Monday, September 01, 2014

What is Google’s “Search, Plus Your World” & How Will It Change Search Marketing

What is Google’s “Search, Plus Your World” & How Will It Change Search Marketing
In its most radical transformation ever, Google search now finds both content shared privately with you, and general content from the public Web, and mixes them up in a single set of listings which the company calls “access to YOUR Web”.
Welcome to “Search, Plus Your World” (SPYW).
It’s better than regular search, with photos, posts, video and more from your friends and connections on social networks. Sign in to Google+ and you’ll notice personalized results for search queries including profiles of people you know or follow.
Google alerts users with a message – “Welcome to “Search Plus Your World”!” – but also provides a handy toggle button so you can switch back to non-personalized search if you want to. But most users may not, because life certainly gets easier when you can use one tool to search both private and public content.

The Evolution of “Search Plus Your World”

Google has rapidly evolved since its early days of standard Web search. Personalized results have been around since June 2005, with SERPs being influenced by your personal behavior and interests. From late 2009, social search results are impacted by the people you know and interact with socially online.
These personalized listings were initially segregated from “regular” listings, but from February 2011, social search results have been blended seamlessly into the SERPs, and even expanded by including not just content that was created by those you know, but also content that they shared on social networks.

SPYW Integrates Search

With “Search Plus Your World”, these personal results have become the default. Your SERPs for any search query are customized for you, based on your online behavior and the social connections you have. In addition, content shared with you on Google Plus is also displayed.
Social search, personal search, and personalized search algorithms have merged into one that works in a pleasant and useful way, according to Amit Singhal who oversees Google’s ranking process. But the significant shift enabled by this process is the entry of private content into your Web search results. You’ll get a mix of:
  • listings from the public Web
  • listings that were boosted by your personal behavior online
  • listings that were rated more relevant because of your social connections
  • Google+ posts that were shared with the public, including posts and photos
  • Private or “Limited” Google+ posts shared with you
This last is one of the most radical changes that brings up concerns about privacy.

But Really, Your Privacy Is Intact

Only you (and those you share content with) can view the “private” content on “Search Plus Your World” results. The weird feeling arises because it appears, when you’re searching after logging in to your Google+ account, that private results are appearing on public pages. They are not. The results page has been personalized just for the person viewing them. Only content that they are permitted to view can show up on SERPs.
In other words, “Search Plus Your World” makes it more convenient to get results from across a slew of services like Google News, Google Images, You Tube, and other Google search services – as well as the Google+ social network – without having to check each of them separately.

Plus, You Can Opt-Out of SPYW

If you don’t like personalized search, you can opt out and receive generalized search results. You may do this on a case by case basis, using the toggle switch to move from global to personalized results. Or you can permanently turn off search customization by editing your search settings.
Geographic and language based targeting however still remains, and Google calls them “contextual signals” and not “personal” ones.

Google Profiles Are Propped Up By SPYW

Having a Google account can give you greater visibility on “Search Plus Your World”. Logged in users will see friends appear even within the search box for relevant queries. If you search for someone using a common name, your actual friend’s Google+ profile should show up higher than someone you don’t know. And that’s how SPYW handles such searches.
The search results themselves will include material from people in your Google+ network, because it is logical that you might want to hear more from those you already know, like and trust about the subject. And, of course, privately shared information is probably more relevant to you, too.

Potential Problems and Concerns With SPYW

The concern that private content appears as if it is publicly exposed is easy to dispel by explaining the process. Google has also handled another tricky issue of private content being accessible to snoopers and eavesdroppers when you search without a secure connection, by encrypting data transferred by logged in search users. This ensures that data is seen only by your browser and Google.
However, some users still will not like material they’ve happily forgotten suddenly reappearing on search streams, thanks to the wonder of SPYW. Google might come under fire for giving this content greater visibility.
Another worry is that someone with access to such “private” content can easily re-share it publicly (just as with Facebook and Twitter), leading to embarrassing or even dangerous consequences. A potential solution might be to prevent shared content from being searchable.

Search Plus Your World’s Social Twist

“Search Plus Your World” introduces some new elements to search:
  • personal results are pulled from your Google+ network
  • profiles draw from the Google+ user base
  • people and pages suggest Google+ accounts you might like to Circle
But there’s grumbling among competitors (and users) that Google seems to leverage its search engine to favor its own content through SPYW by exclusively displaying results that favor profiles from Google+ while ignoring other social platforms like Twitter and Facebook. This could potentially lead to anti-trust complaints. After all, as a search engine, Google should have to figure out which profiles on other networks are relevant to queries, and then recommend them alongside Google Plus profiles.

How “Search Plus Your World” Has Changed Search

It’s obvious that SPYW has transformed search in some unique and special ways, by
  • providing integration of private and public material
  • raising privacy concerns about shared content being widely distributed
  • favoring Google+ over other social networks, and forcing you to include it in your SEO efforts
When you step back and look at the transformation, you’ll see that Google is sending you a clear message. That it’s time to focus on Google Plus among your most important social networks.
“Search Plus Your World” is a giant flashing neon light, signaling you to hop aboard the Google+ carousel and join the exciting ride… or stand by unnoticed, and watch as the rest of us have fun!
is Head Of SEO at MediaCom Norway, and Columnist at Search Engine Land, and blogger at well-known websites like MOZ and SEOBook. He can be found on Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn and his Norwegian SEO blog.