How Personalized Google Results are Changing the Face of SEO Rankings

Marie Westerhof

Marie Westerhof

Posted on January 20, 2012

People often think of search engine rankings as something universal, seen the same by any person who enters a given search term into Google from any place.  Internet marketing experts Googleknow that Google’s algorithm incorporates a number of personalized factors into its rankings – factors that change the way you see results from different locations, different computers, and even with different friends.
In each search query, Google utilizes:

  • Local search results.  Google brings up results specific to your area.  Searching a term like “chiropractor” or “dermatologist” will bring up a list of sites for businesses located in your area.  These local results are so important that many SEO agencies have set up proxy servers in other cities to check local rankings.
  • Your search history.  Google also incorporates results from terms you’ve already searched and links you’ve already clicked on in order to deliver what they call “personalized results.”
  • Your Google+ network.  If you’re using Google+, what your friends have searched and recommended has a huge impact on the results returned.
  • A number of other factors.

So how is this changing how we interpret Google rankings in light of marketing for doctors?  We need to take into account the fact that each person who may potentially search a keyword that we’re targeting will have their results strongly influenced by a number of factors totally out of a marketing agency’s control.  Each of our client’s potential clients is seeing the search results differently – and while it’s true that there’s no way to change this, we can keep it in mind while writing reports and analyzing the results.
Many argue that this means that search engine rankings reports have considerably less meaning and usefulness for doctor marketing now that we’re not all seeing rankings equally.  Instead of seeing rankings reports as the absolute way of measuring success, we can use analytics to look deeper into which search terms are influencing traffic to the pages.  This can tell us more about who’s landing on the page and how we can optimize it to improve traffic.  It’s a simple reminder that the goal of internet marketing is to get more leads – not necessarily just number-one Google rankings.


Marie Westerhof

Marie Westerhof

Marie is the Director of Marketing at Medical Web Experts, and has over 10 years of experience in the development and execution of digital marketing campaigns for healthcare organizations. She also heads complex medical writing projects for healthcare networks, hospitals, large physician groups, and independent physician practices.

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