The Next Generation of Personalized Search: Google Stars

A couple days ago, I came across a post on the official Google blog that detailed a change in the way Google lets its users personalize their search experience. That change is called Google Stars.

Google Stars

In short, Google Stars, the replacement for SearchWiki, are what you see (if you’re signed in to your Google account) to the right of the search results. If you find a site that is highly relevant to your search, you can “star” it. After that, you you will see the starred result at the very top of the search results. Starred sites will also populate your Google bookmarks.

From a personal standpoint, I think this new tool is great. It’s quicker and easier to use than SearchWiki, and the auto-population of your Google bookmarks page makes finding the starred pages extremely easy. Another cool feature is that starred results also show up for relevant searches. For example, if I type “seo firm” and star Fathom’s website, it will also show up for the related search “search engine optimization.”

As cool as all that is from a personal perspective, it’s potentially problematic from a professional perspective. In essence, Google Stars means that search engine marketers could have yet another page one element to contend with – and one that ranks ABOVE THE TOP ORGANIC RESULT – in the SERPs.

Google Stars Example

The SERPs page after a site has been starred.

So what exactly, you may ask, is the ultimate point of this post? Simply put, as much as things continue to change in the realm of personalized search, the more they stay the same for online marketers. Despite all the changes we’ve seen for personalized search, the fact remains that:

  1. Measuring success solely on rankings in today’s online marketing world simply won’t cut it. It is other elements, such as return on advertising spend (ROA), that are ultimately the more important to clients.
  2. Good ol’ fashioned, tried-and-true SEO elements such as frequently updated and quality content, useful tools and resources, quality inbound links, etc are still key in ensuring your site is useful and relevant to end users. If you can ultimately achieve that, not only is it going to be more likely your site will show up higher in the organic results, it’s going to be more likely that more users will see your great site – and possibly slap a Google Star on it.

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