Today, Google announced social search features with a mouthful of a name: Search Plus Your World.
We’ve been hearing rumblings around the Valley that Google was working on big new features to integrate Google+ with search results and this has been an obvious evolution for the search engine ever since they released their new social network.
This new set of features will include posts, videos, links, photos and more from your friends on Google+. It is not yet rolled out to everyone but will be made available to those signed into Google+ in the United States over the next few days.
Impact on SEO
This is part of Google’s effort to dramatically change how search works, placing an increasing importance on signals from its own social network, Google+. With 50 million users recently attained, this is a not insignificant source of data and their growth curve has been insane.
Speculation in the SEO community as well as in back channels all point to Google+ being a big part of Google’s plans for affecting how SEO works. The impact on SEO through Facebook and Twitter has already been felt quite strongly over the last two years and Google has obviously been paying attention.
Here’s what I think will be relevant for startups and marketers over the next twelve months:
Having More Pluses Will Increase Search Rankings
Take a look at almost any blog post with Plus, Facebook and Twitter buttons. Twitter and Facebook, by far, will have far more activity than the Google+ buttons. That overall inbalance probably won’t change in the next year although we will see a change in the ratio as Google+ begins to narrow the gap.
Now is the time to start building your audience on Google+ (this is our homework assignment as well), learn how the network works and begin to form meaningful connections with people who share your interests.
Links Will Still Be Important but Slightly Less So
Links, for the last decade, have dominated the collective mindshare of SEO community as the primary way to influence search rankings in your favor. We’re going to see an increased weight being placed on social signals, with perhaps slight preference towards Google+ numbers. From a search engine’s perspective, the rich data set to be found in the social graphs provided by Facebook and Google+ are irresistible indicators of quality and relevance.
What this means is that links will have a slightly less overall impact on your search performance than before. It’s still, in my opinion, going to be the primary signal for quality and relevance if only because they have a more permanent feel than most social signals, but the balance is shifting slightly.
My best recommendation here is to continue doing what you’re doing with link building, but to also ensure that your content is well optimized for distribution on Facebook, Twitter, and now, Google+.
Search Patterns Will Start to Change
Even with today’s release and Google+’s 50 million users, I don’t think Google has enough social content through their own network to significantly affect search patterns across all types of queries, but certain categories of queries may start to see changes. If you look at the types of posts that gain the most popularity on social networks, it’s those that have the most opportunity for interaction: photos, videos, links, longer posts.
These sorts of posts, from a purely search monetization standpoint, fit in well with travel and some ecommerce related queries. As this change begins to take hold, the way people search for travel destinations and products online could change to make more use of their own network’s recommendations.
Social signals (and the people behind them) are Viewed as More Trustworthy
At the current time, it is much easier to game the link graph (people have been practicing for the last ten years and there has been financial incentive) than it has been to game the social graph. For this reason, even though the overall weight and permanence on individual posts may still have less value when compared with a link, the people behind the social shares have their entire reputation and persona to back them up. This is the closest thing we will have to domain authority in the old SEO world but it’s long term impact is far more significant.
At the end of the day, spammers will figure out relatively effective ways of gaming the social graph at large scale, but we’re still in virgin territory and Google has many more options for determining authenticity with this data set than they ever did with links.
The Quality and Regularity of Your Content Will Still Matter Most
As a startup ourselves, we care most about what we can learn from this to better reach our audience and provide useful content to them. It’s clear on Twitter and Facebook that posting high quality, unique content regularly and often is the single best strategy for achieving that goal. That hasn’t changed, on the contrary it is more true now than ever before.