SEO Corner: Google Social Search
On October 27, 2009, at
the Web 2.0 Summit in
San Francisco California,
(about the same time Google
negotiated a deal with Twitter
for a real-time feed) Google
announced the release of
their latest search feature:
Google Social Search.
Google is taking personalized search to a new level by adding information from what Google calls your “public social graph” and integrating it into their main search results. Google is taking everything they know about you from your Google profile, determining your connections with people and websites from various social networks, and then producing personalized search results for participants. What this means for SEO is that all of the social media profile building you’ve been engaged in is going to pay off in the near future — and big.
Since Google Social Search relies on information from your social connections and mines that data, you will first need to opt in to the program through your Google account at http://www.google.com/experimental/. Once opted in, conducting a search on Google will provide two ways of viewing Social Search results. First, at the bottom of any regular results page you will see “Results from people in your social circle for” where two Google Social Search listings will be returned.
Second, if you perform a search on Google and then select the “Show options” feature and choose “Social” you will see the full Google Social Search results.
The argument for social search is that, because you trust the connections you’ve established, who better to help refine or improve results than members of your social graph? Let’s say I’m in Chicago and thinking about heading to a specific restaurant. I could perform a social search on Google to view friends’ tweets on the restaurant or perhaps a review on Yelp. This could potentially be very useful for any buying decisions made online or offline, whether it’s big or small.
Google Adds a Real-Time Wrinkle
Beginning in early December, 2009, Google took another giant leap by releasing Real-Time Search. Now, for some queries, the first page of results shows a scrolling box with real-time search results – many of which come from users’ social updates and content. Real-time Search has major implications and further alters the SEO landscape. Read more about this important real-time wrinkle in search and how it affects SEO.
To be seen in others’ social search results you will not only need a Google account and profile, but also must add links (the actual connections) within your Google Profile. Google suggests links but you are free to add as many links as you would like from virtually any social media, bookmarking or networking site. Keep in mind that the more links you add, the more exposure you might potentially receive. The main social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) are an absolute must to include but also consider your website and/or blog as one of the links.
Remember when adding these links that you are allowing Google to track your connections on the Web. Google might not admit it publicly but many argue the main reason for launching Google Social Search is that it’s simply another way to provide better ad targeting.
So how does Google Social Search tie into SEO? Assuming Google integrates Social Search into the main search results formally, in the future the number of online connections you have established will directly impact the search results. The more people following you on Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, Flickr, Google Talk, or any other significant social site, the more exposure you and your website will receive. So how do you get proactive and take advantage of this new potential back door to the top of the SERPs? Keep building social networking profiles, but start new ones if possible, and make sure they are active and as targeted as possible. Make sure all of your social profiles have proper links to their respective websites and, conversely, make sure your websites promote your social network profiles. Keep promoting your blog’s RSS feed — as the more subscribers you have on Google Reader, the better.
Popularity will be an important factor but trust will be equally important. Be sure to engage your followers in order to help build that trust. With many questioning whether or not social media is worth all the time and effort it takes, Google Social Search might finally provide the answer. Get ahead of the curve now, while you still can.
Dante A. Monteverde is a Search
Strategist specializing in Search Engine