Your (search) results may vary…

Jon GuerringueOptimizing your web presence

For a given search query, does everyone see the same results? For Google, at least, the answer is “no”. From a search engine optimization perspective, this is important to keep in mind. So, for example, when you say “my goal is to be listed on the first page”, my follow-up question would be “whose first page”.

Personalized Search

The fact is that since 2007, Google started to personalize the results you see when you search. At the start, this was mostly for Google account owners. In other words, if you had a Gmail account, and you were logged in, whenever you searched, Google would take into account what you’ve searched for, and more importantly, clicked on, to tailor the result of you next search, with the goal of helping you try to find what really interest you. You could easily see this in action by simply logging out of your Google account (or using a different browser where you are not logged in) and then doing the same search; the results would almost always be different. This is probably still somewhat true, but less so today, because in 2009, Google started remembering your past searches and clicks for everyone, even if you didn’t have a Google account or weren’t logged in. (How? Browser cookies. If you want to know lots more details about this, there’s a great blog post about how Google personalizes everyone’s search on

What this means for SEO

Yes, it’s true that personalized search may filter out your site doesn’t fit the “likes” of the person searching. But it also means that people who have come to your site before, and other sites like it, will be more likely to be presented a result from your site the next time they search for something related to the topics covered on your site. That is, they have already “expressed” a preference to Google that they like your content, so your site may come up for them more often. The result: you may get increased engagement with the people who are interested in the topics or products you are writing about.

What you need to do

If people interested in your content (those who have clicked through to your site before) will see your site again in related future personalized searches, then your job is to keep creating new content so as to broaden the scope and depth of your content on those topics. Not to mention, you want those searchers to have something new to read when they come back to your site.