As I’m sure almost anyone reading this blog already knows, 2009 marks a major benchmark in search engine technology advancement. As of 2009 google (other major search providers of course following suit) has begun to display search results differently then it has in the past. After insight from a test group, behavioral search is already in the works.
Google is making another change, so what?
They constantly refine their search algorithm to make the most “relevant” search results display for each query, so what’s the big deal if they simply make ANOTHER change?
This change impacts all the work that many companies, teams, and individuals have poured blood, sweat, and tears into; SEO the way it has come to exist up until this point. I know what you’re thinking, “what is he talking about – when I search for something I am still finding what I can, reasonably perceive, is the most relevant results.” Yes, but… Those results are going to become increasingly altered to fit into what the search engine believes is the most relevant search result for YOU!
Great right? Sure, but…
What does this mean for companies who have grinded their teeth and pulled out hair (not to mention probably spent a butt load of money) to make sure their website comes up in the top results when you, Joe Shmoe, searches for diamonds…
It means they may not be there. Behavioral search is intuitive to it’s name, it is based on user behavior. Huh? How does the search engine know my behavior? Simple. Cookies, web cache, and actions taken when logged in (in this case to one of the largest user networks on the planet; Google™). You know that Google™ account you log into everyday to check your email, read news, go through your iGoogle™ widgets… Well, that’s ALL tracked!
A little scary, but the truth. Not only are all of your actions tracked and stored but they are done so in such great volume that Google™ is going to make a decision for you and decide what it is that YOU, most likely, are looking for. Practical application: you, Joe Shmoe, is looking for a diamond necklace for your beautiful soon-to-be doctor girlfriend. Now usually you’re a pretty cheap bastard, but in this case you want to really go over the top and get something exquisite… Well too bad.
Because you are such a cheap bastard on the regular, usually utilizing keywords in your search queries like cheap, low cost, and discount, Google™ is going to refine it’s search results to fit your usual pattern of search behavior. This shift in technology, in my opinion, is to combat the SEO industry (which has made almost as much money selling services that did not exist prior to Google™ as Google™ has on trying to combat it). What this means for SEO’s and major brand players is that sites are going to have to be much “thicker;” going above and beyond in the volume and quality of their content. Also, google and other search engines will be taking a deeper weighted look at website’s “neighborhoods,” or the sites within a particular websites link or content network.
The idea of the SEO neighborhood means that sites are going to have to re-evaluate who they link to, and who links to them. Overall the concept of an SEO neighborhood could be very beneficial, but we will wait and see…
Behavioral search isn’t the only new search engine technology effecting your search results – there is also blended search, which is used, but not for every query. Have you searched something recently on Google™ more than once, in a relatively short period of time, and were dealt a different hand of results then just a short while before? This is thanks to blended search, which does just that – blends a variety of search results from different sources; local, paid, directory, video, etc. Blended search seems to be running rampant in local search results in particular. In some of my recent searches with a geographic focus (philadelphia, conshohocken, etc.) the local search results will display next to an interactive google map, just the same as if you had clicked the local option from the google navigation. In some cases, and this is where I’ve seen inconsistencies, google will display results it deems to have a greater relevance/authority (who knows which) above the local results. I bet you have also noticed (if you’ve done some searching in ’09) that mixed media will also be displayed sometimes. I’m not talking about the offers and promotions that show up just under, or in some cases above, the sponsored results – I mean the books, videos, interviews, and biographies that show up on the top and bottom of the results page.
So what does this all mean? Well, if you’re an SEO or you offer managed SEO solutions – I hope you have something else up your sleeve, if you’re a cheapskate by tradition – have fun searching for expensive items, and if you’re at work for ABC Paint Company searching for paint stripper on your laptop while at work (on the companies network)but happen to enjoy pornography while logged into a google (at some point) - hopefully you have an office with a door:)