Personalized Search: Do Not Want.

So maybe personalized search sounds great to all the people who want to see the sites they visit pop up first on their SERPs for easy access, but this morning, personalized search feels to me like Google’s way of sticking it to the SEOs. Thanks, Google.

Now SEOs have been talking about how personalized search could affect us all since last Friday when Google announced the change, but I have been lucky enough not to encounter their lovely “customizations” until this morning. Just like any other morning, I sat down with my chai rooibos tea, turned on Pandora (the Andrew Bird station is especially good), and checked on a client’s ranking.

Double take.

No, I’m definitely signed out.

Heart attack.

This much couldn’t have changed since yesterday.

But wait – what’s this? Yes, that sneaky little “view customizations” link in the upper right hand corner.



Google is using a cookie to keep track of my searches, even when I’m signed out, to personalize results. The good part is that you can easily turn it off. The bad part is that my clients (and possibly even more importantly, my clients’ clients) probably won’t turn it off. Everyone’s search results will look different, and that’s basically the opposite of optimization.

Explaining to clients that being signed-in to Google would always affect results was one thing because at the time, that meant they were opting-in to personalized results. We all have at some point, or we’ve turned web history off. Now there is no opt-in, only out. You have to turn off customization and continue to turn it off every time you clear cookies. And then you have to wonder how as SEOs, we can work with this. And then take an Advil and hope it all goes away.

And no, Google, trying to woo us with Popeye isn’t going to fix things. Nice try.


Sorry Popeye. Your limelight has been tainted by the "view customizations" link.

  • While SEOs won’t be happy by this statement, I think it’s an attempt to level the playing field a bit and I don’t see that as a bad thing. But, I think Google and the rest have a long way to go before the playing field is truly level.