In the ever changing world of the Internet, there remains one unalterable reality for most websites: be found or die. This was true back in the days of Alta Vista and Lycos, just as it is today with Google and Bing.
How Is a Website Found?
This is a question that no one, except for the people at Google (and they're not telling), has a definitive answer to. But here's what we do know for sure:
- Search Engines (read Google) are in an unending quest to recreate human behavior. In other words, they use a very complex mathematical formula (algorithm) to imitate how a human being searches for information. What do we see? What do we remember? What's important and what isn't. When we arrive at a home page what gyrations does our brain go through to determine, as quickly as possible, that this website is where we want to be.
- The algorithms utilized are constantly changing and being filtered in an ever more personal way - personal to us.
- The ultimate goal is to filter search results for each individual user based on the search engine's previous experience with us.
Meaning what you would expect, "personal search" is the next generation of search. It passes search results through yet another filter: yours. Now in Beta, Google uses previous searches you've made, what results you've show interest in and other factors to further personalize the search experience. And while some say this raises privacy issues, the betting is that personal search will prove to be as compelling as it sounds.
Personal Search and SEO
An upshot of personal search is what it will do to the field of search engine optimization. For instance, how can a website be optimized for every potential visitor?
The answer, of course, is that it can't be optimized down to the individual visitor level. So what happens to SEO? Hard to say. SEO has been declared dead before and yet continued to find crevices to hang onto. At the moment, the SEO industry is trying to raise legal and moral objections to personal search. But technology doesn't seem to bother people as much as it used to. So the betting here is that SEO will be become less and less important as time goes by.
How Will My Website be Found?
As the infrastructure of the web becomes more personal, content becomes more niche-driven. Personal search should filter out the general in favor of the very specific - specific to each of us. This means web content must become more detailed. A product's description, for instance, will have to address a host of features and benefits now largely ignored. Writing about a service will require the provider to consider individual customers and not just a "typical" or composite one.
The bottom line is this: the more personal the search, the more important the content.