Yesterday Google unveiled a major update to their Social Search feature. MG Siegler over at TechCrunch did a nice job of breaking down the changes but I thought I would talk about the impact (if any) on your website getting found.
In Case You Missed It
The size of your social network is about to play an even bigger role in the search results you see. Google has now begun ranking search results in order of your social reach, to some degree. Links to pages that have been tweeted or re-tweeted by someone in your social circle will now be moved to the top of the search results page. Google has a deal with Twitter to allow the search giant access to the full stream of tweets.
Social Search Up Until Now
Until this latest improvement was announced, Social Search results (introduced in October of 2009) were results that appeared towards the bottom of the page. Links to blog posts or websites shared by your friends, or friends of friends would *only* appear at the bottom of the search results page. No impact on search rankings.
You might be asking the question: “2009, why haven’t I seen any social search results until now?”. Like many of the features released out of Google Labs, you must be signed into your Google account before performing a search. Think of it as an opt-in feature. Visitors to Google that never sign into their Google account will not see social search results.
Impact on Your Search Ranking
Google has upped the anti with this new incarnation. Links to blog posts or websites shared by your social circle may now appear above other websites in the search results page. This is huge! The role social networks like Twitter play in the findability of your website or blog is increasingly becoming more of a factor. The more your website or blog is shared online, the more likely your page is to appear in someone else’s search.
All that being said, this is still an opt-in type of feature. Unless you are signed into your Google account you will never have social results mixed in with regular results. You now have to go one step further; Google requires you to link your Google profile with your Twitter account, for example. You must add your social network account to your Google profile before this feature can be used. See screen shot below. Also, this only applies to visitors of Google.com. Those of us using Google.ca or other locale-specific search sites will not have access to this yet.
As MG Siegler points out, none of this applies to your Facebook network. Google hasn’t tapped into the effect of a Facebook “Like” on your website or post. Not yet anyway!
Why this is Important
As I mentioned earlier, the size of your social network as a business or blogger, is playing a bigger role in how your website or blog ranks among other search results. The larger your network, the greater your reach.
What’s your take on this? How many of you actually log into your Google account before running a search? That seems to be the one factor that prevents social search from completely obliterating a well optimized website. People just don’t go that extra step and log into their account before searching. If they are already logged into Google, how many of those users will go that extra step and link their Google profile with a social network like Twitter? I guess that remains to be seen.