Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Are Google's Results Better Or Worse With Google+ Integration?

Either way, webmasters and marketers can't ignore it

Earlier this month, Google launched "Search Plus Your World". We'll refer to it as "SPYW" to save time. The set of personalization features essentially equates to Google injecting a whole lot of Google+ into Google search results. This has been met with widespread criticism that continues two weeks later. According to a lot of the chatter going on, Google has lost the respect of a lot of users, and even some of its alumni.

The real question is: has SPYW made Google's results better or worse? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Competitors like Twtitter and Facebook have been pretty vocal about the changes. Twitter publicly complained as soon as the features launched, claiming they're bad for the Internet. Various Facebook staff complained about the features in status updates.

This week, we learned that one Facebook staffer took things a great deal further by creating a bookmarklet for web browsers that eliminate the features, and "Focus on the user," as they put it.

One of the main things it does is add content from other places like Twitter , Facebook, YouTube, etc. to the "People and Places" section that appears for some queries. Google in its current state only shows Google+ pages and profiles here. This is why some find the whole thing anticompetitive, and even a sacrifice of relevancy, as Twitter profiles and Facebook pages will often be much more heavily followed and/or updated.

Marketing Implications

The +1 button already gave marketers incentive to use Google+. Google has been clear about the button having an impact on search ranking from the beginning. They've also been pushing authorship, which is tied to the Google Profile (the heart of a user's Google+ presence). Google has indicated it would use this as a ranking signal. At the very least, it's already adding to search visibility by simply adding a visual standout in search results (by showing the author's photo). It's also a link right back to the user's profile, which promotes Google+.

Online marketing firm iProspect recently shared some commentary on SPYW after distributing a POV to its clients with insights into the changes. In the POV, the firm said:

These moves mark a continuation of the trends to include more social content and signals as part of both search results and the algorithms that determine them. By integrating both related Google+ profiles and the ability to follow them directly from SERPs for musicians, this may also mean the integration of Google+ business pages as well – for example, suggesting users follow the adidas brand page as a result of searching for adidas, or Motel 6 as a result of searching for Motels, making optimization, linking, following and keywords usage surrounding these profiles even more important.

Furthermore, the wider use of content from a user's social sphere theoretically opens the door to other Google-related services and activities becoming part of search results. For example, highlighting YouTube channels that a user (or a user's contacts) are subscribed to, have liked, rated highly, stores and restaurants reviewed by people in a user's circles, or content from sites that are part of their friends' reader list, makes participation and gaining a following in these spheres even more important.

Clearly marketers are respecting Google's strategy. How can they not?

"Brands definitely need to at least be claiming their names in Google+, if not contributing at the same level that they might in other social networks to take advantage of the special preferences that Google+ is getting in results," Herndon Hasty, Associate Director, SEO at iProspect told WebProNews. "Images shared on Google+ are getting a lot more real estate on the SERPs than they did before, and shared videos are called out in the new SERPs as well, so making sure to share these kinds of assets from Google+ can help put you at an advantage when it comes to continually attracting your followers' attention."

Another thing worth considering is that SPYW seems to be indexing content faster. We recently looked at a test from Google+ power user Paul Allen, who found that it took less than a minute for a Google+ post to show up in logged-in, personalized Google search results for Google+ users, and it took 20 minutes to show up for non-logged in users via Google's main search results.

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