by Traci Lester, Digital Marketing Specialist – ASPE, Inc.
What is that noise? Do you hear it? It’s the sound of internet marketers banging their heads on their desks because their SEO efforts don’t seem to be working. But why? Well, gone are the days of being able to add meta tags to the head of a web page and have it immediately show up on page 1 of a Google search results. A large part of this is due to personalization usage data. Google is using your personalized search data to show specific results based on your activities. So how is this actually affecting results?
How Google Personalization is Affecting Search Results
Let’s begin with location biases. A lot of search results that were not meant to be local are actually pulling local results. Google’s location awareness will affect the results’ ordering. Usage history gives Google hints about your location. Even if you’re searching from a mobile device and you’ve said you don’t want to share your location, Google will try to figure it out. For instance, I am having a DIY wedding this summer so I have been doing a lot of research on making your own wedding bouquet. When I do a Google search for wedding bouquets, even though I didn’t specify Raleigh wedding bouquets or florists in Raleigh, several Raleigh area florists show up at the top of my search results.
Search history affects more than just location biased search results. It will affect your auto suggest results, as well as the actual types of results you get. Let’s tie in a good example I heard on a recent SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday post. Say I’m interested in Ruby; the programming language not the stone. I perform a basic search for Ruby, and what do I get? Local jewelers and ads for engagement rings and wedding bands. Google seems to think I have wedding on the mind.
As if this isn’t frustrating (and amazing) enough, usage isn’t the only thing that affects results. There are several indirect impacts as well, such as search patterns that the engines detect. For example, the Digital Marketing for Business Conference (DFMB) is here in Raleigh this week. I performed a search for a certain colleague (who just so happens to be presenting at this conference) and received several results having nothing to do with this particular individual, but rather, the DFMB conference as well as the other presenters. Patterns related to entire search queries are also used. If a large number of people start connecting phrases in their searches, Google will start ranking pages with those long tail keywords higher because of that association.
Social connections are where things get a bit creepy – again in a fascinating sort of way. Google will look at all the other accounts you might be connected to that interact with Google and all of the contacts within those accounts. Whatever these connections are searching and sharing will be taken into account and can modify your search results. Depending on the quantity and quality of these social shares, even if the content being shared doesn’t have the classic stamps of SEO such as meta tags, they can affect the rankings of what and where you see results.
Okay, so now that you know why you’re SEO efforts may not be paying off, you’re probably saying, “Thanks for the explanation Traci, but how do I fix it?!” There isn’t an easy, one-and-done solution. But there is a solution. It’s called content marketing. I know you’ve heard of it. Everyone is talking about it, and with good reason. Just about anyone is capable of generating content that will attract visitors to your website. With the right content strategy, it is still possible to get from where you’re ranking now to where you would like to rank.
So how do you create the right content strategy for your organization? Well, that’s another post for another day. How else will I keep you coming back for more? That’s just part of my content marketing strategy. However, I will leave you with the best advice I can offer right now. Check out our Content Marketing Boot Camp. This 2-day content marketing training course, taught by my colleague and personal friend Phil Buckley (@1918), will teach you how to optimize your search visibility and website traffic using concise, high-impact content marketing strategies.