On January 10th, 2012, Google’s search results underwent what some are calling a radical transformation. Google has begun integrating content that has been shared with you privately via their Google+ social network along with public content on the web. Google calls this Search Plus Your World.
If you are logged into your Google account, and you search at Google, you may come across this mix of personalized search results. Google is calling this “Search Plus Your World” (SPYW). Some like the new search results, but some hate it.
I decided to take a more in depth look at what Search Plus Your World (SPYW) means for your web site’s search engine optimization strategy.
First, some history. As you recall, in October 2011, Google rolled out secure search for Google users who are logged into their Google Account. Since then, we have gotten a good picture of how many users search when they are logged in, and there are reports that the percentage of Google referral search traffic that is “not provided” is anywhere from 2 percent to 17 percent. I have actually heard reports from other colleagues in the search engine optimization industry that they have clients whose Google search referral traffic that is “not provided” can be as high as 79 percent. Take a look at this graph below, provided by Conductor.
We now know exactly why Google took the unprecedented step to make sure that Google Users’ search queries are not passed on as referrers to us: it’s all because of privacy concerns, especially because now the Google Search Results for logged-in users include private data. Google’s decision to withhold referring keyword data is directly related to Google’s Search Plus Your World. For search engine optimization, the lack of keyword referral data, shown as “not provided” in Google Analytics, can be very frustrating. Especially if they keyword phrase is bringing in traffic from Google organic search that is converting very well. When doing search engine optimization for your web site, we always want to pay attention to the actual keywords that are converting into sales or leads. And without that specific keyword referral data, we know less about the keywords to target. I wouldn’t worry too much about this, though, as the data is not totally lost: Google claims that this keyword referral data is still available in Google Webmaster Tools. We just can’t track it back to actual conversions like we normally would.
Let’s take a look at how Google’s Search Plus Your World impacts your Search Engine Optimization strategy for your web site. First, consider the number of Google Users. Although there are apparently about 65 million Google Plus users according to comScore, we are only seeing anywhere from 2 percent to 17 percent of Google users’ search queries being shown as “not provided”. That is only a small percentage of searches.
Now, take a look at the average number of followers that the average Google Plus user actually has: which is about 20 followers, according to CircleCount.com:
So, that leads me to concur that at this time, the actual amount of Google search queries that are performed by Google Users (who are logged into their Google account) that are actually impacted by Google Search Plus Your world are “not much”. The actual search results, even if you are logged in, are not going to be changed that much at all. The average number of followers and “friends” that the average Google user has is not very much at this point: so it will not impact the actual search results. And, combined with the actual number of Google Users who are performing searches is only up to 17 percent based on “not provide” keyword referral data. That is not a significant amount of keyword queries to be concerned about from a search engine optimization perspective.
How to we reach this small number of Google Plus users, from a search engine optimization perspective? It’s really pretty simple, which really is not any different that any other search engine optimization strategy. In fact, I have been recommending this same overall “search and social” SEO strategy since 2003:
- Add great content to your web site. For example, that could be in the form of unique articles, blog posts, and any other content that your users would want to share with others. It could be a special deal on a hotel room, a popular product, or an infographic with good data about your industry.
- Make sure the content is properly optimized. Start with good web design, proper title tag, meta data, heading, images, and well-written content.
- Add the appropriate “social” type of icons so your users can easily share it with others in their network.
- Socialize the content. Don’t be afraid to share it with others very soon (preferably within an hour) of being posted on the site. Share it on all the social networks. Share it on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, StumbleUpon, Reddit, any other social web sites that you frequent. If someone has not already shared the content, don’t be afraid to share it with your own network of followers.
By combining your search engine optimization strategy with your social media marketing strategy, the content on your site will begin to show up in people’s social circles. And hopefully, in those rare cases where a Google Plus user happens to be logged in, and they search for something that one of their other friends or followers has also shared, it might actually show up in the Google Search results.