It’s no secret search engines use algorithms to track our online behavior to personalize our internet experience. This practice is known as search personalization, and it’s been in use since 2012. If you search Google for ‘birdhouses’ right now, your search engine results page (SERP) will look different than if your neighbor did the same search. If this information is new to you, you’re not alone— 64% of users don’t know their search results differ from others. 

Search engines like Google use search personalization to tailor search results to individual users based on characteristics including language, location, device, and previous search history. The scope of personalization depends on prior search data and how marketers and content creators use that data.  

You may be asking how this differs from SEO. An SEO content strategy is intentionally organizing your content to rank on SERPs. But if each user has a different results page based on their unique internet journey, how can you be sure your content ranks for the right audience? 

Think of it this way: you create a digital marketing strategy to communicate information to your audience and drive them to the desired action. You create an SEO strategy to translate your communication for use by Google to rank content on SERPs. Since SERPs rely more and more on search personalization, marketers can marry these two strategies to surface content among a target audience’s individualized search experiences. 


Understanding the Venice Update 

In 2012, the Inside Search Blog published a list of more than 40 changes to Google’s SERP algorithm. Out of all the changes, two had a serious impact on the SEO and Inbound world: 

  • Improvements to ranking for local search results—This improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal. 
  • Improved local results—Google launched a new system to find more reliable results for a user’s city. Now Google can better detect when both queries and documents are local to the user. 

The Venice Update localized organic results on broad search queries. For example, if a user searches for “oil change,” their results will show up based on their location without having to add “near me” as a qualifier. This gave a competitive advantage to local companies—who may not have sway in a national space—as they can now rank highly in a local search. This update meant location became—and continues to be, over ten years later—an impactful metric for how SEO SERPs are shaped. 

With the Venice Update in mind, let’s look at ways marketers can optimize content for search personalization. 


3 Ways to Incorporate Personalization Into Your SEO Strategies 

1 Language 

Users can only engage with your content if they can read and understand it. Search personalization will prioritize content in a user’s native language. Language targeting is an effective way to optimize personalization if you’re targeting an international or multilingual audience. If you want your content to perform well for an international or multilingual audience, it’s important not to rely on Google Translate to bridge the language barrier. 

  • Localize your website  
  • Take time to translate and localize your content into the language of your target audience. Then, use the HREFLANG tag to guide international SEO and localization. This dynamic HTML tag tells Google about variations of your content so it can understand these pages are variations of the same content. 


2 Past Searches 

This strategy requires a two-fold approach: first, it’s essential to understand keyword research and how to choose the right keywords for SEO. Second, you must understand your target audience’s values intuitively. If you want your content to appear in your target audience’s search result, your content’s search terms need to overlap with your searcher’s intent. Research your audience intensively to identify what content will be valuable to them and which keywords will attract organic search traffic. 


3 Location 

As previously mentioned, the Venice Update made location an important factor in ranking for SERP. If you want your content to surface in your target audience’s search personalization, consider optimizing your content with location-specific keywords. 

  • Update your Google My Business listing.  
  • Google prioritizes GMB listings, so make sure yours is up to date with accurate hours, descriptions, and addresses. 
  • Get dynamic with your website.  
  • A dynamic site will change based on user characteristics. Including this feature helps you target users based on location and the metrics mentioned above. Be sure to utilize sitemaps and canonical tags so Google doesn’t flag your content as duplicate. 
  • Localize everything!  
  • URLs, titles, images, headers, descriptions, page copy—anything you can think of, localize it! Be wary of keyword stuffing as this can hurt your SEO ranking.  


As technology advances and user expectation grows, search personalization will become more finely tuned. Need help leveraging highly personalized content for your target audience and SEO strategy? Contact the GROWL team today 

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