Ideas, musings and inspirations.

In January, Google search results received a major overhaul.  The dominant US search engine debuted “Search Plus Your World,” a new results format that takes personalization – and visibility of Google+ content – to new heights.

What is Google+?

Google+ is Google’s social network. It offers many of the same features as Facebook (building connections, sharing news, photo, and video content), with a few fresh elements (like group video chat, or “hangouts”) mixed in.  It launched early last summer and, within two weeks, had recruited 10 million users, the same size user base it took both Facebook and Twitter more than two years to reach.  Although its users tend to be less active than Facebook’s (according to December comScore data, Facebook accounted for 1 in 7 minutes spent online around the world), Google+ has now skyrocketed to 100 million users.  And, as of January, it boasts content visibility in a portion of Google’s 400 million daily search queries.

And, it’s all because of Search Plus Your World.

Search Plus Your World is the embodiment of search results being influenced by social signals and personalized by social activity; specifically, activity on Google+.  Where results used to only be personalized by geographic location, previous searches, and web behavior, they’re now also personalized according to content that’s shared by people within your Google+ circles (and their circles, and theirs, and so on).  When you’re signed into a Google account, you’ll now see personalized results, signified by a small icon that looks like a person, mixed in with regular public web pages.  And, Google will, at times, even use valuable result page real estate to suggest certain Google+ profiles that are relevant to a particular search query.

This is a game changer.

By weaving Google+ content into search results, they are forever changed.  There are industry concerns, of course, about user privacy, search results relevancy, and transparency of analytic data.  Those concerns will need to be addressed.  But, in the meantime, what does this change mean for optimization of campaigns that are underway?  How should search marketing strategies be adapted to leverage Search Plus Your World?

1.  Make Google+ a Priority.

Though developing an additional social channel may strain resources initially, the fact remains that Google is showing preferential treatment to content found within Google+ and related products like Picasa.  Take advantage!  Begin posting unique, sharable content, photos, and videos.  Build up your circles.  Encourage interaction.  The larger and more vocal your network, the more likely your shared content will find its way into a personalized Google search result.

2.  Optimize, Optimize, Optimize.

Did you know that Google+ has its own search functionality?  Make sure your profile is optimized for the key terms most important to you.  Because Google is synonymous with search, it’s likely your target audience is using the Google+ search box, and you want to ensure your presence there whenever possible.

3.  Make Your Content “Share-Friendly.”

Do you have Google+ icons and +1 buttons on your website?  If you don’t, you’re missing out.  Make it easy for people to engage with you – and your content – on this new social channel.  Invite people to connect.  Ask them to share (or, “+1”) your content.  You may be surprised by how many people will oblige.

4.  Be Vigilant About Visibility.

Google+ profile pages are, at times, being shown above pay-per-click ads on the right-hand side of the results page.  If PPC is one of your search marketing strategies, make sure you test out your search terms and see which results are affected.  Bid up accordingly to ensure you’re in top position and gain as much visibility as possible.

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