Andrew Goodman weighs in with some interesting thoughts on what personalized search will mean to search marketers. I agree with most of those thoughts, and want to amplify one that Bill Hunt and I mention in our book, Search Marketing, Inc.—what will become of rank checking?
Andrew believes that the old organic search marketing task of checking the rank of your pages for various search queries will simply disappear in a personalized search world. He has a point. If most searchers are receiving personalized results, there won’t be any such thing as a #1 result anymore—each person would get their own #1 result. Andrew expects that we’ll have to settle for metrics such as search referrals and conversions.
He may be right. But I can see it going a different way as well. Would search marketers pay search engines to get better metrics? I think the answer is yes.
If search engines know how to personalize search results, they probably have information about the searcher that would allow searcher activities to be broken down by interesting demographic categories. Would search marketers want to know how many of their referrals were from men? From women under age 25? People from France? I think they would, and would pay for this information, just as they want that information for other media.
But what about rankings? Will the concept of rankings just wither away in a personalized world? Not necessarily. Rankings still have value—if your referrals are low, you need to know whether your rankings have dropped or your clickthrough rate is tumbling. You take different actions to correct each problem.
Google and other search engines could sell search marketers the ranking information they crave. You could learn your average ranking for a particular keyword on a certain day. So while every searcher might get a different #1 result from a search, search marketers could find the average ranking for their pages for that keyword.
Moreover, search marketers could find the average ranking for any particular demographic group. Would this be valuable enough information for search marketers to pay Google? We may soon find out, since personalized search is on its way.