What is Personalized Search? Precautions and countermeasures for SEO measures

“When I checked the search ranking of my site, the position was completely different between my computer and my smartphone.”

I’m sure there are many people in charge of the web who have had such an experience. The difference in search rankings depending on the viewing device may be due to personalized search.

Personalized search is a system that displays optimal search results for each searcher. It is a convenient system for users, but if you search your company’s site or content page with the function enabled, accurate search rankings will not be displayed, and there is a possibility of incorrect site analysis and effectiveness verification .

So let’s learn how personalized search works and how to search without being affected by it.

I’m sure there are many people in charge of the web who have had such an experience. The difference in search rankings depending on the viewing device may be due to personalized search.

Personalized search is a system that displays optimal search results for each searcher. It is a convenient system for users, but if you search your company’s site or content page with the function enabled, accurate search rankings will not be displayed, and there is a possibility of incorrect site analysis and effectiveness verification .

So let’s learn how personalized search works and how to search without being affected by it.

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Table of Contents

What is Personalized Search?

What is Personalized Search?

Personalized search is a system that optimizes search results for individual users and is used by the search engine Google.

The system is based on data such as each user’s search history, browsing history, and current location information. Based on this data, each user’s attributes and tastes are determined, and search results are displayed according to their interests.

Purpose of personalized search

The purpose of personalized search is to improve user satisfaction with search engines. If we can understand the search intent of each user and return the optimal search results, it will lead to improved user convenience and satisfaction.

Google introduced a personalized search system in 2004, when the beta version was released on “Google eLabs”. After that, the official version was released in 2005, and after the “Personalized Search Update” implemented in December 2009, it was fully implemented.

The purpose of personalized search remains the same today, but the system is being updated daily. Recently, the difference between personal computers and smartphones and the usage status of SNS are also incorporated into the personalized search system.

Differences from local search

A local search system is a system that displays search results based on the user’s current location. Like personalized search, they are similar in that they customize search results for each user, but they are completely different systems.

PERSONALIZED SEARCH LOCAL SEARCH
underlying data Action history, current location information, etc. Location information
Timing reflected When you search for something regardless of keywords When searching with keywords related to location
Target user all search users Users who want to narrow down a specific region

In this way, you can see that personalized search has a wider range of information and target users than local search.

For example, local searches will be reflected if the search keyword includes a location, such as “Roppongi lunch” or “Cafe Osaka station date”. Personalized search, on the other hand, applies to all searches, regardless of whether the keyword includes a location.

Understanding how personalized search works

Personalized search is a mechanism that recognizes each user’s attributes based on their behavior history, current location information, etc., and displays different search results for each user . Specifically, search results are optimized based on the following six pieces of information.

  • User’s Google account information
  • Search history on Google
  • Website browsing history
  • User’s location information
  • User device
  • SNS posting history and follower information

As a result, the following differences in search results appear depending on the user.

  • Search results change depending on the content you have searched and viewed in the past (search results change depending on what you are interested in)
  • Search results change depending on where you are
  • Search results change depending on the device you’re using

Problems and points to note in personalized search

Problems and points to note in personalized search

Personalized search was originally started to improve user convenience, but there are some points that companies and web managers who operate owned media should be aware of. If you understand the points to note, you can understand the accurate search ranking of your site and improve the appropriate content.

You may misjudge the ranking of your own content

The first caveat with personalized search is that you may misjudge the ranking of your site or content pages.

For example, if you search for the keyword “ASO”, two types of information will appear: ArterioSclerosis Obliterans and App Store Optimization. Next, when you search for the same keyword on different devices, the following differences may occur in the search results.

The reason why the search results are different for each terminal is that the terminal on the right side of the image reflects the search and browsing history of “in the past, I searched for information about app store optimization and accessed related sites.”

If you run an app store optimization company, you’re likely to visit their site and related content pages many times. Google will then determine that this person is particularly interested in App Store Optimization within ASO. As a result, on your device, the sites and content pages you operate will be displayed at the top.

However, in the default state where personalized search is not reflected, the arteriosclerosis obliterans page is displayed at the top like the terminal on the left side of the image. In other words, your own site for app store optimization is actually listed at the bottom.

In this way, if you misjudge the original search ranking of your site, there is a possibility that it will develop into a misjudgment, saying, “There is no room for improvement because it has won the first place in the search results.” I will explain how to know the exact search ranking later, but you need to be careful when checking the effect of SEO.

Still affected by local search

In the next chapter, I will introduce “How to display search results without being affected by personalized search”, but even if you use that method, the influence of local search will always be reflected. In other words , even if you take countermeasures, search results will always include your current location data .

The above points should be noted for business owners who are developing brick-and-mortar businesses such as cafes and restaurants. In the case of physical stores, it is easy to search for local information such as “cafe Shibuya” or “recommended nearby shops”, so it can be said that local search measures are essential in addition to personalized search.

How to display search results without being affected by personalized search

To know exactly how your site ranks in search results, understand how to get your site to show up in search results without being affected by personalized search. I’ve listed the methods in order of difficulty.

  • Search in incognito mode (easiest)
  • Write “&pws=0” at the end of the URL
  • Disable in Google search settings
  • Use tools to check search rankings (most labor intensive)

In addition to the above, there is also a method of “logging out of Google and searching” because Google account information is also reflected in personalized search. However, some personalized search features are still available even when you’re logged out, so it’s better to use the hassle-free Incognito mode .

The above four methods are explained in detail below.

Search in incognito mode

If you use the incognito mode installed in each browser, the personalized function will not be reflected. The same search results are always displayed regardless of who views it from any terminal (local information is excluded).

When using the Google Chrome browser, select “New incognito window” from the settings button at the top right of the screen to activate incognito mode.

In addition to starting from the setting button, you can also use the shortcut key to start the incognito mode. For Google Chrome, open the browser and press “Ctrl + Shift + N”.

It’s the easiest way to know the exact search ranking of your site, so there’s no loss to remember.

Write “&pws=0” at the end of the URL

After entering the keyword to check your site and displaying the search results, add “&pws=0” to the end of the URL displayed at the top . Then you will see search results without personalized features.

Please note that it is the end of the “URL” that is added, not the end of the “search keyword”.

Disable in Google search settings

You can also deactivate personalization features from your Google search settings. If you turn off the information based on your account or set it so that search history is not saved, it will be easier to understand the correct search ranking of your site.

However, incognito mode is the safer bet, as it’s a little more complicated to set up and you can’t disable all of the personalized search features.

If you want to set it, search results will be displayed with appropriate keywords. After that, select “Search settings” from the settings button on the right side of the screen to move to the Google search settings screen.

Once you’ve accessed the search settings screen, turn off personalization features if you’d like, as described below.

Turn off personal results

On the Search Preferences screen, scroll down to Account-Based Information and click the Manage button.

Click the slide in the upper right to move to the “Display information based on account” screen.

Click the slide to switch whether account information is reflected in search results. If the slide is greyed out, it is disabled.

Set to not keep search history

Now scroll down to “Search History” and click “Manage”.

When prompted, select Save to Web & App Activity.

If Web & App Activity is on, click Turn Off to disable it.

Search history is no longer reflected in search results. To restore the settings, click “Turn on” from the same location.

Use tools to check your search rankings

Ranking tools allow you to see your pure rankings without personalized features. “SEO check” and “SEOTOOLS” that can be used for free are typical tools.

Search ranking tools are useful when performing comprehensive SEO measures . In addition to search ranking, there are tools that can be used to check page rank, number of backlinks, keyword appearance rate, etc.

However, when using the tool, you have to enter the URLs of the content pages one by one, which is more time-consuming than other methods. Also, since local searches are affected, search rankings may differ depending on the tool, so be careful.

Grasp the accurate search ranking and verify the correct effect

If you’re an owned media operator or web developer, turn off personalized search to see exactly how your site ranks. If you understand the correct ranking, you will be able to calmly judge “what information is currently lacking” and improve the content.

For that purpose, it is effective to use a search ranking measurement tool and to devise URLs when searching, but the easiest way is to use incognito mode. When checking the ranking of your own site or content page, it is a good idea to make a habit of searching from incognito mode.

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