SEO for Google Social Search

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Search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns have moved far beyond simply optimizing <title> tags, page content, and generating incoming links.

Now that Google “universal” or “blended” search has become widespread on almost every search query, a standard organic listing is competing with images, video, news, local, paid and real-time search. Now we can add social search results to the mix. These new sets of results not only deliver content that might have otherwise gone unnoticed, but also have the potential to push other, organic listings off the visible page. That means social media optimization (SMO) is now in direct competition with SEO. However, don’t be discouraged. The good news is that it’s often much easier to get top rankings for a blended or social search category than a highly competitive organic listing. That is, of course, if you understand how to optimize for Google Social Search.

Understanding Google Social Search
It’s important to differentiate Social Search from Google’s realtime search results. Real-time results are labeled “Latest results for ...” and include a scrolling results box for some queries. Alternatively, Google Social Search is labeled “Results from people in your social circle for ...” and results appear with an accompanying image (or avatar) from your social circle.

Think of Social Search as Google “Trust” Search. By personally choosing to “follow” certain friends and websites online, Google assumes that information from these sources is important, relevant and trusted by you and uses these contacts to form your social graph. Then, particular queries will return results from those in your circle — their blog posts, Twitter updates, etc. Google feels this can add yet another layer to search results and improve your overall search experience.

How does Google Determine Relevancy for Social Search?

Google claims to use a normal ranking algorithm when determining what websites to display first in Social Search results. So, page content, number of incoming links, and incoming link quality and authority are the primary ranking factors. However, expect this to change as Google continues to test and tweak Social Search results and puts more emphasis on the Direct and Secondary connections within your social circle.

Optimizing for Google Social Search
First and foremost, you must have a Google Profile that includes information about you, and links to websites you want to promote. This should include links to your primary website and its weblog, and social profile URL’s including Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, Picasa, FriendFeed, Yelp, etc. In short, any active social network profile should be included. While some networks and their content will not be indexed by Google (such as Facebook), linking those profiles to your Google profile (and vice-versa) will offer a better chance of connecting with people through Google and, ultimately, be found in Social Search results.

Establish Connections within Gmail and Google Chat
While time consuming, it is worth gathering as many Gmail and/or Google Chat contacts as possible, as it will increase your exposure in Social Search. Unfortunately, contacts from other networks are not as easily imported. You can’t add Twitter followers easily — they must be added one-byone. But you can import contacts from a CSV file, for example. Remember, not only will your contacts see you in their Social Search results, but you have the potential to be seen by the connections-of-your-connections or friends-offriends. In short, your reach will grow exponentially as you add connections.

Keep Content Relevant and High-Quality
Aggressively pursuing new contacts is important to Social Search success. However, you want to stay relevant and post quality content. Posting low-quality, keyword-stuffed content will result in the same fate as usual — low conversion rates. Or, in this case, you might find yourself banned from your contacts’ Social Search results. Remember, these results are targeted to friends and trusted contacts. So, you want to appear as genuine and trustworthy as possible.

Social Search is Here to Stay
With the explosion of Facebook and Twitter you can no longer ignore the enormous potential in being social. Google wants its share of the social pie, so don’t expect them to remain idle while Facebook and Twitter try to eat into their search market share. However, it is important to keep in mind that Google will continue to test and tweak results. Not every query will result in Social Search results, and you can expect many changes on the results pages and to the social ranking algorithm in the future. In the interim, get ahead of the game by optimizing your Google Profile for Social Search while competition is fairly low. It will benefit your overall social media and SEO efforts.

:: by Dante Monteverde, SEO Corner Columnist at Website Magazine ::

 
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3 comments

Chris Lang 03-12-2010 5:34 PM

We have been teaching our followers how to get ready for social search and Google Buzz for the last year and a half now. So those that took my advice and built a Google profile in 2008 when we first saw this coming are in good shape with strong Google profiles and followings.

You can learn more about what we teach for free at http://www.thegwave.net. I myself have almost a 1000 Google friends and 1200 followers on Google Friend Connect.

But it's not to late. Just because Twitter and Facebook seem to be everywhere take heed, Google's networking applications are already monetized so that have little concerns when it comes to paying for them. But Facebook and Twitter have yet to monetize their applications.

Historically trying to monetize social networks after establishing them has proved to perform poorly. It will be interesting to see how the 3 way race to both pleasing users and making money pans out for these 3 Internet heavy weights....

Lassar 03-13-2010 8:23 AM

I am using FireFox and was trying to rightclick on http://knol.google.com/k  

Trying to open it in a new tab.

I found out it is a image !

Please use css and text from now on !

Dante Monteverde 03-15-2010 9:21 AM

Chris, great points. Still it's one thing being able to monetize a Social network, it's another to build a strong loyal user base. But being a Google property helps. At the very minimum you should have an optimized and updated Google profile that feeds in your website(s) and other social network content even if your not actively using Google Buzz yet.

Randall, that image now links to http://Knol.Google.com/k thanks for pointing that out.

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