In early 2007, the Search landscape was transforming.  We were starting to see personalized Search results for the first time and search engines from Ask to Google were leading the way.  Here are a couple of post on the topic of personalized search that I wrote about in February 2007.

Personalized Search and the Personalized Results Page (PRP)

Search is undergoing a major transformation. As a result search engine marketers will need to roll with the change. You see, personalization in search is coming. This means being number one (as we know it today) in Google or any of the search engines may not get you where you need to be. Being number one for what your target market is searching for is where you need to be. You shouldn’t focus on simply just getting traffic to your site. You should be focusing on getting the right traffic to your site and providing your site visitors with the right site experience.

Due to the personalization of search, search engine optimization tactics and “manipulation” of results is simply not going to get you to where you need to be. Think about how personalized search will work. When a user types in a query they will receive a set of results. When a different user types in the same query they will receive a different set of results. There are a number of factors that will contribute to these “personalized” results. Items such as your past search history, your Geo location, the time (of day) of your search, the day you search, the time of year or season, the number of times that you perform the same search query, etc… all of these factors will determine the results that are returned for you. Not to mention the look of the Search Engine Results Pages will be changing as well. ASK has been trying some new things with ASK X and more recently Google’s SERPs have been modified to include related items and left side tabs.

The PRPs (Personalized Results Pages) will not just be a list of links consisting of a title and a description. They are going to consist of videos, audio clips, Wikipedia links, images, definitions, and feeds all based on items that are of relevance to your query. Remember that the purpose of personalized search is to provide the most relevant result to that particular searcher… not the best result for the masses. What I expect to see and want to see is not necessarily the same thing that you are expecting and wanting to see.

Let’s say that I perform a search for “Ibanez guitars”. Here’s what I envision my Personalized Results Page looking like

– Sound clips for tuning an Ibanez guitar
– A brief synopsis of the history of Ibanez guitars
– Testimonials of guitarists who play Ibanez guitars
– A map of the closest Ibanez guitar dealership
– Images of various Ibanez guitars
– Product reviews of Ibanzez guitars
– Maybe even a video clip featuring close-up pictures of an Ibanez guitar

You see it won’t be just a list of 10 text links with sites about Ibanez guitars. It will be a combination of an audio, visual and textual experience. If there are sponsored ads the ads on the Personalized Results Page will be for trusted sites that sell Ibanez guitars. My Personalized Results Page may not have any sponsored ads… after all based on my search experience, the engines should know that I rarely click on sponsored ads. Uh oh does that mean personalized search is the end of PPC? Well no, it just means that the user may be in control of the type of ads (if any) he/she would like to see displayed.

Search engines like ASK and Google understand that as individuals, we are the only ones who actually know what we’re really looking for. Google’s personalized search offering continues to try and provide the most relevant results possible. It’s a nice start, but still has a ways to go.

And of course there are those who refuse to shift their paradigm and continue to try and apply tactics in an attempt to affect rankings and will try to manipulate personalized search results. The thing is you can’t. You have no idea about what my semantic map consists of when I perform a query. You can try and guess, but you’ll never be able to replicate it exactly. Ideally, Personalized Results Pages will change everytime the same query is made by the same user. Based on my previous search for “Ibanez guitars” the next time I conduct a search for “Ibanez guitars” my personalized results will have changed based on the information and previous search pattern that I participated in the first time.

Relevancy baby relevancy.

In a second post, I touched on the fact that ASK X the latest offering from Ask’s search efforts might just be a prelude to personalized search.  I wasn’t wrong.

ASK X – Prelude to Personalized Search

When ASK debuted ASK X in December, I liked what I saw. To me ASK has been the leader in transforming what a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) will look like in the future. Does anyone else find the traditional SERPs boring? ASK is taking the SERPs in a new direction. ASK X is an AJAX powered three-pane result page that looks similar to ASK City.

With Ask X, you’re not just getting back a list of links (as you would on a traditional SERP), but you are getting a pretty slick, new three-panel interface, combining great time-saving features including:
Left: A search control panel that stays with you, complete with Zoom Related Search and Search Suggestions that update as you type.
Middle: Conspicuous results front and center to provide clutter-free information without having to scroll down the page, and the ASK Binoculars to preview results. (For those of you not familiar, Binoculars Site Preview presents a “sneak preview” of a web page when you mouse over a Binoculars icon next to a search result.)
Right: A preview of other types of search results, including video, news, images, blogs, shopping, encyclopedia and more.

ASK X is refreshing and it has the opportunity to improve relevancy through incorporating personalized search results. Depending on a user’s query, ASK X could serve up personal results combined with “static results” to offer the ultimate user experience. The personalized results would be based on the user’s previous search activity and behavior. The static results would consist of items such as:

  • definition of the queried phrase (if applicable)
  • image(s) of the queried phrase
  • most recent news stories pertaining to the query
  • related video or podcasts
  • most relevant/recent blog posts pertaining to the query

ASK X already does a good job of providing these “static items”. For example, if you are looking for images in ASK X, there are several pull-down menus at the top of the page that allow you to narrow and focus your results. Pull-Down One allows you to limit by size (All Sizes, Buddy Icon, Small, Medium, Large). Pull-Down Two offers limits by file type (GIF, JPEG, BMP, PNG) and Pull-Down Three limits your results to any color, color, or black and white.

Think how relevant the results will be. Personalized results combined with the Ask X display of search term suggestions. The user would never have to go much further in their search. (By the way displaying search term suggestions as ASK X does is based on some cool technology that goes back a few years.)

The ASK X SERP represents where search is going… and that is towards personalized results, away from a universal results page that is the same to all users. ASK X, a prelude to personalized search results.

Retro Post: Personalized Search and the Personalized Search Results Page
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