Google ‘Search plus Your World’ and SEO Implications

Stuart Shaw 10 years ago

Dubbed the most radical transformation ever, Google's "Search Plus Your World" is causing a stir in the world of SEO - so what's it all about?

Google has just released its latest update, a change many are dubbing 'the greatest ever transformation of its search results.' Fighting talk indeed. So, why is it so transformational? In simple terms it's because Google has cemented its new social platform, Google+, into the centre of its results, turning on its head the notion of universal results for all based on the LinkTrust Algorithm. See? We told you it was big!

So, how does it work?

In simple terms you’re now given the option whether or not to add your world (Google+) to search results. It means that, for the first time ever, the results returned by Google may well be based on the thoughts and feelings of your peers, rather than on the authority of the sites in the space. You'll also get the option to revert back to either universal results or a blended version of the two, but for the first time (if you are logged in) you won't automatically be taken to the same 'page'!

Google serves up billions of web pages to users every day, created by people from all over the world. Google has now taken a step to personalise the information and web pages shared by the people and authority figures (more on this later) in your circles on Google+.

The ‘Search, plus Your World’ update includes the following areas-

  1. Personal Results – This is the information shown from your Google+, photos, profiles, posts etc that could be displayed as part of the results, and will be unique and viewable only to the user that's signed into Google+ at the time of search. If no user is signed in, the results generated will be the standard ones originating from the web.
  2. Profiles in Search – This allows users to find the profiles (in autocomplete and results) of users whom they're connected to via Google+, and this update will also start suggesting authority figures to follow (more on this later).
  3. People and Pages – This will produce Google+ pages related to topics and areas of interest that may be typed into Google.  However, it will only draw results from Google+ profiles and not those from Twitter and Facebook - is this fair? Twitter don't think so: they've already kicked up a fuss.

Hadn't Google+ already integrated itself within Google quite well?

There are already a few examples of how Google+ had integrated itself within Google search. When I searched for my own name in Google I was presented with this-

It's clear that access to my Google+ profile, Twitter, Facebook profile and my place of works website is easily available, making it very easy to interact with my own profile and edit it if I wish to. All this from a Google search? Impressive stuff. What's more impressive, though, is that this doesn’t appear top of the results when I log out of Google, showing that the personalisation has already begun, pushing my Google+ profile to the top in the process.

Another example of the integration is when I was searching for specific pieces of information and I knew there had an expert opinion had already been made available online.  Finding them used to be quite hard work, simply due to the huge volume of websites and opinions that Google would generate. Fortunately, this is now much more simple.  For instance, when searching for a piece on the Google Panda Update and knowing that Simon Penson had done a piece on this; I found it easy to navigate towards.  I also conducted the search whilst logged out of Google+, to test whether or not there would be a difference to the results.

An example of this can be seen below-


What are these new updates and what will they look like?

1.               Personal Results

'Personal results' does exactly what it says on the tin. The example that was provided with the release information shows a search for 'chikoo' being made under a Google+ profile, which lends two different meanings to the term: it is their favourite fruit, but also the name of their dog that they’ve uploaded many pictures of before on Google+.

When the search is carried out, 50 personal results and 419,000 global results are shown. If clicked on personal – it brings up pictures they have uploaded of their dog in addition to the information and pictures that they've previously uploaded. (This may have been mentioned in their Google+ profile).

2.              Profiles in Search

There are two separate implementations of this update; indicating that Google are indeed heading down the predicted 'authorship' route.

One of the most useful resulting functions of the update is the ability to find friends easily.  It doesn’t matter how popular their name is, if they've got a Google+ profile, they'll be found. The example Google have used is the name Smith.  One of the most popular names in the the UK, finding one Smith amongst the rest is akin to locating a needle in a massive stack of needles.  Not anymore, it seems.

Whilst autocomplete on Google has previously generated much hilarity, they can now predict a friends profile before you've even finished typing the name in. If you then click on this predicted profile, you are now given a preview of their profile with the circle that they are in within your network to ensure it's the right profile. An example is shown below-

Authorship is also being promoted and tracked much more voraciously than ever before, and it's throwing considerable weight behind the Author Rank theory that Zazzle's own Simon Penson (and others) have been talking about for several months now.

Google first announced the Authorship pilot program several months ago and Simon wrote a great piece explaining what it means for search in a blog post for SEOGadget back in 2011.

So why is Authorship now more important than ever before? The simple answer is because the use of it is now rewarded. Google will now suggest (using autocomplete) 'strong' (based on their past musings and how much they are read and shared) authors from the name you are searching for.

If you click on this profile and you’re signed into Google+ you will be able to add these people to your circles.  If, for instance, you are searching for prominent SEO figures in order to obtain their latest updates, you will search for people like Rand Fishkin and others. This update will make it 10x easier to find them as they will be trusted Authors by Google due to the amount of great content they have published. The green arrow on the image shows how easy it is to become connected with these authority figures that you are searching for. An example of how this will look (Using Trey Ratcliff) can be seen below-

3.            People and Pages

People and Pages will bring Google+ pages to the forefront for generic topic searches like ‘music’. You will see Google+ profiles appear down the right hand side of the results page; it is made easy again to add them to your circles and become connected.

Google’s explanation of this is that it will "strike up meaningful conversations and discover entire communities in a way that simply wasn’t possible before." This is true for niche communities, but will these appear on the results? This remains to be seen, but it remains a great way of connecting with other active, enthusiastic people and authority figures through everyday searches punched into Google. An example of how this will appear can be seen below:


The one concern with personalising results, was privacy. However, with the update notes Google have made it clear that they set a ‘high bar’ for Search plus Your World. Currently on Google+, posts and photos are secured by SSL encryption - like the latest Google Analytics (not provided) keyword results (Was this a test for this bigger picture update? Looks that way). They have ported this across to their personal search results where they have become the first search engine to "turn on search via SSL by default for signed-in users" last year.  Offering the same protection as the one used for Gmail, it certainly offers more peace of mind regarding privacy.

The profiles that the new Google searches find are clearly labelled in what Circle you have them in or as a suggested connection to give you full control of who is in your network. The image below gives you the option of how you search, it will be a prominent new toggle on the upper right of the results page.

This new update from Google has completely revolutionised the way search will look and it could have an impact of how we work within search. With the update being rolled out over the next few days, it will be interesting to see how many more Google+ profiles are created as a result.  The one piece of advice I can give is if you have clients that aren't on Google+ yet, get them on there immediately, and start interacting with potential customers to build a network up. The big question on everyone’s tongue regarding the update is, is Google+ being favoured in search? Google Executive, Eric Schmidt says that Google is not favouring Google+ content over Twitter and Facebook. If the right permissions were given to Google to access Facebook and Twitters content, they themselves could have these pros added to their social networks. There is a great piece by Danny Sullivan on Marketing Land about this, read it here. You've got to remember that it was Twitter that ended their API agreement with Google (so we're told), not the other way around.

How do we wrap up one of the biggest Google search updates after Panda? Lets finish with some great opinions, as that’s what we value and trust – right? If you're faint hearted and don't want to read these, I'd exit now. But if you do want to read some expert opinions on the matter, then read away.


Paul Chaloner? Head of Social Media, Fresh Egg

“The new update was both inevitable and reasonably well predicted, even when Google+ was launched in beta. That Google would integrate the two is born out of necessity, but could also miss some of the reasons people use social networks like Facebook.

Despite its growth in registered users, the common complaint I hear every day is “yeah, but who is actually using it” and other than some of my social media friends from the USA, I’d agree, Google+ is very quiet. What Google really need to do is get ordinary, non-tech folk like my Dad and my daughter using it for it to become truly popular and move out of the tech niche of SEO’s and Social Media guru’s that are the dominant force on Google+ right now.

As far as SEO goes, integrating search with social in this way makes a lot of sense in many ways, but perhaps the one thing that stops SEO’s worrying too much about it is the fact that it’s signed in search and unless you sign in, you aren’t going to benefit from it and therefore the SEO role to influence ranking position still applies. Without being a harbinger of doom or joining the gravy train of thought that “SEO is dead” I do think as Google+ grows and therefore logged in search grows, SEO’s will have to think more about how to optimise content and use social media more in order to influence networks of people and not just an algorithm and that could prove to be very challenging and interesting at the same time.

Overall, it’s an interesting development from Google and one I think both sides of the digital marketing divide (SEO and Social) will be watching very closely in 2012. Google haven’t been very good with social media in recent years (failures galore including Buzz and Wave) but they do seem to be fully committed to plus and they’ve shown that by integrating it with their main search product, so it would suggest plus isn’t going to be ditched any day soon, but 2012 is make or break for Google and Social media, they won’t get any more chances to get it right.”


Peter Handley SEO Director, theMediaFlow
Twitter @ismepete

“If this were incorporating aggregated data from a number of social networks, I think this could be justifiably called "Search Plus Your World". However, Google+ is not "my world" - it's a "social" network that for my current circles is not a particularly social space.

It presumes that the people that are in my circles are friends and people that I put trust in. At the moment, this isn't really the case - its somewhat of an echo chamber for Twitter for me at the moment, but with a smaller group of people.

Social proof in search results can be important for users - but with the audience scope of Google+ at the moment, it doesn't seem that the main user base is in place. However, as this grows this could change.

One of my big concerns with Google+ stems from a post from Rishi between Christmas & New Year - with abuses of position like this, it makes me nervous about how this personalised data from Google+ is being used now, let alone in the future”


Dan Sharp Founder & Director, Screaming Frog
Twitter @screamingfrog

”I think it’s a natural progression for Google, they have been playing with personalised results since ’05 and social search since’09 and this seems to unite them with the potential of more private and personalised content in your results.

The theory behind truly personalising results is sound and I like some of the integration. But at the moment it seems to be weighted towards Google +, which is probably of no surprise as its their own property. Matt ( argued they can surface data from other social networks (Twitter, Quora, Friendfeed etc), but it’s limited in my tests. You’d have to argue without Twitter and Facebook the search results are not really much of an improvement. You may also argue they are a little cluttered and if you’ve seen the content already socially, would you want to see it again in the search results?

The feature looks to be on as default, so the search results will continue to be more personalised. This isn’t really anything new from an SEO perspective, they already are. The traditional algorithm is still very much weighted towards link signals, with social signals only playing a small part currently. However, the traditional link graph is dying, with more sharing socially. While Google are still testing the integration of these signals into ‘traditional web results’, personalising results with Search Plus Your World through your own connections can offer a more personalised experience through social.”


Gianluca Fiorelli Consultant SEO,

"Search Plus your World" - honestly - is not something we could not preview. In fact, there were many between us, who were considering the possibility that Google would have moved in the direction of becoming a Social Search Engine. 

That doesn't mean this is not a great news, and probably something that it is going to change the way we search, hence the way we must do SEO (if we have not have changed before).

From an SEO point of view, we have bad and good consequences.

Bad ones:

  • Personalization is now definitely and officially the standard in Search, therefore classic KPIs as Ranking definitely have no real reason to be considered as top ones;
  • Blended Search will be even more blended, therefore organic links will have even less visibility;
  • I suspect we will see an increase of a potential "Google+ influencer spam", or - in other words - the equivalent to paid links in forms of paid Google+ post about a site;
  • This change is surely the perfect excuse Google may use in order to say a definitive no to us asking to have back our referrals data in our Analytic (not provided).

Good ones:

  • Those sites, which have started doing a correct web marketing mix (content + seo + social, lets say: inbound marketing), may have more opportunities to stand out in the first page of these personalized SERPs;
  • It must be supposed that old tactics, as spinning article marketing, big volume of poor quality links for rankings, thin uselessness content, will have less influence, because it is rationale to think that people is not going to share that kind of content in its social circle;
  • As a consequence of the previous point, we may see an improvement of the general quality of the search results as users.

What should do an SEO? To finally become an Inbounder. That does not mean to forget old classic technical SEO (not at all), but SEO in general will definitely and once for all start to care about Content Marketing and Social Media, even though Social Media in this case means just Google+. The better an SEO (agency, freelance and in-house) will master and be able to coordinate all these disciplines - becoming somehow a director coordinating all them - the better results he will see as organic traffic.

Finally, from a Search Industry point of view, I cannot but think this is really an attempt - the stronger one - done by Google in order to establish itself and fight in the Social Media arena. Just imagine how strong it is going to be the attraction for Brands (big and small ones) to be really active in Google+ in order to dominate this new Search. The problem is: will be able Google to finally convince all the people moving to Google+? I don't know... also because people using Facebook and Twitter, but not G+, is not going really to see a big difference using Search Plus Your World from the already personalized SERPs of yesterday.”


Bas van den Beld Founder, State of Search

“Google's Search Plus Your World announcement has certainly stirred things up again. The fact that Plus results were going to be integrated into the SERPS was to be expected, we expected this from the start. The biggest change however is not that Google+ is now connected to the SERPS, its the person search. For two reasons: 

First people will be tempted to use Google+ more if they start looking for specific person names, because they are suggested in the search bar as a suggested search term. 

Secondly the personal connection will provide Google with so much more personal data it will be very useful for their next steps where the content will be even more socialized. 

I don't think it will 'just' be about Google+ results which pushes out other results, I think its the next step towards a completely personalized search experience.”


James Agate Founder, SkyRocket SEO
Twitter @jamesagate

“What does it really mean for SEOs in a day-to-day sense?

I think it is a little too early to tell in all honesty that being said it certainly raises some questions in my mind…

  •         Will all the social signals we've been working on generating on Facebook for example become worthless in SEO terms?

As things stand Facebook and Twitter are missing from 'Search plus Your World' - Google says it isn't allowed to deep crawl these sites which I would imagine is largely correct (certainly in Facebook’s case) and given that Facebook is trying to really own the social and data graph, I would think they are unlikely to be happy about opening up their data treasure trove for the very company that is trying to kill them off.

If that is the case then Search plus your world could be the start of what becomes two closed eco-systems. Google and Facebook. Meaning Google would probably de-value the majority of the social juice your site might have in Facebook – why? Because they can and they want G+ to be a Facebook killer. That may be a bit of tin-foil hat theory but they certainly hold the power… think back to when they hinted that rankings are impacted by Google+ - huge swathes of web users flocked to the fledgling network to capitalise – this would mean as digital marketers of the future we may have to focus our social SEO efforts on Google+ or at least are heavily active there in addition to Facebook.

  •         Will it kill the importance of rankings?

The importance of rankings, certainly on a keyword-by-keyword basis has been reduced over the past couple of years as personalised search and rich snippets increased in prominence.

Search plus your world, in my eyes, can only have a negative impact on the importance of rankings reports because what use is a #1 position if everyone is clicking on the pretty Google+ profiles on the right of the search results or looking through the videos and photos of their friends on G+?

I don’t think this will kill rankings reports overnight but I’d say that now is as good a time as any to start weaning clients off of ranking reports and on to more important metrics like organic visitors and more importantly the bottom line performance of a site.

However this thing pans out, I can say with some degree of confidence that SEO is going to become a different beast once this comes into play across all Google users. If you want to be visible then you need to be social which makes content and promotion of that content, two of the most important elements of your SEO strategy in 2012.”


Simon Penson Managing Director, Zazzle Media
Twitter @simonpenson

“Google's Search + Your World announcement has far reaching consequences for ALL businesses. As of today its been seen 'in the wild' for the first time and Google Plus DOMINATES results.

Clearly this will give rise to anti-competitive behaviour questions in the social space but for businesses it make Google+ as absolute necessity.

Think of Plus now as the most valuable domain you could ever purchase and you'll be halfway to understanding just how impactful it will be.

Your Google Plus profile is nothing without great expert content though so a secondary effect will be to make content even more important than it was Post Panda!

Plus is now, in essence, your default blog but what all of this really hides is Googles march towards semantic web and Author Rank. I wrote about it more in depth here - as the ultimate destination for all things algorithmic. As author markup is plugged into Google+ its increasing importance just made the pot of author data that much bigger...”

"Google + my world is the most important update of recent times, and for once it is not the ranking algorithm that has changed.   Google + my world might be the spark that really gets Google+ into main stream business social media use as its introduction now creates a fiscal benefit to companies as it champions a new form of content sharing and recommendation directly to potential customers from their peers.

With Google pushing worldwide take up of its social media channel with programs like the introduction of Google+ daily deals in the US and free wireless to access Google+ and YouTube in India, in my opinion it is only a matter of time until the critical user mass is reached and the channel becomes more mainstream.  Although I the way people use Google+ is different to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc, the issue of what network to keep up-to-date It is going to be potential real threat to Facebook and YouTube  and with the unofficial member count at 62 million in December 2011 it looks to be sooner rather than later."


Martin McAndrew Owner and Founder of Blue Thirst ltd
Twitter @MartinMcAndrew

"Google + my world is the most important update of recent times, and for once it is not the ranking algorithm that has changed.   Google + my world might be the spark that really gets Google+ into main stream business social media use as its introduction now creates a fiscal benefit to companies as it champions a new form of content sharing and recommendation directly to potential customers from their peers.
With Google pushing worldwide take up of its social media channel with programs like the introduction of Google+ daily deals in the US and free wireless to access Google+ and YouTube in India, in my opinion it is only a matter of time until the critical user mass is reached and the channel becomes more mainstream.  Although I the way people use Google+ is different to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc, the issue of what network to keep up-to-date It is going to be potential real threat to Facebook and YouTube  and with the unofficial member count at 62 million in December 2011 it looks to be sooner rather than later."

Maggie Thistleton Senior SEM Accounts Manager, One Click Ventures
Twitter @gret_herself

“I like the idea behind "Search, Plus Your World" from a viewers perspective. IRL, I generally like to have my friends opinions on things before making certain decisions, and it seems like that's where Google is going with this new update. Provided your good friends are actually on Google+ and engage, it could work. However, the general public really hasn't caught on to Google+ and sharing yet, so this idea may be a little premature (or ahead of the game?).

From a search marketers prospective though, it seems a little touchy. All the work we've done to raise our rankings could potentially be skewed and trashed all because one person +1'd or shared something. SEO's are going to have to get their hands a little dirtier in the social sector if they want to keep up with this update.


Martin MacDonald Head of SEO, OMD Group
Twitter @searchmartin

"While the recent changes have been applied in an obtrusive fashion we have to consider the long term quality of results.  For the past decade a website’s ability to rank has been biased heavily towards its total amount and quality of inbound links.  This is still the case and increasingly presents an unrealistic view of the world as large publishers have pushed to take advantage of this weakness.

We anticipate that the data collected from the current changes will be used to modify the overall algorithm in future and incorporating results which are socially driven directly into the main results in a seamless manner.  This will over the long term benefit all search users whether they be socially engaged or not."


John Doherty SEO Consultant, Distilled
Twitter @dohertyjf

"I think it is still too early on to tell what will really change with SEO, but I think we have now officially seen the importance of a quality social presence. We hear the words author rank and authority thrown around a lot, but until recently we had not seen exactly what they do. Now we'll be able to better understand. I think we need to start thinking about +1s and social mentions as links, not just referrers. This will become more and more important in the future.

As far as how SEO will change, the basics will not change. We still need to build useful, readable, shareable, converting websites. That will NOT change, and will actually further our end towards creating a more engaged social audience around our clients.

Obviously, the social aspect varies by niche. Law, for example, will probably not be too affected, but restaurants should definitely have a social presence (think about Yelp and how recommendations from friends are so convincing)."


Paul Rogers Senior Online Marketing Strategist, GPMD
Twitter @paulnrogers

"To be honest, I think that although it will have a fairly significant impact on SEO, Google needs to use social media to determine what people are really looking for, as there is a lot of spam in the results pages at the moment.

However, Google will need to put a lot of work into spam detection/prevention within the social media space, as in opinion social media would be a lot easier to game than conventional SEO principles at this moment in time.

I think that the introduction of personalised search will require online marketers to adapt their SEO activity to facilitate for social media and generate different types of coverage.

I think the next big change will see reviews being integrated with social media (particularly Google Plus)."


We hope you enjoyed this blog - it was written by James Perrott, a SEO Consultant at Zazzle Media.

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