Different people get different search results

The topic of SEO came up in a conversation recently, as it tends to do when a bunch of people that work in digital marketing (or anything Internet related, really) get together. As expected, everybody has a different idea and everyone thinks they know what they’re talking about.1

Amongst the crowd were several people that work at agencies and a few that work on client side. A couple of them were in marketing. It’s remarkable how different the views of each group are.

Most of those that worked at client side understood the importance of being found when a customer is searching for your products or services. After all, that’s one of the key objectives of marketing. Searching Google, Bing or Yahoo just happens to be what most people today do to find what they’re after.

One of them had gotten SEO shops to come in and pitch for business. She remembered them saying SEO was both “an art and a science” and that they could guarantee first page results in Google. Most said the exact same thing.

The problem is that she never really understood or felt comfortable with the pitch. In fact, everyone that worked client side said they just didn’t get it and were often embarrassed to admit to it in a work environment.

I appreciate their feeling. Search is geeky and way too boring for most people.

I told them my view was that trying to trick the search engines was foolish. They change their algorithms often to avoid this, and different people get different results anyway.

It’s part of what Eli Pariser calls the Filter Bubble2. Basically, search engines track your behaviour online and create a profile of you. They know what you’ve searched for3 in the past and what links you’ve clicked on, and they use that to personalise your results in the future. When searching in Google, the results you see will be tailored to you and will likely be different than what someone else gets.

Check out Eli Pariser’s TED talk on the subject. You’ll be amazed. And possibly horrified.4

When it comes to SEO, I believe your customers should be your first priority. Start by understanding what they’re after and providing that content on your site. Write the stuff your customers would want and you’re most of the way there. After all, as Matt Legend Gemmell said, “Good SEO is a by-product of not being a dick on the internet.”

  1. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I also don’t bullshit clients. ↩

  2. I highly recommend this book if you’re interested in this. Check out Eli Pariser’s TED talk for a taste. ↩

  3. Log in to your Google account, then go to https://www.google.com/history ↩

  4. It’s not just search engines that are tracking your every move online. Advertisers do it also and some are very sophisticated. ↩