As you probably well know by now, Google struck another blow the other day in the social wars with the launch of Search Plus Your World, their enhanced algorithm for personalization in your SERPs. This change will have far reaching impacts on a variety of things, including SEO. That being said, I’ll discuss the SEO impact of Search Plus Your World as I see it at this point.
#1. Increased Attention on Google+
One of the most notable things that came out of this release in my opinion was the lack of integration with Facebook and Twitter (for now) – which aren’t promoted in this update.
This is not to say that results from Twitter and Facebook won’t be appearing in Google’s search results, they just won’t be as heavily integrated into this new personalization display.
Amit Singhal, who oversees Google’s ranking algorithms, had this to say about the omission of Facebook and Twitter:
Facebook and Twitter and other services, basically, their terms of service don’t allow us to crawl them deeply and store things. Google+ is the only [network] that provides such a persistent service. Of course, going forward, if others were willing to change, we’d look at designing things to see how it would work.
SEO and Social Media have been right on the cusp of really being joined at the hip – meaning we’re getting very close to the point (we may already be there) where you can’t run an SEO campaign without integrating it heavily with social media.
Up until a few days ago, most of the focus of SEO-Social efforts had been on primarily on Facebook and Twitter as the primary outlets to focus on with Google+ in the background but pulling closer – and rightly so.
That model has been effectively flipped on its head much to the chagrin of the folks at Twitter.
Since Google is the most influential search engine and they are clearly integrating and favoring results coming from people’s Google+ circles, this becomes the most important social outlet to focus on from a SEO-Social perspective. No more ignoring it.
#2. Relevancy Will Change
In the past, Google and most other search engines put a high priority on relevancy as the most important factor in search – and still claim to. That is, they are committed to providing the user with the most relevant search results to their query.
So, in an effort to increase a website’s relevancy, most SEOs typically focus on writing great content, working on things like page titles, and building quality backlinks.
In the last couple days, I’ve noticed more and more Google+ content being featured – even if it wasn’t the most relevant result for what I was looking for. Danny Sullivan echoed my statements in an article two days ago:
Being Relevant Means Going Beyond Google+
Why does that matter? It’s Google’s search engine, after all! Two reasons.
The first is legal. By having a dominant position in search, Google might ultimately be responsible for going above-and-beyond to include competitors. That’s part of what the current anti-trust investigations into Google are all about. One complaint over today’s move — though likely mostly about privacy — is already being readied.
The second is about relevancy. Google’s job as a search engine is to direct searchers to the most relevant information on the web, not just to information that Google may have an interest in.
These suggestions would be better if they included other services, and that’s the standard Google’s search results should aim for, returning the best.
What Google+ Might Not Have
Would listing Britney’s Facebook page be better? Maybe. After all, if you want to follow Britney socially, you won’t find a picture she shared of her and Snoop Dogg on Google+ (where she has 1.4 million followers). She only shared that on her Facebook page, with her 16 million followers there…
I agree all the way on this one…
#3. Multiple SEO Strategies
Practitioners of SEO may now be forced to have two SEO strategies running concurrently with each other: a “personalized” strategy, and their “normal” strategy.
It is highly likely that many high-level initiatives from what would be deemed your “normal” SEO strategy will not change. Things like page titles, writing effective copy, solid site architecture, and link building will likely remain as core foundational strategies.
What will change will be the need for developing a strategy for building your client’s Google+ networks while gaining their social approval and trust in order to create an organic environment of sharing – which will have an impact on how that network’s personalized results will be display (and then shared forward).
#4. Link Building Will Change
The fact that link building as a practice will continue to be one of the cornerstones of good SEO is likely to remain unchanged.
Links are like “votes” for a website, and the more votes you have the more trust and better rankings your website is likely to garner. Furthermore, links/votes from high-quality sources are more valuable and influential than those from lower-quality sources.
This part won’t change.
What will change is the focus on Google+ as a source of links and way to get your content shared. The most important factor here will be getting shares of your links from Google+ users who themselves have wide networks (sometimes called “Power-Users”).
Companies and SEOs alike will need to develop strategies to gain the approval of these influencers in the respective niches. A +1 from their niche’s big shot will be the social equivalent of the .org/.edu/.gov backlink.
Whereas 1-2 links from high-quality websites can do as much or even more good than 100 links from lower-quality sites, 1 or 2 shares from “Power-Users” will ensure that your links/URLs get distributed across wide networks of users – and is likely to impact how those stories are then displayed in the personalized results.
In this way, links from high quality sites = shares from G+ users with large networks.
#5. Continued Loss of Keyword Referral Data
Since October, Google has been providing users who are signed in with Encrypted search results. From an SEO perspective, when a user is signed in and performs a search, we lose the ability to track which organic keywords they are searching through our analytics platforms. Instead, the Keyword Referrals show up as the infamous (not provided).
Originally, Google stated that it would impact single-digit percentages (so less than 10%) of organic searches. However, I’ve been experiencing between a 20-30% ratio here on the blog and have seen a similar impact on other sites.
With the implementation of Search Plus Your Word along with the increased emphasis on having Google+ and GMail accounts, I do not see this ratio going down – and it is likely to continue to grow.
Google provides us with some insight into some of their security initiatives, including the full-scale implentation of SSL search for signed-in users:
When it comes to security and privacy, we set a high bar for Search plus Your World. Since some of the information you’ll now find in search results, including Google+ posts and private photos, is already secured by SSL encryption on Google+, we have decided that the results page should also have the same level of security and privacy protection. That’s part of why we were the first major search engine to turn on search via SSL by default for signed-in users last year. This means when you’re signed in to Google, your search results—including your private content—are protected by the same high standards of encryption as your messages in Gmail.
So what does this mean from an SEO perspective? We will continue to lose more and more of our Keyword Referral data and will likely have to come up with alternate means of reporting organic traffic and business impacts on the keyword-level.
Basically, it sucks for us SEOs – although I do find it quite suspicious that Google provides this type of data for people who are running Adwords. So basically, if you pay them you get data, if the searches come in for free you don’t.
So tell me, how has this change impacted you? Do you like it or not, and why?