The big news in search so far in 2012 is, without a doubt, Google’s announcement of Search+, also known as “Search Plus Your World.” Long story short, Google is tying Google+ directly to Google Search, allowing logged-in users to see both “normal” organic results or highly personalized results from their Google+ circles. In the developing battle between Facebook and Google+ for social supremacy, it’s clear that Google+’s ace in the hole is the potential to integrate directly into Google Search, and while personalized results have been around since 2005, and social-enabled AdWords campaigns launched last year, Search+ is by far their strongest volley to date.
So what does Search+ mean for those of us in the search marketing & optimization business? A couple thoughts:
Something I’ve had on my mind since last year is the fact that Google Analytics now blocks keyword-level data for all logged in users. Since the vast majority of searchers are not logged in, it hasn’t had a big effect on Analytics data — logged out and logged in results were still relatively similar, and the available logged out keyword data was plenty to make strategic and SEO decisions. But, Search+ means that logged in organic results could now be radically different than logged out results. In addition, Google’s primary challenge with social is to achieve the critical mass necessary to make Google+ feel as populated as Facebook — for a user to begin using Google+ as much as they do Facebook, they need to feel like most of their friends have also made the leap. So, it’s safe to assume that Google will be increasingly pushing its users to log in. Thus I wonder if the available organic search data in Analytics will begin to slowly diverge from actual organic search behavior? How would one combat this?
- If you’re not doing so already, make sure you’re making use of the social reporting now available in Webmaster Tools and Analytics.
- Get your Google+ business page set up ASAP and give it as much attention as your Facebook page, as it’s one way to make the leap from Google Search to Search+.
- Don’t make Analytics your only source for keyword data. Google has too much invested in Analytics to let it become inaccurate or irrelevant, but it would be a good idea to verify and/or augment your Analytics learnings with data from independent competitive SEO tools like Raven Tools.
Another important detail that could have big consequences down the road: Search+ only returns Google+ content. It doesn’t include Facebook content or Tweets. It’s unlikely that Google will decide to start including the content of one of its primary competitors within its core product. And, while Bing has been including Facebook content in its search results since last year, it’s equally unlikely that Bing is about to start incorporating Google+ content. Could this actually open a window for a new meta search engine? For you old-timers, a socially focused Dogpile.com. It would be a delicious turn of events if the Google-Facebook and Google-Bing wars actually led to the emergence of a new competitor, but there’s no doubt that most people don’t want to split their time between Facebook and Google. A solution which integrates multiple social platforms could have a powerful draw.