SEO · Social Media

Google Social Search; the Lost Update

Can you imagine there being a change at Google that pre-dates Panda, (and subsequent incarnations) the +1 button, the attribution algo updates and few if any in the SEO world had noticed? I mean, it makes one helluva trivia question don’t it? Not as much fun as; What does Archie comics have to do with the early history of search. But it’s fascinating none-the-less.

Hey gang… long time no chat! Dave here… long lost SEJ writer and all around search geek. Can we talk or what?

February 17th 2011; the day it all changed

First off, those of you familiar with my ranting and ramblings on this topic, are excused. It’s unlikely we’ll be covering much new for my faithful SOSGs (no that’s not talking dirty, it’s; Seriously Obsessed Search Geek m’kay?). It simply needs to be repeated for a larger audience.

Those still wondering what this mad rambling Gypsy is on about, walk with me…

Over the years we’ve seen many changes to Google that had some interesting if not far reaching implications for the fastidious search optimizer. Odd, I’ve never optimized a search engine. What’s up with that? Anyway, getting lost again. We’ve had the rise of personalization (and general flux), the timeliness of the QDF (query deserves freshness), finding our way with deeper localization and general madness in what we call universal search. The list is ever-growing it seems over the last few years.

Many times during these evolutions SEO types weren’t always grasping the value right out of the gate. At least though there were some that caught it and generally some form of awareness within short order.

I mean, this is the group of folks that traditionally go a little mental each time there is a Google toob bar PageRank update… (like this);

bwaaha ha ha…. sigh… sorry, couldn’t help myself. Moving along.

What happened some 4 months ago, while extremely noteworthy, has gone almost entirely un-noticed or at very least, below the radar of those covering the industry.

The 2011 Google Social Search Update

For starters, is it unsurprising this went largely unnoticed? In retrospect, no. If we consider that back in 2008 we caught a glimpse of the Google social graph work and ultimately user profiling, which few seemed interested in, then no. If we consider the madness that ensues with shiny bobbles like the +1 button, then ok, yes… it does give one pause to say WTF?

And on a side note, some have suggested that SEOs like the thought of the +1 having ranking weight because…well… then they can manipulate it. Another story tho… we’ll get back to that.

Here’s the short version of what went down (Googly post here);

Ok, seems kinda unremarkable on the surface right? NOT. This is something fairly significant in the world of search.

Now, a few notes of interest;

  • Google accounts are on the rise (think Android)
  • It pulls from the social graph
  • It is another form of personalization
  • Does an end-around on problematic explicit feedback
  • Uses primary and secondary contacts
  • It re-ranks (search) listings

Catch that last one? It RE-RANKs the listings in the SERP. Anyone that’s been around long enough remembers how we drooled on the new short-cuts to the front page when various verticals gained prominence (aka universal SERPs). This is no different.

Look…. this is logged out;

145 re rank1a Google Social Search; the Lost Update

And this is logged in;

145 re rank1b Google Social Search; the Lost Update

WOW. We have a new way of ranking and SEOs aren’t talking about it? Did you know that there are a few thousand freaking articles on the +1 button (which doesn’t re-rank anything) but outside of ol Rand (who recently discovered it apparently) and yours truly (tho mine has been a little obsessive ROFL) there has been very little on this one?

Consulting the crystal ball

What I keep hearing is comments that Google accounts aren’t ubiquitous. Huh. Last I checked they’re on the rise thanks in part to Android users needing them and other services (think Google Plus as well). And really, the +1 works the same way. Strangely, I used to hear that as an argument about personalized search. Now? SEOs are not only grasping what personalization is doing to the industry, but in many circles getting frustrated with the flux it causes.

This is all about looking into the future. We are seeing (over the last few years) an evolution to search that will most certainly be around for years to come. It started with real-time search and has grown out of control since then. Google has had a stated goal of deeper personalization for many years. One of the problems has always been the inherent issues with implicit/explicit feedback.

The social graph is a VERY effective way to gain deeper personalization beyond the traditional signals and matches well with the way the web is growing. In short; it makes sense.

Regardless of how much value you see in it now, this is an important development at Google. Did you get spanked by the Panda? Then maybe paying closer attention to the evolution of search could have prevented it. Don’t drop the ball again.

Some food for thought

Ok, enough rambling. I simply wanted to abuse the hallowed halls of SEJ to try and get the word out one last time on this. A few thoughts before I go….

Consider if you will the improved click-through rates that not only the image gives, (to draw the eye) but that fact someone in your circle has recommended it

169 google social search heatmap Google Social Search; the Lost Update

They have a good grasp on you social circle (see here); they likely weren’t doing that just for fun right?

145 137 google connected details Google Social Search; the Lost Update

Google has long been interested in social profiling, known at the time as ‘friend rank’. The road map has been in front of us the entire time, if you’re looking.

OpenProfile1 Google Social Search; the Lost Update

And what about the latest foray? Google Plus. It sure seems that what we’ve seen in the last few years is all moving in a concerted direction. I can see MANY ways that this social search update can play nicely with Google Plus. Consider the simple fact that Google Profiles are now wrapped up in Plus. I had originally lamented that they needed better management, which seems to be happening now.

Point being, this is a major vision of where search and social are likely headed. If you, like many, haven’t really been looking at this… it really is time that you did.

If you don’t…. you may find yourself left out of the loop in the real near future

378d367a36415dda47fe25d5c4538226 64 Google Social Search; the Lost Update
David Harry is an SEO and IR geek that runs Reliable SEO, blogs on the Fire Horse Trail and is the head geek at the SEO Training Dojo.

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7 thoughts on “Google Social Search; the Lost Update

  1. Great post!  Clearly social is/will impact results in a much more personalized way for years to come.  Eventually everyone might have a different results page depending on interests, purchases and even previous website history.  It’s going to be interesting to see how SEOs/Marketers will evolve to accomodate this change. 

  2. Most of the small companies are still blissfully ignorant of social media influence on customer choice of products/services. This should help them know that you can no longer ignore FB, Twitter or Youtube while planing their marketing strategy.

  3. SEO is being influenced by Social Media lately. That’s not a good move from my opinion.
    As real genuine SEO will die and social media marketer will be born like mushrooms. Google will lose credibility of best SERP.

  4. Nice Post Jon.  I have had a Google phone for 3 years now and it never required me to fill out a Google profile- just had to have a gmail address; unless it created a profile on the sly…like it or not the social graph is here to stay, whether Plus or FB reigns supreme.

  5. good post..
    Social media sites are an awesome way to see what your target audience is saying about your company or your products.Speaking to your customers in a personal way will make them feel like they are talking to a friend, not a company.

  6. good post..
    Social media sites are an awesome way to see what your
    target audience is saying about your company or your products.Speaking
    to your customers in a personal way will make them feel like they are
    talking to a friend, not a company.