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Personalized Search and Trustrank – Death to Link Based Algorithms

Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 15 years and 356 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.

SEO is Dead

Another post on the death of SEO and how the game will change. Speak in heuristics and personalization, not algorithms and optimization. Think conversion and sales not traffic and rankings. Pagerank was flawed and the flaws are being remedied. The question is…how long has Trustrank been playing a role, and how will the increasing role of TR impact SEO?

We don’t die…we multiply
Personalized search is the nail in the coffin that every SEO should be dreading. Good SEO’s will roll with the punches, but it is certainly going to change the way we play the game. Have the fear of the Florida Update part II in you. Personalized search is the solution to the flaws in pagerank and link popularity that we have all been manipulating for so long. If you are an SEO, I really hope you see it coming. If you are focusing ONLY on link development and gaining business from top search engine listings, I urge you to diversify you methodology (at least include some PPC campaigns to hedge your bets and collect data). There has been a cottage industry that has risen from the potential spoils of a successful SEO campaign. A small company ranking atop the SERPS for a highly searched, highly relevant phrase can make that business successful. Some stumbled across that fact (many then turned into “SEO’s”), and some got there from a lot of hard work and diligence on performing what was important to an SEO campaign. An update Florida can destroy a business solely dependant on sales resulting from search engine rankings. Focus on customer retention and diverse traffic and lead acquisition.

Personalized search will most definitely change the face of our “SEO industry. You are 55 year old a middle-manager from the Bible-belt who earns 65k per year and enjoys golf. When you search for Ping you will not get the same as the year old computer hacker from California. You will no longer be able to show your client accross the country that he is #1 for the phrase “ping” eventually.

The Big Question: How Long Will Links be the Crucial Element to Search Algorithms
This is a very important and pressing question. As an SEO, I think it is naive to think that this type of algorithm will last forever. In only a few years, look how sophisticated the ranking algorithms have become; evolving from meta-tag bases to off page variables being analyzed as heavily as on-page variables. Looking at the progress that has been made in only ten years (since Yahoo’s birth) is extraordinary.

A link is a vote. That was first. Then you couldn’t vote for yourself (internal anchor text was devalued), now a link is a BIG vote if it is embedded in body copy, and a little vote if it is in page footer. Link voting has become a caste system based on where a link is placed in the heirarchy of a site, and “the vote” is developing into being based on your interests and social status (but hey, isn’t most marketing?). PEOPLE will vote with their searches and click throughs. They will vote with their length of visit on a site, and if it is worthy of bookmarking or mentioning on their online social networking circles. In my estimation, this is what trustrank and personalized search is all predicated on, or where it will move towards.
When will Florida part II hit? When personalized search starts heavily impacting rankings across all data centers.

Users use personalized search – > algo changes (based on trustrank heuristics) – > longer personalized long-tail phrases -> link based algorithms will become increasingly less relevant.

When will links stop counting?
Probably not REAL soon. The “voting for other sites” model is deeply encrusted into the way current search engines work. To totally abandon what made them successful, would be equivalent to a new Coke blunder. Personalization will be rolled in through beta form, and slowly migrated into the current ranking determinants. I would be willing to speculate that the “trustrank” factor determined by toolbar data, desktop search data, and personalized search data are already starting to come into play.

How can I make my site more trusted?
Well, the white hat content evangelists will finally start getting their day in the sun. People want valid content. Valid content builds trust. Whatever it is, people want the meat. Hire some good copywriters, and start offering things on your site of VALUE. The more you give away, the more you will get back. It is the beautiful paradox of the web that those without a karmic conscience will never be able to comprehend. Think hotmail, ebay, google, the kid with the light sabers…errr…wait…forget him, but Seth Godin’s Idea Virus too. He gave away his whole concept in e-book, then people bought it anyway. You get the picture. Give GOOD VALUABLE stuff away, and you will become trustworthy. That trust can then be leveraged for links, trust, sales, and product evangelism. Social networking (forums, blorums, blogs, etc.) will start to play more of a role by gauging HUMAN interest rather than counting on the votes of webpage links (though links most generally play a role in human interest).

Think like a search engine studying people – build trust with SE’s like you would with people
What would they study to determine if a site is trustworthy in the eyes of other HUMANS. Bookmarking a site? Traffic spikes? Links from “trusted sources”? Clickthrough rates? Visit length? Age of site? Rate of Growth? Here’s some more of the Trustrank wishlist. Focus on slow consistent growth that engages PEOPLE to remark about you and link to you rather than engaging spiders with links. Focus on earning the trust of your visitors and customers and you will win the trust of the engines with the help of a bit of SE public relations.

Reading Material – the roundup on Trustrank and the development of personalized search:


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  • Mary Stevens

    I do not want to get into the “religious” debate of “white hat” or “black hat” or really anything in between…as I for one realize that one day you have a specific market that you are working with that requires one way of marketing…utilizing the S/E’s…and tomorrow the entire model changes. I think that the successful marketers and business people see what is on the horizon and are adding more quality content to their sites…in order to truly be of more value to their subscribers/readers….passer byers.

    We spend a great deal of time on your blog…as you address “REAL” issues that all of us in the Search Engine WAR are engaged in.

    Keep up the great work!


    Mary Stevens
    life after bankruptcy

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