Google Interest-Based Advertising & SEO
Google just announced that they will be serving “interest-based advertising” to users by placing a cookie in your browser when you visit a Google partner or a Google site YouTube. This cookie will track the type of sites you visit and then use this data to determine what your interests are. With this data they believe they will be able to serve you content network ads that are more targeted and aligned with your interests. They also allow users to choose their interests as well as opt-out of the service. I will leave the privacy issues to others and I am sure it will be a hot topic in some circles. Instead I want to explore the potential SEO implications of interest based advertising.
Could Google Incorporate Interest Based Advertising Data Into Organic Search Results?
I am not sure how difficult it would be to incorporate the data into the organic SERPs but I am fairly certain that it is possible to do so. Google has provided personalized results to users logged into a Google account by tracking the sites they visit and attempting to provide search results that are similar to those sites. The fairly recent roll out of SearchWiki, which allows users to alter their own results and comment on sites in the SERPs, has furthered their personalization efforts. Interest based advertising data has the potential to create even more personalized results to all users even those who don’t have a Google account. This could be done by gathering data from the browser cookies and serving results based on the users interests. I have not seen many people talking about this but the potential to so is there and it aligns with their effort to provide personalized results perfectly.
Twisting the Knife Into the Barely Breathing Ranking Report
If Google were to begin incorporating the data gathered through the interest-based cookies it would strike another blow against the ranking report. We eschewed ranking reports as an SEO metric a while ago and instead report on meaningful metrics like relevant traffic, conversions, and real ROI metrics. Some SEOs still rely on ranking reports as a way to show that they are providing a useful service but with the rise of personalized results ranking reports are less useful and in many cases totally misleading. What I see as number 1 can be vastly different than what Web Position Gold sees and the client could be seeing yet another result. Personalized results are still somewhat limited because they tend to rely on users to be signed into their Google account. But if Google brings interest-based advertising cookie data into organic search they could provide personalized results to a much larger audience (those who don’t opt out). In fact since they allow user input they could provide results that align with exactly what the user tells them they like. IMO this would put the final nail in the ranking report coffin and it can’t come soon enough.
Just Conjecture…Right Now
At this point the idea that Google would incorporate interest-based data into the organic SERPs is just conjecture on my part. Nothing they have released has even hinted that they would do this but Google is not always totally forthcoming about what they are doing in the organic results. Will they do it? Who knows but I believe they have the potential to and if they believe that it would be useful to their users or their bottom line they will find a way to make it happen.