Google rolled out personalized search to every user of their search engine and with that signaled the final days of top organic rankings being the metric to measure your SEO efforts with are clearly in view.
Say what? In a nutshell Google places a cookie on your machine and gathers your search history over time and then uses that information to show you what they think you are interested in. For example if you search for diamonds and click on every diamond ring dealer’s website and you do this several times over a period of time you will begin to see less results like Wikipedia (which doesn’t sell diamond rings) and more results for diamond ring merchants at the top of your results page when you continue to search for diamonds.
So what reason is there for SEO? Well, this doesn’t mean Google is giving up ranking sites it just means they want to deliver more relevant results to each user. With that said you will need to optimize your site for your products and services but you should look at traffic, visitor behaviors like time spent on site, etc to gauge the effectiveness of your SEO campaign.
Why wouldn’t I just do nothing but PPC? You should engage in pay per click but keep in mind some studies show 70% of search engine users don’t click on PPC results, so if you only engage in pay per click you are limiting your audience reach.
I have no doubt personalization will impact rankings, it’s a foregone conclusion but it shouldn’t impact your SEO efforts. We moved away from trying to sell rankings a couple of years ago and moved toward selling the impact of SEO, like targeted traffic, etc. So if you are hung up on where your site ranks, GET OVER IT, because where it ranks on your machine probably isn’t where it ranks on mine.