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A while back, we came across an article on Search News Central (SNC) by search geek David Harry, entitled Google Social Search; seriously, WTF people? In this article, Harry asks why social search seems to have been ignored by the SEO industry as a whole. Another article on SEOMoz, by Rand Fish, also discusses these changes. Both articles are worth reading – for the content AND the pretty pictures.

However, in the meantime, let’s talk a little bit about Google Social, in terms of optimization and search. In case you haven’t heard the news, there’s a lot going on…

Google’s Realtime Search

We’ve know about it, we’ve talked about it, and it’s been around for a while now. You can use Realtime search just as you would with Universal search. The big deal with Realtime is that you can weed out all the pages. In other words, it’s pure conversation; it has ultimate lurking potential for conversational topics. You can see:

  • Who’s talking
  • What they’re talking about
  • Whom they’re talking to
  • What they say about a brand or product
  • Read their recommendations/complaints

In essence, search for a brand gives you real time, social voting results.

For SEOs, it sucks. You can’t tweak it much. Oh, sure, you can optimize the crap out of the titles and URLs being posted. You can carefully add in targeted hashtags for terms you want to show up for, but that’s all you can do – show up. You can’t stay ranked at the top (unless you want to look like a bot, maybe), because the results are ranked by when they happened.

Social Search

How many of you sign in to Google? How many of you pay attention to whether you’re signed in? For the majority of people NOT worrying about rankings, it’s just one of those things. If you don’t sign out or clear your cookies, you’re constantly signed into Google.

Your search results may not be the same when you’re signed in as when you’re logged out. Why? Because of social search.

See, all the positive ranking factors SEOs target are, by and large, considered votes for a site. Whether those votes are for relevance, quality or just plain link-worthy content, it’s all voting. As with any election, the one with the most votes wins.

However, some votes count more than others. In link building, for example, a link is considered a vote. Site A has 100 “votes” and 10 are from authoritative (.gov, .edu, .org, etc.) sites. Site B, on the other hand, has twice as many “votes”, but none from authoritative sites. In this case, Site A is more likely to rank above B, based on the additional authority.

Enter social search, then, where the vote that counts the most is a retweet by someone you know. This can, an often does, throw a normally invisible result onto the front page. Here, social search offers SEO two big, whopping problems:

Are you listening?

Problem #1

If you’re signed in and have a social circle, a lot of our hard work has the potential of being wasted on you. This is especially true if you follow thousands of people across several platforms. Social mentions can end up pushing down the top results for a search.

As well, Social search puts an image and information next to that image. Our eyes will e drawn, therefore, to that mentioned link first and the “real” top position second.

Problem #2

How do you measure this? We can’t see that “Joe came from personalized search based on Bob’s recommendation.” What we have is a visit from Google based on a keyword. Now, maybe we can get an idea using # of search impressions, but there are no guarantees. SEOs don’t like that. We like stuff we can track.

Take Away Points

What can you take away from this? What does this mean? What can you do?

  • ALWAYS put the visitor first
  • Make sure your site is properly optimized
  • Aim for higher ranking (yes, it’s still worth while – at least 70% of people still run searches without being logged in to Google)
  • Create quality, linkable content (you want to get people talking about it)
  • Understand that social has gone full circle and you need to be involved
  • Use relevant hashtags
  • Be social

Since “social media” became a marketing method, we’ve strongly urged our readers to embrace it. We’ve talked several times about incorporating social media and SEO into a single, seamless campaign. We’ve also talked about choosing the right platforms for your audience.

Having said that, it’s important to note that your link can be shared by people on Quora, who may have gotten it from you on Twitter. This means you really can focus your SMM efforts on two or three platforms and “socialize the heck out of them”. If you do it right, and carefully build your network, it can become a true community.

Conclusion

Now, don’t read all this and get the idea that SEO is dead. Let’s not kick that dog again, m’kay? What you can see is that SEO and Social Media need to be united. That way, social entices logged in Google searchers, while SEO entices logged out searchers. It’s a win-win. Don’t ignore one for the other, and don’t play favorites.

It’s not Google’s game; it’s your business.