Read a fairly interesting article over at ClickZ today – SERP Position: Myth vs. Reality. Aside from getting into some history about how search result pages looked back in the day &about how PPC bidding used to work (man, the glory days of going into Overture and having bidding wars… now we have quality score, CTR & maximum cost per click all factored into the equation!), Kevin’s last paragraph ties up the whole article quite nicely:
“More recently, we’ve seen evidence that Google has been implementing the ideas and concepts postulated in its patent application. That patent addresses “determining ad targeting information and/or ad creative information using past search queries.” Prior search behavior can often help tune the ads shown (and organic listings) more closely to user intent, particularly if the searcher has been using modifiers on a core concept. For search engine marketers, this really puts the nail in the coffin of predictable position. As personalization by geography spreads to the organic results and combines with prior search behavior, each SERP could end up being unique to the user: the Holy Grail of enhanced relevance.”
Right now, a search engine result page can look quite different for me typing in a query here in Portland, Oregon to someone typing in the same query in Loretto, Minnesota. A geographical trigger in the query might have a map show up with vastly different results, some PPC advertisers could be using geo-targetting in their campaigns so different PPC results show… those are only a couple of specific differences that are quite noticable. But as SERPS continue to be personalized, we’re not too far off on having wholly different result pages.