Google has launched its latest search engine update and it promises to have some major ramifications on how businesses market themselves online.
In what is being called “the largest search shake up in Google’s history”, the search giant has decided to personalize search results by combining both content that’s been shared with users privately along with matches from the public web.
The change is live now, though not everyone will see it until it fully launches over the next few days. For now, the changes are limited to those signed-in to Google.com and searching in English.
You’ll know the change is live when you see this message at the top of your search result screen:
Personalized Search Is Nothing New
For those that have been paying attention, Google has been moving towards this move for some time now. Personalized search was first introduced back in 2005 and then re-launched in February 2007.
At that time, you had to “opt-in” to personalized search by signing into your Google account, but the search giant still gave users a way to choose not to see personalized results by specifying so in your account settings.
Google changed that option when they launched “personalized search for everyone” in 2009. Taking into account a users’ last 120 days of search history (even for users not logged into Google) when serving up search results.
Geographic based results, which took into account a users location via their IP address furthered the personalization effect, and all signs were pointing to the fact that Google was hoping to make search results more personalized then they had been in the past.
Google + Changes Everything
With the launch of Google+, Google attempted to gain something that it had sorely lacked in the past; a wealth of personal information about their searchers that they could include in search results.
Google has long relished the type of data that Facebook has at its fingertips: Social “likes” and “shares” among users and their friends that they could add to their search algorithm to make their users experience much more personalized. This is why Google attempted to purchase Facebook for 15 Billion in 2007.
Google’s response to Facebook’s refusal to sell?
The launch of Google + and the new +1 feature that allowed users to give their “thumbs up” or “+1’s” to websites. Now Google had their own version of “likes” and “shares” and the search giant started the process of gathering social data.
Google’s plan for this social data was clear. Once they had enough to add to their algorithm, they would integrate it into search so they could add a “social” aspect to their search results.
6 months after Google+’s limited release, the search giant feels that they have enough data, and so we have “Search Plus Your World”.
What Is The Effect On Your Business?
So bottom-line. How does this affect the way you market your business online? Despite what many will say, these changes are not the end of SEO as we know it. In fact, it is becoming abundantly clear that SEO and organic rankings are about to become more important then ever.
The standard for success, however, seems to have shifted. With the search result landscape changing so dramatically, it is going to be more and more important to gain better then page 1 results.
Instead, ranking in the top 5 on the first page, will likely be the new standard. When users are logged in and are seeing personalized results, the amount of organic results on page 1 is going to be limited.
Things like videos, photos, and friend recommended results are going to squeeze the # of available organic slots, so ranking at the top of page 1 is going to be very important.
It’s Time For Your Business To Get Social
SEO campaigns are not just about keyword research and optimization anymore. Going forward, a solid marketing campaign MUST have a social component to it. Separating the two makes no sense any longer.
Google + recently launched the ability to make business pages, and if you don’t have one already, you should get one now. Additionally, making sure that each of your website’s pages includes a +1 button is exceedingly important.
Having the button on the page isn’t enough, however. One of the main jobs of Internet marketers going forward is to find innovative ways to get visitors to +1 pages. Getting visitors to +1 pages while being logged into their Google accounts will be even more beneficial.
By connecting with your customer base on your website and gaining their follows, likes and loyalty you will now automatically be connected to their social network. Essentially, a single like from a well-connected person could potentially increase your rankings for hundreds of other people when they search for a product you sell.
So often in online marketing, the old axiom “content is king” is invoked. While often over-used, it bears repeating here. Dynamic, well thought out and originally presented content and those who create it are going to be the ultimate winners here.
The challenge for online marketers and business owners going forward, is finding new and innovative ways to present information that may not be terribly sexy or exciting.