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March 19, 2014

#Pubcon Liveblog: SEO Beyond the Filter Bubble

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Strategic Considerations for Getting Past Google’s Personalized Results

Chris Boggs @boggles, Internet Marketing Ninjas

What Is the Filter Bubble? The filter bubble is users getting less exposure to conflicting view points to where they become isolated intellectually in their own information bubble. Eli Pariser an Internet activist defined it this way. Some people feel the filter bubble is negative because of potential manipulation of the kind of info a user may see. We can’t know what we’re missing because of the filter bubble. But we’re agreeing to that when we use Google who is in their own mind returning the best set of results to us.

Disclaimer: Content is still king. Google isn’t always going to get it right or have the inventory to deliver a result the user wants.

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There are some areas we can reinvent how we’re looking at SEO that optimizes for the filter bubble.

1. Brand Search Implications

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Notice that there are phone numbers and sitelinks on the SERP when Chris is signed in because Google knows he’s been interacting with the brand lately.

Consideration 1: Sitelinks — Sitelinks are influenced slightly by past behavior, but for many brand searches tested, the 6-8 remain the same except for positioning
Consideration 2: Search history — Hummingbird driven results maybe cause changes in the way that Sitelinks show up for longer-tail brand searches. If you search “seomoz algorithm updates” and then “moz algorithm updates” and back, the displayed Sitelinks differ. Brand is the primary thing to get full control over if you want to ensure the greatest likelihood of exposure beyond people’s personalized search filter bubble. (Updated from Chris’s comment below)
Consideration 3: Longer tail brand search differences. For most longer tail brand searches, little to no difference was observed
Consideration 4: Visit history: He visits Yahoo Fantasy Sports daily and personalized return differs dramatically from non-filtered
Consideration 5 and beyond: Bing and Facebook and the rest

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Summary of considerations for brand searches:

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2. Non-Brand Searches

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He feels there’s more personalization happening for non-brand searches. We also see a shift in ads for a logged in user vs. non-logged in (perhaps a different Quality Score calculated for a logged-in user).

Consideration 1: Universal SERP layout can be dramatically different (position of Shopping results, inline Sitelinks, compressed Amazon listing).
Consideration 2: For many long-tail terms, what you see is what you get.
Consideration 2a: Conversely, for high volume head terms there is greater volatility in results
Consideration 3: Informational vs. Transactional search results tend to trend from informational to transactional as the searcher behavior/personalization comes into play, that is later in a search series

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3. Local

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On the left the search is done in San Francisco and on the right the search is done in New Orleans.

Consideration 1: how many blue link search result spots are available or is it filled with a local 7 pack or brand pack
Consideration 2: is there a dominant site for local terms?
Consideration 3: Sometimes a site will dominate for [brand + keyword] terms and may be better if not investing heavily
Consideration 4: Is your local listing accurate? This can be problematic for some
Consideration 5: Optimize for non-brand. Make sure your brand is associated with what you sell and Google will do the rest

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Takeaways for Avoiding the Personalization Filter:

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How to Get Past Google’s Personalization Layer … Into It’s Core Scoring Algorithms

Aaron Kronis @KRONis, SEO Engine

In the last year we’ve lost a lot of the keyword-driven data we used to get from Google. He quotes Pariser again and his points that you don’t know what you’re being filtered on. Google’s black box has been growing. Edward Snowden was praising Google for turning on SSL for all searches. But that same change took data away from us.

Spam filters: 1999-2004
Local filters: 2004-2011
Social Filters
Personalization: 2011-2013

How do we take back control? We need to take a closer look into what makes up the black box. Look at the inbound link flow coming off your home page.

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Instead of looking at the query layer, look at the scoring layer. As the query layer grows so doe noise and confusion.

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How do I get to the scoring layer? You need a functional modern search engine to open up its algos, i.e., you need a Google simulator (without all the personalization/query layer). Ask him about the Google simulator he’s built and using and seeing 50% higher ROI on SEO.

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6 responses to “#Pubcon Liveblog: SEO Beyond the Filter Bubble”

  1. Mark Peditto writes:

    Great points to ponder. Google in my eyes is not returning quality results in my field. For example. If you search fiberglass pools on google why the heck would google place ebay at number 2. Its all about money. There are companies out there trying their hardest to support families. But then again ebay which has fiberglass pool sticks for sale is more important and rank higher than companies that produce incredible content. Epic fail. Shame on google. Ill be contacting bruce clay inc real soon for some pointers.

  2. Mavis Flixar Ohrum writes:

    One of the best kinds of PPC ads available today are Google’s remarketing display ads. What’s great about them is that you can segment them by behavior, so if people have been to your home page but not your sales page, you can direct them there. If people land on your shopping cart but don’t buy, you can run ads to send them back to the shopping cart and complete checkout. The power to segment is one of the most powerful advancements in marketing technology in the past century.

  3. Virginia Nussey writes:

    Mavis, remarketing ads are an interesting example of a way to make a filter bubble work *for* you — once you’ve got someone’s attention, make yourself show up again and again!

    Mark, I heard from well respected, long-time industry vets that they’ve seen the quality of Google search results drop as the quantity of content on the web proliferates, and you’re right, Google is sure to prioritize the content that’s making them money.

  4. chris boggs writes:

    Thanks for the great coverage! Plus also very sly I didn’t even see you in there. :)

    For the 2nd consideration around Brand, I talked about how search history and “Hummingbird-like” behavior could cause changes in the way that the sitelinks showed up for longer tail brand searches. I used the example of going from “seomoz algorithm updates” to “moz algorithm updates” and back, and how the sitelinks differed. This was all part of the idea that Brand is the #1 thing to get full control over if you want to ensure the greatest likelihood of exposure beyond people’s personalized search filter bubble.

    Thanks again for the great coverage! Once I get my PowerPoint published I will come back and provide a URL. Cheers!

  5. chris boggs writes:

    Also I just read the comments and I agree with Mark and you that remarketing / retargetting is a great way to remain exposed. In fact, it is a PITA sometimes seeing so many display units for Brands/Products that I do research on.

    It was particularly funny how “confused” my retargeting seems to get sometimes because of my competitive analysis…I can reload a page and get 2-3 different brands over the course of the experiment. :) Although many searchers are not doing the types of searches that trigger any conflicting advertisements – I can certainly see this aspect driving up CPM if tied to helping catch drips from the leaky bucket. :)

  6. Virginia Nussey writes:

    Thanks for filling in the blank there, Chris. I’m going to update the post with this info. And please do pass along a URL for your PPT once it’s public. :)



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