With the advent of Google’s personalized search, not only are search results based on the relationship between the website and the search query but a myriad of other factors is also taken into account. Information about the user making the search, their browsing history, location, and more influence Google’s perception of a particular page’s relevance to a specific query.
This means that results pages will vary for any given term, depending on the individual making the search, and renders the idea of ranking first for a specific phrase a less-than-realistic goal. The aim of a search engine is to deliver the best results to the user, and while once it was relatively easy to influence or altogether circumvent this intent, the game has forever changed.
The practice of SEO is about employing the right tools and observing best practices to remove roadblocks between users and great content. It’s about giving both search engines and users what they want and is not always a magic solution to higher rankings. Many techniques that have been employed successfully for years are, at best, no longer effective, and at worst can result in a website actually being penalized by a search engine.