This week Google rolled out Search plus Your World; a new ‘personal search’ that merges people, posts, and +1’d pages with usual search results. So, is personal search the death of SEO as we know it?
Twitter immediately called this ‘bad for the internet’ and many people have called this Google’s attempt to dominate social media. However, Google is defending itself by claiming that if Twitter (and other sites) open up their APIs then they will include them in the personal search results. If this happens, along with predictions that Search plus Your World will soon include Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendars, etc. then it will completely change the way we search.
For the first time ever, you will be able to search through all of your personal online information – anything from a Tweet to a sent email can be searched through, as well as activity from your friends.
The ramifications of this are huge – imagine being able to stare at a list of every piece of information you have written or shared (or that has been shared with you), sorted by a keyword. A search for ‘dog’ would bring up all photos, emails, posts, and appointments with the word dog in. Incredible.
However, there are also ramifications for SEO. Another benefit of a personal search is that all results appear with the assumption that you or your friends have recommended them. Websites with multiple +1s (and Tweets and Likes in the future possibly) from your friends. Suddenly all those years of link building and designing websites for search engine bots seem wasted. Now it is all about humans.
You will only appear in search results if people are talking about you, people will only talk about you if you provide content they want to share. Content marketing becomes incredibly important, not for links but for social shares. So what can you do to prepare for these changes?
Firstly, don’t give up on SEO. Many people are rejecting Google’s changes and we might see a mass migration to Bing or people will simply opt to click ‘global search’ instead of ‘personal search.’ Secondly, concentrate on your social media strategy and content strategy. SEO used to be about search robots, often at the cost of user experience. User experience is now key.
The biggest losers in this change are (as usual) black-hat SEOs. Those who have been gunning for Number 1 for everything at the expense of human interaction. Throwing content up without bothering to share it or even encouraging people to read it, it’s all for robots anyway, isn’t it? Well, those people won’t ever appear in personal search results.
Google is right to use social sharing as a method of making its search results more useful. After all, the goal of Google is to produce the results that searchers want. What better way to do that than to use social signals?