You might not know it yet but January 10th 2012 was a big day for the internet and everyone who accesses information through Google.
January 10th was the day that Google introduced* what they are calling Google Search Plus Your World (which most commentators are now referring to simply as Social Search).
In a nutshell what Google did was pour the postings of the 100 million or so Google+ members into their general Search Engine Result Pages (SERPS). According to the launch announcement from Google they did this because, “We’re transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships”
This change has sparked major debate across the internet, not least because Google Search Plus Your World only factors in the social graphs of users from Google’s own social networks (G+, YouTube and Picasa etc). Controversially, Google’s new Social Search does not draw any information from either of the web's two biggest social networks, Facebook or Twitter.
There are claims and counter claims from both sides of the argument, some claiming that Google Search Plus Your World is a nothing more than a natural enhancement, others vehement in their believe that, as Slate magazine’s technology columnist Farhad Manjo put it, “Google just broke its’ search engine”
As an SEO professional I have my own views on all this but the point of this post is to draw publisher’s attention to this new SEO reality and to give a heads up so that our industry isn’t left out in the cold (again).
So what does it mean for publishers?
Well the first thing that it means is that establishing your company’s brand and those of your authors on Google+ just rocketed to the top of your ‘To Do’ list.
Simply put, Google’s decision not to aggregate the Facebook and Twitter social graphs into the Google Search Plus Your World results means that publishers and authors who have an active presence on Google+ will have an in-built advantage over those that don’t.
Similarly, publishers and authors who harness the potential of YouTube (the world's second largest search engine) will ensure that their brands enjoy an advantageous boost in the new Social Search results.
It’s important that publishers understand that this is not just an esoteric storm in teacup among SEO geeks and tech-heads. This is a fundamental change to the way Google works and what affects Google, affects everyone.
Google+ already has 100 million members. It is estimated to reach 500 million by the end of 2012. Regardless of your views on the rights and wrongs, the introduction of Social Search will fundamentally change the flow of information and traffic on the web. Those companies that embrace this new reality will flourish, those that decide to “wait and see” will be washed away by more ‘socially savvy’ competitors – it really is that simple.
As an industry, publishing with its vast resources of quality content and an army of highly engaged authors, is perfectly poised to be one of the big winners in this new Social Search reality. For once the publishing industry could lead the charge instead of following blindly.
Google Search Plus Your World has been live in the USA for only two weeks and it’s already making its presence felt across a whole range of industries. If it hasn’t happened already, Social Search is coming to a results page near you in the very near future. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
*Google Search plus Your World is currently only available to people who are signed in to their Google account and searching on https://www.google.com – it will roll out over the other Google servers around the world shortly.
Chris McVeigh is an SEO and publishing consultant currently based in the US.
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