It is becoming increasingly apparent that search engines, such as Google, Yahoo etc are working extremely hard on personalising the search experience for every user. We are seeing a growth in tracking of user behaviour that then helps to customise the search results, as well as tie in with other services that the companies and their partners provide.

For instance, we now see personalised local search results coming up on the first page for the SERPs for nearly every query. This information is based on ISP location, previous searches and so on, and although many times it may be wrong – we do not all use a local ISP, particularly when travelling, many users are seeking global and international results rather than local, the search may be a generic information retrieval process rather than one which is seeking localised information, and so on. Google is also now personalising results based on which pages you have visited in the past, and the Google Starred results service (users click on the ‘star’ next to a search result, which then ensures that the result appears above all others when you perform that search again in future) also adds another layer of personalisation.

As more companies and seo agencies share the results of user behaviour, we will see a higher weighting placed on websites which can provide additional relevance to an individual searcher. It is going to become almost impossible to cater for every individual on the planet purely based on what a particular search engine they use knows about their online behaviour. Therefore, it is difficult to imagine how the mysterious weightings applied by the search engines for this can be built into our advertising and marketing campaigns any further than we do so already.

However, what we do know is that if you UNDERSTAND your audience, the demographic which you wish to target, then you can ensure that your website is found and that it is optimised to specifically reach out to those people and businesses who you know are (or should be) seeking you out. And this is not rocket science, because it is the age old
business practice of keeping customers happy.

This level of comprehension and knowing your audience needs to be taken from the retail environment (for instance) and applied to your online presence. If you know that your customers are very unhappy with the new layout of your website/ business premises, that sales have dropped, and that word on the street is that your business no longer puts its customers first, then the first thing you must do is change to suit the customer. Even Facebook, which takes unbelievable flak every time they make any change to the front end of their website, has had to admit defeat on several occasions and return to previous iterations of its GUI.

You need to understand what your target audience is looking for in your business, what keywords and search terms they may use to find you, what information they will be seeking, and build all of that into your site content and optimisation. You need to create content that will appeal to them, to deliver it in a way that suits them, listen and react to feedback, make sure that the experience you provide them is one that encourages them to return, and understand that you (or your seo agency) are now up against one more unknown in the world of SEO and SEM; what the search engines know about the individual you are targeting and how they are going to use that information.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology