All search engines continuously tweak their ranking algorithms, but none receive nearly as much attention as Google’s and for good reason. While Bing, Yahoo, and other smaller search engines have their own set of devotees, 65% of all web searches are performed on Google, and the majority of SEO discussions revolve around deconstructing its ranking algorithms. Last year, the conversation was concerned mostly with its Panda update. While gauging its impact and adjusting accordingly continues to be a hot topic, the focus has shifted to deconstructing “Search Plus Your World,” the cumbersome name for Google’s new personalized search.
The Rise of Social Search
Search Plus Your World, or SPYW for short, combines personal signals with social signals to deliver highly personalized search results. Prior to SPYW, Google had three separate algorithms–personal search, personalized search, and social search. Separately these algorithms drew upon your search, web, and social histories, and the results you received were a mix. Search Plus Your World still delivers mixed results, but Google has merged these three ranking algorithms into one. Google also has integrated Google Plus into its formula. Because Facebook and Twitter currently do not share their information with Google, some believe the results are unfairly skewed towards Google Plus. While the current Search Plus Your World debate is focused on this business dispute, for most of us, it is far more important to figure out the best ways to optimize our results with the algorithm’s latest incarnation since social search, regardless of any tweaks or updates, is here to stay. For many SEO professionals and lay people, that begins with Google Plus.
Rethinking Google + From a Marketing Perspective
For many, Google Plus has been an afterthought. It was late to the social media marketing campaigns game, and it can be difficult to imagine a world in which it would surpass Facebook. On the other hand, the same could have been said about Classmates, Friendster, and MySpace in their heydays, but who ultimately bests who is not the critical issue. We cannot afford to be myopic. When a company as large and influential as Google offers a social networking space, it is very foolish not to integrate it into your online marketing strategy. If you have not already done so, it is time to create a Google Plus page for your business. Rather than simply replicating your Facebook profile and interactions, you should explore the aspects of Google Plus that make it unique. Currently, the two most distinctive features are Circles and Hangouts. Utilizing those to promote your business and create a community will enrich your social media efforts and increase your visibility across the web.
Whenever a new ranking algorithm is introduced, analysis tends to focus on specific components and the tweaks we must make in order to optimize our web presence. While it is important to extract and apply those specific lessons from search engine updates, identifying the broader implications may prove to be more valuable in the long run. For example, while SPYW may spur many of us to create Google Plus pages, it also signals an ideological shift in which identity and relationships are just as important as content. Fostering connections and community building are becoming as significant as the products and services we offer. If you do not factor that into the choices you make today, you will be ill prepared for tomorrow.
In addition to specific lessons, large and small, there is one recurring theme and it boils down to quality and relevancy. Consumer behavior is only predictable to a point and identifying the next big thing is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. High quality content that people find useful, however, will withstand the test of time. Of course, search engine algorithms will continue to change in response to evolving technology and societal trends, but as long as you remain engaged and make authentic, quality contributions to the world wide web, you will weather search engine updates with relative ease.