Google gets personal with search plus your world

Jan. 11, 2012 | by Adam Skalak

Just 11 days into 2012 and Google is launching a major change. Anyone signed in to Google will start getting results personalised based on their Google+ network in the main Google search. Google announced that the main new features include Personal results, Profiles in search and People and Pages. So content from Google+ together with content from other social sites integrated in the main web search results. This merge of content, people and relationships is a big shift for Google that isn’t about Google bringing the Facebook (Google+) experience to your regular Google. They are bringing search into a Facebook (Google+) experience and re-hosting it as your normal Google.

A more narrow SEO view could be an expansion of Universal results. Depending on the query and its context Google’s algorithm blends the standard webpage results with images, videos, news, blog content, maps and so on. With Search plus Your World Google is going to blend personal and even private results into the existing Universal results (e.g. Google+ photos into Universal image results) and also add new boxes with content from People and Page profiles (status updates).

From a digital marketing perspective this change is going to make our lives and campaigns even more interesting. Just like with the launch of Universal results we will be looking to gain and sustain visibility in these new verticals. Our Google SEO strategies will need to be expanded to analyse keywords, customer segments and industry verticals for which we will need to come up with content strategies that gain enough social signals to appear in Google’s new results. Imagine a situation where you search for a keyword in Google and the new personalised results feature prominently. While these results will be personalised to every searcher, brands that produce content that is useful, engaging, relevant and timely will be able to gain visibility and clicks. Google’s algorithm filters out duplicate content therefore strategies for Google+ should provide content that is unique and refrain from duplicates of Twitter or blog posts.

Google hasn’t managed to get rid of link related spam algorithmically to date and has been trying hard to do it through social so it will be very interesting to learn how social sharing and especially +1’ing content effects the visibility of unique original content as well as spam. The social signals could also help Google with ambiguous general keywords that can mean different things to different people. Results for “apple”, “orange”, “puma” or “jaguar” could start returning more useful results as the algorithm should now know better the context of who you are, your network and what results you are looking for. I’m hoping that in the future Google will also integrate their other products including personalised maps.

From an SEO point of view I can see some interesting challenges and opportunities. The challenges will be around monitoring and measurement. Standard ranking tools will continue monitoring the standard default results without any personalisation. However in the future Google Webmaster Tools or Analytics may provide useful reports into the Search plus world results. I see opportunities around the new content and digital assets that brands will start providing to feature in the new results. My recommendations for Google+ are to get a good understanding of your customer’s behaviour, monitor your market trends, become active by providing useful, unique, interesting, relevant and timely content through Google+, build your community and encourage sharing your content further in the networks. If you integrate these recommendations with your SEO strategy around your popular keywords and topics of interest I believe you should get decent visibility in the new results.

The importance of this new change for SEO will largely depend on the number of active users and the type of content shared on Google+ outside marketing and IT. Google seems to be doing everything they can to make Google+ a success amongst the majority of web users. The ultimate goal in my opinion is to create a platform that provides enough useful social signals that Google can use on top of the link layer for relevant, fresh and authoritative organic results. To be successful Google needs a significant amount of people to be signed-up and signed-in to be able to collect the data they need to personalise the results.  It will be very interesting to watch how successful Google is in this area in 2012.

The basis of Good SEO is less affected by this change but social engagement layer becomes vital – something we at iCrossing have been preaching and practicing for several years.

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    Please note: the opinions expressed in this post represent the views of the individual, not necessarily those of iCrossing.

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