Google’s Social Search – Affecting a SERP Near You

Late last week Google announced it was graduating social search from beta and making it active for everyone. I got a heads up from Barry Wise of KnowEm a day later, and we spent some time talking about what this meant for marketers. I thought I’d share some of our conversation with you.If you have a Google profile (like I do) and have any websites associated with your profile, when you are logged into that profile, your SERP’s may be affected by this new change. Google opted everyone in by default, so there’s no way to turn it off (other than by signing out or using anonymous browsing). Google has decided to ignore the “&pws=0” parameter flag that they ignore for personalized search, a decision I really hope they consider changing.

Google is looking at the profiles associated with you and crawling who you are friends or associated with. Google uses that information combined with XFN tagging to decide what other results to show with your results. IMHO this is what the caffeine update is really all about. It’s about associating  social information and real time social activity with your searches and incorporating this information to hopefully produce a better result.

To show you how different the results can be, here are three different sample keywords from two different people:

[Michael Gray]

[Las Vegas]

[las Vegas Hotels]

Depending on how much overlap there is between your social graph (ie the people you “friend” on social websites) you may have similar or completely different results. It’s highly unlikely that two people will have identical results, unless they work at the same company and have similar social graph (an unintended consequence that will flummox search agencies to be sure).

I’ve said this many times in the past: Google considers personalized search part of their POD, and it’s a strategic goal for them from the top down. Like it or no,t it’s something you’re going to have to come to terms with. People are getting different personalized results and now they have the possibility of getting two additional personalized results based upon what their friends are doing/saying online.

In my opinion if you aren’t involved in social media at this point you are putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage. You’re missing out on the opportunity to get yourself a SERP listing at the lower part of the page. To be honest I haven’t seen enough searches to know whether,  if you have an organic listing above, you might be locked out of a second listing below. However if you get a lot of social engagements that get talked about, shared, or retweeted by other people, that will definitely show up, giving you a second slot.

If you’ve been sitting on the fence waiting to get involved in social media now is the time. However this sword has a double edged aspect. To get the most out of your efforts you’ll need to get involved and stay involved. Making a few half-hearted attempts isn’t going to bring you any results. Getting involved in social media may not be easy, but neither is balancing one one leg when you’re 8 months pregnant while performing wudang double sword maneuvers. But both can be done if you make it a priority and commit to making it work for you.

photo credit: dizznbonn

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