Google has announced a new capability, Web history, that is another step towards far deeper use of personalization techniques in search results. Gord Hotchkiss has an excellent interview with the Googlers behind personalized search. So, why is this important to search marketers?
If you think that personalized search is just a more interesting development in making search results more relevant to searchers, think again. Personalized search results will shake the foundations of the search marketing industry.
First, personalization means that Google and other search engines know more about the searcher. Microsoft already offers search marketers the ability to pay a premium for clicks from searchers fitting certain demographic characteristics. There’s no reason to expect this premium pricing to stop at demographics. Would you pay more for searchers with a history of searching for similar terms? How about searchers that have been to your competitor’s Web site in the last three days? You’ll probably get a chance to decide soon.
But the biggest changes are in store for organic search marketing. As I’ve written before, personalization dooms traditional rank checking. In a world where no one ranks #1 for a keyword every time, search marketers will be forced to confront the basics of appealing to target segments. You can think of today’s organic search world as offering only one market segmentation method—keywords. In the new world, each keyword segment can be divided into many more segments based on demographics, firmographics, search history, Web history, and just about anything else that searchers will allow us to know about them.
To be prepared, search marketers must start thinking about segmentation the same way that other marketers do. The king, search rankings, is dead. Long live segmentation!