Chapter 7: Personalization

Not all search queries are built the same.

You know those cookie warnings you get when going into a website? Cookies are bits of information stored about your behavior on that website.

Companies use these cookies to "make your online experience easier".

The same concept applies to Google.

A search query will return different results based on how that user's information profile.

This isn't to say that each searcher receives completely unique results.

It's more accurate to say that you get a few unique results in each of your search queries.

These unique results are based on things like your location, who you're connected to, and what type of things you search for on Google.

As an SEO or business owner, it's your job to design content and pages that match a user's query. So you need to consider factors like the location and browsing behavior of your target audience.

Country

You will see results based on what country your IP address is located in. A great example of this is the difference in meaning for the word "biscuits".

If you are located in the UK and search this word, you will receive a different results page than if you searched with an IP address in the US.

Keep this in mind when building content. If the geography, language, and culture of a region are pertinent to your product/brand, then take that into account.

Or if your content is being written for many different countries, have people from those countries proofread to make sure you aren't writing anything offensive.

A couple of easy steps to take if you're trying to compete in a specific country:

  1. Use the appropriate country code top-level domain

  2. Use the correct hreflang attribute for your target country's language

If you are producing content for multiple languages, you should create multiple URLs for the different versions.

Then you will use the rel="alternate" hreflang tag so Google knows bout the language and location variants.

Locality

This is a factor that comes into play when using terms like "local" and "near me" in your search queries. Search queries that contain these phrases typically target local service businesses.

If you want to rank content for city-specific results, you'll need to find the things people are searching for in that city and include them for your target topic. An easy place to start on this is through the Google My Business platform.

You can also find success by using Yelp and TripAdvisor.

If your business has more than one location, make sure to include them on your site.

History

Google may personalize results based on your recent search history.

For example, if you've searched for information about David Wright (the baseball player) for the past 5 hours, if you search "David Wright's wife", Google might return information about only the baseball player's wife, despite there being thousands of David Wright's.

There isn't much to optimize here in terms of SEO, it's just something to be aware of.

User Experience (UX)

While it's important to Google to return relevant results to their users, it's also important for their users to have good experiences on the pages returned to them.

This means that pages with relevant information might not be displayed if they contain different penalizable components like low-quality backlinks, spam links, and tons of ads.

UX boils down to this: make your content as easy to find and pain-free as possible for your users.

Use clear sections and headers so that a user can hit your page and know within 2-3 seconds whether you have what they need.

Knowing your target audience helps when creating a great UX.

If your target audience is older, it might be appropriate to use larger fonts. If your target audience is in a particular country, make sure your content speaks to people in that area.

Search Intent

Different URLs on your website are most likely not identical. They target different phases of your customers' journey, different solutions, or maybe different companies.

Analyzing how your target customer search through those different phases is invaluable when writing content for your brand.

There are four search intent categories that each target a different part of the buying funnel:

  • Informational: These are top-funnel queries. This means that the user is just beginning their journey and is looking for basic information on a topic.

  • Navigational: Now the user is getting more specific. They're looking for certain products or companies that might fulfill their need.

  • Commercial: We're in the mid-funnel now. The user is closer to what they're looking for and is looking for things like product or service information pages.

  • Transactional: The user is ready to buy. They're looking at pricing and sales.

While you can get away with targeting specific words in search intent, it's more effective to think conceptually about it.

If a user is searching "top-10 face-care products", they're probably closer to the navigational and commercial phases.

While you can't control the advanced deep learning networks that ascertain search intent from a few words in a search bar, you can control how your pages are designed.

The classic method is to create one page per stage of the customer journey.

You can also use specific language based on the funnel stage. Peppering in words like "buy now", "ready to get started", and other transactional phrases are more effective on buying-focused pages, not informational pages.