Google’s Just Being Social

Over the last year Google has been making a lot of changes. Most of these are moving away from it’s link-based origins. As a SEO Guy I’ve seen, cataloged, understood and adapted to these changes, but this is not enough when planning for the future of website optimization. It is necessary to understand where Google is going and what the intent of these changes are.

Of all the changes to Google this year the Social push is by far the most radical. All the other changes were in some way extensions of previous efforts. So, let’s take a look at where Google Social is going.

Hi there.

My Google+ Page

Google has been putting more and more weight on social cues over the years. They’ve realized that if you want to know what people want you need to listen to what they say. The best way to listen is through social media. There are three major users in social media:

  1. People: Yes people, like you and me, who candidly share information about their likes and dislikes for the world to see online. If you gather up all the information people share you can predict what they are looking for when they search for something online.
  2. White Hat Businesses: These are businesses that try to engage their clientèle by setting up points of access and information about their company. This would include Facebook to let people know what they’re doing, blogs to inform, white papers to educate, videos to supplement and twitter to tie it all together.
  3. Black Hat Businesses: Who try to artificially create what white hat businesses do naturally. Their Facebook is loaded with keywords and links. Bogs? Keywords and links. Twitter? Links to the Keywords and links. And when their activity is, unsurprisingly, not followed by real people they create fake ones to follow, respond and like.

Which ones rank?

Good question. There are two problems I see to properly ranking these. The most obvious and one you’re probably thinking about is how do we stop Black Hat practices from ranking. Google has been doing that for years with other content so their expertise applies. As long as the rest of us continue to provide useful, educational and/or timely content we should be ok on that front.

So Google’s got it covered.

Not quite. The other problem with social media is people and sometimes businesses don’t want you to see everything they’re posting. It’s hard to track links posted when you can’t see that someone has posted them.

But analytics…

Will track if someone clicks on those links, but they don’t track the posts. It’s all about access. Google cant track what it doesn’t have access to. So if Google can’t see that you “like” donuts or “subscribe” to the bagel blog they can’t give the credit to the donut page and the bagel blog.

I do like Donuts

And Google wants to know. That’s why they’ve integrated social media into their search engine. If they can get a piece of that pie they can get rid of the Black Hat folks. If you +1 a page they get a better idea of what you like and can adjust your searches accordingly. They can also give that site credit and bump it up for all other people like you.

Black Hat can +1 too.

That’s true, but they don’t behave like you. You wouldn’t +1 a spam site, scrapping site or a link page and neither would anyone like you. So all the +1s in the world won’t bump it up for you. Even in General search they’ll average out the behaviors of everyone. This means the bad guys would need to represent a significant portion of the searchers to influence search and that would cost way more money than doing it the right way.

So, more donuts on my search?

Google’s mission has always been to organize the world’s information and suggest to you the most useful bits. It’s in their best interests to give you exactly what you’re looking for. They want to do a better job of listening to you.

Sounds friendly.

And that’s why I say that Google is just trying to be social.