged into that account for Google to begin persisting your search history. I don’t know about you, but I rarely if ever log into my Gmail account before googling something.

Your “personalized” search results may be ranked differently from someone else performing the same exact search based on your previous click-thru behavior. Phase One has been around for approximately four years now and hasn’t really changed the SEO landscape all that much.

PS – Phase Two

The second phase of the Personalized Search rollout is a bit more intrusive. Released earlier this month, this version does not require web searchers be logged into their Google account and is enabled for all users. Google takes advantage of a browser cookie to store relevant information related to your search habits. As with phase one, there is a catch. The catch in this case being that your search history only persists for 180 days. After that point your web history is cleared.

Again in this case, your “personalized” search results may be ranked differently from someone else performing the same exact search based on your previous click-thru behavior. As this second phase was only released very recently, the long-term effects are still unknown. That being said, I have noticed that Google just doesn’t do a great job unless I log into my Gmail account. I do a lot of searching and I just haven’t noticed very many “personalized” results where Google has actually customized something for me.

Has Personalized Search Killed Organic SEO?

There are a lot of discussions around the web that this second incarnation of Personalized Search is an SEO killer. I’m not alone when I say that is justnot the case. Here’s why:

  1. Google’s core search algorithm remains unchanged – the Personalized Search feature does not affect the results returned via Google’s search algorithm. Rather, it is a display functionality that adjusts the search results to add that personal touch
  2. Content is still king – the combination of good content, a properly optimized website, and link juice are still critical. You have zero chance of showing up in someone’s personal search if your site doesn’t first achieve a good page rank. Search habits are learned through queries and click-thrus
  3. A good brand goes a long way – the importance of building a brand has become even more important. A well known brand and/or website will always yield better results. Focus on making people love your website and building your image