The Future of SEO: Personalization?

By Rhen Wilson

Every year, someone is predicting the future of SEO. I suppose it was bound to be my turn one day.

Three years ago I was telling co-workers SEO as we knew at that time would be gone in only five. Since then, the knowledge and social graphs have taken primary importance to SEO ranking while traditional on-site SEO diminishes in value. In an article from SearchEngineLand.com, the SEO-expert blog lists a number of predictions for search engine optimization in 2015, specifically what Google will be doing.

So what should we expect in 2015? More of the same mostly. Title tags and keywords on your site will continue not to matter as much as they did, as users don’t give a tweet (puns!) how many times you infuse keywords into your body copy. However, that doesn’t mean title tags aren’t still relevant. After all, how many times have you considered the title in the SERP (search engine results page) of Google when you’re searching?

Sometimes it feels like this, though, right?

The Stasis of Titles

I’m assuming your answer is all of the time. It’s certainly my answer. And for good reason. Title tags (and the meta description that appears beneath them) affect the click-through-rate, and, in turn, Google uses the click-through-rate as a measure for your site’s SEO. And it’s not a small factor in the ranking process either. But the problem here is that title tags and meta descriptions are static. They don’t change, as if they’ve been carved into stone. You put them between <title> and <meta> tags and call it day. You might occasionally update them if you’re one of the savvy SEOs out there, but most of the time, you leave ‘em alone. But is that really the best we can do?

Bring on the Personalized Title

Every time I turn around, someone is writing about personalization. Personalized content is the future, so they say. And I don’t doubt this. The data even confirms it. A 2014 study by Gartner found that 46% of consumers regard tailored content as extremely important when it comes to growing relationships. So if we’re personalizing our emails, websites, and apps, why not our title tags? Why should I be stuck with one title tag for the thousands of visitors I’m hoping to attract to my website (well, not this website)? Shouldn’t I have the ability to personalize one the more deciding factors in my SEO ranking?

Manipulation Shmanipulation

You’re probably thinking my idea is ripe for manipulation. If people can personalize their title tags, they can probably start trying to manipulate the keywords they put into different title variations. But if keywords become less and less important (which most people assume they will), that version of manipulation won’t be a factor. Furthermore, the users will help tell Google when title manipulation causes problems by their actions.

In light of recent events, this image may not give you as much confidence as I’d hope.

Google uses the bounce rate from SERP as another SEO ranking factor. If someone clicks a result off Google and immediately bounces (i.e., leaves the site), Google takes that negative response into consideration and may show that site less for similar search results. So if someone is manipulating the title tags with clickbait-like titles that don’t address the user’s real need, the site will be penalized by not being ranked for those types of phrases. In other words, manipulation will root itself out.

The Personalized Possibilities

Think of the possibilities of what personalized title tags and descriptions could mean for your business. If your page of content has many different related sections, you could pull different titles based on the content section, rather than just a title for the entire page. And yes, I suppose you could make unique pages for each of those pieces of content, but who wants to do that? Especially if the user will gain so much more by a page full of related and valuable content? I could write about a number of other benefits to personalized content, but I’m interested in how you’d use it? Leave me your thoughts on personalized title tags in the comments.