Google+ – Is it the Future of Search?

Posted by Alan Grainger - September 15, 2011 - Social Media - 13 Comments

In the SEO community we have been fighting the effects of personalised search in Google, turning the function off so as not to cloud our results pages with links that are biased towards our browsing history and recommendations from our friends on social networks.

So why do we do this? Because browsing when signed into Google still doesn’t reflect the way that most people search. Although fairly popular in the tech community, Google accounts just don’t proliferate the general public in the way that the big G would like, meaning that the many features offered by personalized search in Google just aren’t visible to a majority of people.

If Google+ takes off however, this could all be about to change.

Personalized Search

To those in the world of organic SEO, searching Google when logged-in to your account is something to be avoided at all costs so that you can analyze your website’s rankings in the purest way possible. Performing a search when signed in to your Google account is to open the door to a completely different world full of Twitter recommendations and +1s from your friends giving some websites previously unprecedented visibility.

Websites that your friends have tweeted are given prominence and your browsing history is also referred to in order to supply you with what Google thinks will be the most relevant results for you.

While this has received mixed reviews on the whole, mainly as a result of the ethics of only supplying results that strictly adheres to an individual’s world view, this seems to be the future of search, with both Bing and Google investing heavily in providing as personal a search experience as possible.

Google+

So what difference does a social network from Google make to personalised search? For personalised search to work you need to be signed in to your Google account, the only trouble is that not many people have an active Google account and even fewer browse the internet while signed in to it. If Google+ was to be successful then all of this would all change.

An explosion in the number of active Google accounts would mean that drastically more people will be searching Google when signed into their account, having a major effect on the way a huge amount of people will see their search results. Instead of personalised search being restricted to the few, everyone who regularly uses the Google+ social network would be opened up to a new, more personalised search experience.

SEO 2.0?

Ok, someone had to say it eventually, but widespread adoption of personalized search could well herald a new dawn for how websites are marketed. Rather than obtaining links from high page ranked sources that vary drastically in legitimacy, the race will be on to secure quality endorsements from relevant people in order to get a website a prominent position in the results pages.

This changes the SEO game somewhat and ushers in a world where social will have to combine with the more traditional link building methods to produce results for search. Prominent industry Twitter accounts with many followers will be extremely hot property as a tweet from them could have a dramatic effect on the visibility of a site to tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of relevant people.

It would also make spam likes and tweets redundant as they would not directly influence overall rankings and would not promote the website to relevant people, one potential answer to the spam problems that have blighted Google’s link metric system of ranking.

Takeaways

This is all very well, but how should this drive your SEO campaigns of the future? Like it or not, search is going social. The deal between Bing and Facebook combined with Google’s new social network means that you should ignore the implications of social search at your peril, so get yourself on review websites, arm your homepage with the full arsenal of like, tweet and +1 buttons and get yourself out there and interacting with the users of your site, whether they are customers or blog subscribers.

While you may already be performing some of these tasks in your social campaigns, they are going to be crucial in the future if you are going to be visible to potential customers. Rather than social being an additional factor in a web marketing campaign, search and social are going to have unify in an unprecedented way in order to maximise a website’s visibility.

Once Google+ launches it could go one of two ways, it could capture the public’s imagination and explode in popularity or go the way of previous Google experiments such as Google Wave and fade into the background. Don’t take your chances and get your website ready for personalised search, as whether G+ works or not, you can expect the personal approach to become a huge part of search in the future.

About the Author

Alan Grainger

Alan Grainger is an in-house B2B web marketer in the promotional products sector and manages web marketing for The Corporate Gifts Company. He writes articles exploring the issues faced by the B2B web marketer, giving an “in the trenches” view from an in-house SEO department. Follow him @alanjgrainger on Twitter.