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You've heard of mystery shoppers: people who pretend to be everyday consumers when in fact they're working in a marketing capacity. Such mystery consumers are used by offline marketers to see how a service provider or other company treats real customers in real life, as well as to conduct marketing surveys.

How can this approach be applied to SEO? Well, pretending to be your customer can help you tackle the problem of personalized search.

That Google nowadays adjusts search results based on one's language, location, and other criteria is no secret. Although personalization may or may not be a bad thing from the searcher's viewpoint, what it basically means for SEO is the inability to effectively fine-tune campaigns to a particular group of customers.

But what if SEOs pretended to be real-life consumers, would they get the "correct" search results then? They certainly would...

In this article, I'd like to talk about different ways of stepping into your customers' shoes and "faking" Google's personalization in order to better target your SEO campaign. (For a brief visual overview of the process, see this infographic on dealing with personalized search results).

Personalization Triggers

First off, let's quickly recall what filters normally triggers Google's personalization:

  • The searcher's location, based on one's IP address or GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications)
  • The searcher's Google interface language, normally auto-set according to one's IP address
  • The searcher's Web browsing history: previous queries, results clicked, and pages visited
  • The searcher's Safe Search settings
  • The searcher's social media connections (true of Google+; think Search plus Your World)
  • Other various indicators

How Personalization Really Works

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image of Alesia Krush

Alesia Krush is a digital marketer at software provider Link-Assistant.Com, which offers SEO PowerSuite, a professional toolset for all-round SEO, and BuzzBundle, a social marketing app launched in 2012.

Twitter: @AlesiaKrush