By Jimmy Daly
In the dark ages of search, there was only one ranking factor: keywords. And in the early years of social media, it held almost no clout for businesses. Oh, how things have changed! While keywords are still a relevant factor in search rankings, Google, Bing and other search engines measure and employ a number of metrics to determine where, when and how your website ranks. Here are just a few:
- Incoming links from relevant and credible sites
- Domain age
- Quality and quantity of content
- Page load speed
- Accessibility and cleanliness of code
And the kicker…
- Social endorsements
Now keep in mind that rankings are personalized for every individual searcher. There are a number of other factors that are involved in ranking that have nothing to do with your website, but rather the data that Google and Bing can gather about individuals on the web:
- Where are you? A search for [rehab facility] in Topeka, Kansas might return search results for celebrity gossip websites while the same search in Los Angeles might provide results for physical locations and directions.
- What device are you using? Searching for [pizza] on a mobile device should point you to nearby pizza restaurants while the same search on a desktop
- What’s trending? Breaking news completely changes search results. If you search for [presidential election results] in early November of an election year, the results will be dramatically different than in April of a non-election year.
- Who are you? Search engines collect a massive amount of information about individuals as they search the web. If you are logged into a Google account (think Gmail, YouTube, Google Docs, Google Analytics, etc.) while searching and surfing, Google can collect a ton of information about your habits and activities. They use this to deliver results that they feel are the most relevant to you.
- What have you been up to? Even if you don’t have a Google account, they can still follow you around the web. Search engines attach cookies (small files that can collect data) to your browserto find out more about you. They can even track your computer. There is no escaping it. Google will use your previous search history to tailor results just for you.
Do you feel that your privacy is being invaded? You aren’t alone. But as a user of Google’s services and the Internet in general, you agree to this. There are, however, two very important benefits to this. The first is that, for the most part, you get better search results and second is that you can have access to some of this data to make your own web marketing better.
Now that you understand how serious Google is about delivering the best possible search results. And THIS is where social media, specifically Google+, comes in.
Can you imagine how much information is shared on social media websites everyday? And why do people share that information? Because it’s interesting, it’scontroversial, it’s topical, etc. And it’s incredibly valuable to a search engine that is personalizing search results. There is hardly anything more personal than social media.
To make a long story very short, Google would love to have all the data Facebook and Twitter have. But they have a deal with Bing and rather than enter a bidding war,Google has chosen to create their own social network, Google+. Now Google can still understand a few things about posts shared on Facebook and Twitter because there are so many ways to share things. Activity that happens behind the closed doors of Facebook.com and Twitter.com is hard to track. But now that most websites have Facebook “Like” buttons and Twitter “Tweet” buttons, Google can track whether or not users are endorsing thosepages.
All of these leads up to Google’s new “Search Plus Your World” which heavily integrates social cues into your search results if you are logged into a Google account.
You can see in the above examples that there are 160 pages that Tom Foster’s Google+ friends have interacted with, and 19 million other results. Google will let you know the difference between a social result and normal result by putting an icon to the left of the result as displayed below.
You can also turn off “Search Plus Your World” by selecting the globe in the top right of a search results page but it is on by default.
Google is placing a HUGE emphasis on this feature, to the point that users may need to turn the feature to get useful results. Here is Google’s official video on Search Plus Your World. Take it with a grain of salt because it ain’t that cool yet!
Search and social have officially collided. Don’t get left behind.