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Google social search and SEO; the one that got away

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					Google social search and SEO; the one that got away

Written by Dave Harry
Monday, 07 March 2011 13:12 - Last Updated Monday, 07 March 2011 16:47




Given all the juicy excitement around the many dramas over the last while (Bing stealing from
Google, The smackdown trifecta of JC Penney, Forbes and Overstock or the two Google
updates) one little goody seemed to fly virtually un-commented under the radar; the Google
social search update.




I've been covering social and real-time search pretty much since the beginning and at most
times have generally                                                    poo poo'd it as far as
being an area of SEO that we really need to be overly interested in. By
it's temporal nature alone
, it has left much to be desired. While the social graph was interesting, (Google has an API for
this) there was no clear sign on how it would have made a larger impact on search behaviour.




Tucked away at the bottom of the results page or in a side bar vertical (real time and 'latest'),
serious impact seemed minimal at best.




 

    Fast Forward, Getting Personal


This latest change has actually done something far more than I had ever anticipated. It
furthered Google's over-all goals and has added a new universal element to the SERPs with
far reaching impact. One of the stated areas of extreme importance at Google over the last 5 or
more years was;                        personalization. Not only does a tighter granular level of
personalization offer users (hopefully) greater relevance, it also can help engineers to handle
spam better (concept being that you can't spam yourself). All things they sorely desire lately.




Of course to get there, many obstacles remained, the least of which being how they could
glean strong signals through implicit feedback (see the; Final Word on Bounce Rates as a
Ranking Signal                                                                       ). Oh
and of course this result came up while looking for that post;




                                                                                              1/9
Google social search and SEO; the one that got away

Written by Dave Harry
Monday, 07 March 2011 13:12 - Last Updated Monday, 07 March 2011 16:47




Another of course is the sheer processinggraphs. doubt even the Caffeine a problem.
finding personalization part granular person-by-person deeper with these some difficulty
Anyway,doesinteresting to ofimplicit socialThis has made levelengineers hadcalculated took
Google the this case, people's data. required. search (currently it's challenges?
categorization signals from similar users). the years
So howstrong one find newalevels thatpersonalizationIwhen facedpersonalizationupdateon Look
                             was of over
elsewhere. In segments
 
 More Than Just a Few Faces


Ok, great... all very interesting but what does it have to do with these changes and my apparent
interest? Because this isn't about just seeing little avatars in your search results. It is
actually adding pages (to page one) and re-ranking others. Much like we saw with Universal
Search elements over the last few years, there is a NEW way to get to page one (results). Or if
you're already there, to move up the food chain. If THAT isn't SEO, then I don't know what is.




Let us consider this search for [SEO radio]




Logged out




And logged in




                                                                                           2/9
Google social search and SEO; the one that got away

Written by Dave Harry
Monday, 07 March 2011 13:12 - Last Updated Monday, 07 March 2011 16:47




Not only does it re-rank the results in this case but it is also annotating it with mentions from my
social circle. Depending on the query space and the person, this is also a HUGE enticement
to increase your SERP CTR
(click-through rate). Given how many articles we still see each week on meta-descriptions and
CTR, it's interesting that this still hasn't gotten people talking (for that element alone).




This is certainly an interesting end-around from Google to add new levels of personalization
and it most certainly is something we're likely to see more of, not less, moving forward. Those
that recognize this early, will likely benefit the most.




 

    So, What Are They Doing?


The next stop along this journey is to get a sense of what exactly they might be up to as far as
mining connections and information. As far back as late 2009 yours truly has been writing
about how social personalization might effect us . Even then, Google's Marissa Mayer had
been talking about a '                                                  social influenced
PageRank                                                                            ' type
concept.... and even further back I'd looked into the so-called
 'FriendRank' patents
from Google. If you're serious about learning more, be sure to read those.




We certainly know they are looking at the social graph in some sense to sort out who is going
to affect this personalization. For that I'd have a look closer at the social graph API . To get a
sense of what that can do, I'd suggest looking at this demo application.
 Mine looks like this
;




                                                                                               3/9
Google social search and SEO; the one that got away

Written by Dave Harry
Monday, 07 March 2011 13:12 - Last Updated Monday, 07 March 2011 16:47




The connections themselves come from;


  - Google services – Google contacts, Buzz, FriendConnect, Google Reader (people or
websites you follow)
  - Websites or blogs – this can be done by identifying them in your Google profile
  - Social Services – Twitter, FriendFeed, YouTube, Digg, Quora and more.




And of course many of these can be added/connected via your Google profile. This is where, in
particular, you can add website connections that may fall outside of the 'social graph' such as
myself and fellow authors here at SNC.




The deeper the profile, the more connections there are likely to be. Which of course means that
early on there will likely be a higher connection rate in markets where geeks roam. Even so,
these are early days and I'd start to get a feel for things and how they work.




Are they actually looking at the tiered connections to see whom I have more connections with?
Are they looking at whom in your social circle you're interacting with the most? That part
seems unclear.




 

    Profiles Are On the Grow


                                                                                          4/9
Google social search and SEO; the one that got away

Written by Dave Harry
Monday, 07 March 2011 13:12 - Last Updated Monday, 07 March 2011 16:47




Interestingly, shortly after the changes to social search, the Google profiles also had a facelift .
If you haven't looked lately,
 here's mine.




While the changes aren't drastic, they are certainly getting a little more social in flavour and I
get that will continue to be a strong element of their social plans moving forward. I would
suggest that you go and play around with yours if you haven't lately. Once again, becoming
more intimate with the evolution can only help.




You can even check out the new search interface by adding the parameters; &tbs=prfl:1 – to
any Google search. Here's an example;




Interestingly, it also brings up those you are connected to before it does strangers (for a
generic first name search). This further shows how the connections in the social graph are



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Google social search and SEO; the one that got away

Written by Dave Harry
Monday, 07 March 2011 13:12 - Last Updated Monday, 07 March 2011 16:47

being made.




 

    Where Is Social Search Headed?


Of course we also want to get a sense of where all of this might be headed right? As marketers
it is important to establish the final destination to get a sense of how much time we want to
invest in this directions for ourselves and our clients.




From the social profiling patents we get a sense of it along these lines;




Open Profile (user identification) - Uses identification and scoring/categorization analysis of a
user profiles


     -   demographic data
     -   interest/topic categorization
     -   media data
     -   group associations
     -   influencer score




Custodian profile (content relational) - Looks at inferences between the viewer of a web page
and the person that created, or manages it.


     -   user profile data
     -   user acquaintance data
     -   user group data
     -   user media data
     -   user options data
     -   and other user data




Relationships and Topics - For looking at common relationships among users and related
topical categorizations (and performance metrics).


                                                                                             6/9
Google social search and SEO; the one that got away

Written by Dave Harry
Monday, 07 March 2011 13:12 - Last Updated Monday, 07 March 2011 16:47



     -   Common groups
     -   Common behaviour
     -   Similar membership in groups
     -   Similar profile data
     -   Common acquaintances
     -   Other similarities




  If we add to this the other elements of personalization; search history, surfing history and
geo-localization                                                           , we can certainly get a
sense of what potential they're seeing here and how data classifications might play over the
coming years. I don't believe we're as deep as we can get, (the above signals are a huge
laundry list) but social is such a fast evolving area that the search engineers themselves are
likely struggling to create and test new signals as social morphs and grows.




 

    What Does it Mean to SEOs?


And so, my weary wandering web warrior, we must consider exactly what this all means. Once
again I have always taken the stance that very little of what Google was doing with the social
graph really meant that much to search optimizers. Sure, we do pay some attention to social,
there wasn't enough there to really consider it deeply. That seems to be changing.




Now that it's starting to become not only a standard part of the results (placement and
rankings) it also fits well with Google's desire to find a deeper personalization in search. With
all of the problems with spam, relevance and (lack of) explicit signals, I can see the attraction
here. There are more than a few other social elements that Google is said to have in the works,
 it seems this will only continue to evolve.




But what can we do now? I really haven't had enough time to formalize a strategy but some
early elements one can do include;


     - Make sure the talking heads have profiles (PR folks, social reps, staff etc..)


                                                                                             7/9
Google social search and SEO; the one that got away

Written by Dave Harry
Monday, 07 March 2011 13:12 - Last Updated Monday, 07 March 2011 16:47

    - If using Gmail or other Google products; re-consider the strategy and expand outreach.

   - Align social channels – go beyond Twitter and Facebook. Add other services to your
profile.
   - Align social connections – try and cross reference and follow the same people on as
many services as possible
   - RSS is Back – if people read/follow you in Google reader, it is considered a connection.

   - Promote – I mean duh... promoting yours encourages others to develop theirs, which is
in your favour (yes, I'm working on it for SNC).
   - Share wisely – as always, the value of your recommendation (in the SERP) depends on
the trust. Ensure social channels are being metered.




Those are truly some just off the top of my head. I must be candid and say that I've not been as
excited about a SERP change since the big picture of Universal Search (strategy) knocked
me over the head. As always some follow up research, playing with implementation and
measurements will be required, but early on this seems to be a move we can count on not only
sticking around, but evolving more in the near future.




Consider if you will that other personalization method we mentioned; local. People are entities.
Google likes entities (more on this soon). So are businesses. How about a review and
recommendation engine deeper into Google local? Consider the statement;




“While profiles work well for individuals, we’ll continue to work on new ways for businesses to
engage with their customers, so stay tuned for updates. ” - Google Social Web Blog




Anyway... I could literally go on for hours on this. While everyone was playing pin the tail on the
big brand, I've been musing endlessly on where this one lands. I for one am (finally) excited.




 




Oh and... be sure to hook up with me on the various social channels in my Google profile, and
I shall see YOU in my SERPs real soon!



                                                                                              8/9
Google social search and SEO; the one that got away

Written by Dave Harry
Monday, 07 March 2011 13:12 - Last Updated Monday, 07 March 2011 16:47




 




UPDATE; UK Style




It is worth noting that this update, much like the Panda Farmer Affair, hasn't hit all the various
international data centers. I have talked to some UK folks that aren't seeing it yet. So, we shall
keep an eye on it.




On another note, there are avatars beside Twitter accounts showing up in the UK and not here,
(in .com and .ca). Here's a ew examples from Kev Strong and Barry Adams;




While not entirely related, it does show other interests in mining the social graph and even the
use of avatars in the actual SERPs. Anywathing else we come across, I shall certainly update
this post.




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Description: Social search, which means that by searching for a common interest to form interpersonal circle, and by searching each person's hobbies and collections to provide users with a more accurate information. Social search engines usually have a meta search, collection, circles and other functions, to eventually reach a whole to meet their social knowledge sharing concept.