What Does Google Social Search Mean for SEO?

Surprise, surprise, they've done it again. That's right, the genius minds over at Google have come out with an interesting service called Social Search.

In a nutshell, it takes a logged in user's personal connections and searches through them to find whatever they're looking for. The results are incorporated right into the results of a normal Web search in the way universal search incorporates images, videos, and other content.

This is Google's response to the hyped vertical of social search, already started by companies like Aardvark (which is now owned by Google). The idea behind social search is basically to get the input of your friends, rather than anonymous Web sites. This tends to fit into certain types of searches, such as "What's a good restaurant to take my wife for our anniversary?" rather than "How many light years away is Alpha Centauri?"

Google can search through several social areas, including Gmail accounts, Google Talk transcripts, subscribed RSS feeds, Picasa, Flickr, FriendFeed, and Twitter profiles you follow.

Social Search essentially ramps up the impact that personalized search or search wiki has had. Like those services, results are tailored to your specific profile. However, unlike those services, one can likely expect this to have a bigger impact on search listings.

There may be a sizable number of users who see social results above your top 10 listing. Social Search results are usually placed toward the bottom of page one, but that will probably depend on relevance.

For SEO, consider implementing the following to expand your real estate in search results:

  • As if you hadn't heard about it enough, you need to have your Twitter account actively posting updates. Use keywords just like on your site, and boost your subscribers as much as possible.

  • Your company's other social profiles also need to be highly subscribed, actively updated sites with good content. Long-term, consider everything from Google Buzz to Facebook.

  • With the inclusion of Gmail, it makes sense to start thinking about optimizing e-mail newsletters. Newsletters can be posted online, or found through desktop search, so optimizing them has multiple benefits. This means no more newsletters that are one giant image.

  • Here's another case for full-text RSS feeds: a subscribed feed containing just the first paragraph or so of complete articles will have fewer opportunities to rank and drive traffic.

Not to sound like a spokesperson for Google, but you can sign up for this experiment in Google Labs and start trying it out today. It's simple to use, which means this service should take off.

There's no need to tell Google anything if you use Google Reader, Gmail, Profiles or other Google services. Also, there's no need to use a separate search service to do social searches – the results will simply start showing up one day in your old standby Google. With a little effort, hopefully some of these results will belong to your sites.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies New York from March 22-26, 2010. Approximately 5,000 marketers and search engine optimization professionals attend SES New York each year to network and learn about topics such as PPC management, keyword research, SEO, social media, local, mobile, link building, duplicate content, multiple site issues, video optimization, site optimization, usability and more. SES New York will be packed with 70+ sessions, multiple keynotes, 100+ exhibitors, networking events and parties. Your customers, colleagues and competition will be in attendance – will you?

About the author

John Greer is a Senior SEO Account Manager at Range Online Media, a leading search and interactive marketing agency that delivers measurable success through comprehensive, online marketing services, including paid search marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), online media placement and social media, strategic planning, performance optimization, and more.

Prior to joining Range, Greer worked as the Content Manager and Director of Website Operations at TicketCity.com, as well as being part of the Web development team of BNSF Railway.

He has led SEO strategy for a number of Range's Fortune 1000 clients and manages natural SEO campaigns for clients such as Toshiba, Samsung and CompUSA. In this capacity, Greer combines his technical expertise with Range's client-first philosophy to consistently exceed clients' goals, cementing Range's reputation as an industry leader in SEO. Greer holds an M.S. in Management Information Systems from Texas A & M University and a B.B.A. in Marketing from the University of Texas.