The personalization of search alters search results from user to user based on the history and profile of the searcher.White hat search engine optimization is not spam, but enough SEO is black hat that I think my previous post, "Web spam, AIRWeb, and SIGIR" is relevant here. In that post, I said:
[Mike Moran said,] "Widespread personalization will doom traditional rank checking. The question won't be 'Does my site rank No. 1?' but rather 'For what percentage of searchers does my site rank No. 1' or 'What was my average ranking yesterday?' . . . [I]t's the biggest change in search marketing since paid search."
Without a reliable means of rank checking, traditional SEO loses its foundations for optimization decisions .... Without a reliable means of rank checking, traditional SEO ... loses its metrics for determining its success or failure.
With widespread personalization on the rise, traditional SEO can be aptly characterized as a dead man walking.
"Winner takes all" encourages spam. When spam succeeds in getting the top slot, everyone sees the spam. It is like winning the jackpot.See also my previous post, "Combating web spam with personalization".
If different people saw different search results -- perhaps using personalization based on history to generate individualized relevance ranks -- this winner takes all effect should fade and the incentive to spam decline.
[Fortune Interactive article found via Gary Price]
Update: Erik Dafforn writes, "The single algorithm you're chasing now will soon be 500 million little ones."
Update: Nick Wilson at Search Engine Land says:
[The] rollout of ... personalized search results for the masses ... was cataclysmic.Update: Matt Cutts says, "With personalization ... black hat becomes a lot more difficult ... You can't rank that (trophy keyword) for everyone anymore."
In short, it's a game changer. Those who adapt quickly or are already ahead of the curve will thrive in the new environment. Those too slow or in denial will perish.
"One page fits all" is now a thing of the past. Personalized search is now the default.
Update: Another good quote from Matt Cutts (from the same SES keynote interview):
The nice thing about personalization is you don't see one monolithic set of results ... Now everyone can rank in the top ten for some niche, so there is no weird step function.
It's not winner-take-all anymore.