Posted February 17, 2011 2:33 pm by with 6 comments

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookBuffer this page

I’ve never been a big fan of adding as many “friends” to my social networks as possible. Why add unwanted noise to my socially-connected world?

Well, I’m now even more glad that I’ve been selective with who I friend and follow because Google just shoved everyone into my search results.

First, social search results will now be mixed throughout your results based on their relevance (in the past they only appeared at the bottom). This means you’ll start seeing more from people like co-workers and friends, with annotations below the results they’ve shared or created. So if you’re thinking about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and your colleague Matt has written a blog post about his own experience, then we’ll bump up that post with a note and a picture:

To be fair, Google’s not just forcing these new social results on me–I have to connect my networks with my Google profile–but if you’ve connected your accounts, and not been selective in your friends, you’re about to see a lot more avatars in your SERPs. And Google’s about to get even more aggressive in getting you to connect your social networks:

In addition, if our algorithms find a public account that might be yours (for example, because the usernames are the same), we may invite you to connect your accounts right on the search results page and in your Google Account settings:

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. If we accept that the days of everyone seeing the same ten blue links are over, and, we accept that spammers are still going to want to try and get their craptent in front of you; what do you think is going to happen? My guess? Spammers are going to do their best to weasel their way into your social network so that they can push their content higher up in your search results?

Of course, Google’s not confirming that “shared” content will be given a boost in its search results:

So is Google using social signals to alter the actual results? Yes and no. In some cases they are, in some cases they’re not, Cassidy says. He declined to get into specifics, noting that it was a part of their special sauce. But he did say that there are several things that the algorithm now takes into account from a social perspective on top of all the other more traditional signals.

And when Google plays coy, it’s typically because we’re on to something it’s not quite ready to reveal to you, me….or the spammers. 😉

  • Roshni

    Totally agree! This is my biggest problem with most social media sites; the unnecessary drama they add to your life vis-a-vis the above. I wish they’d keep it simple for simpletons like myself (and you too clearly). Honestly, the fact that we have to sit and sieve through people we don’t want to add along with new apps on a daily basis is now infuriating!

  • Good thought-provoking article Andy. Raises a few questions doesn’t it?!
    What kind of % will really be using signed in search with accounts linked to social media. In total maybe 5%? And I’d say that’s probably optimistic for now.
    From an SEO perspective how much influence can you have as search becomes super-personal..?
    Will this influence the way people follow on Twitter, share on Facebook etc?
    Will the new (there’ll be more soon I’m sure!) Facebook privacy settings make it even easier for advertisers to get in front of you not just on FB but on Google?
    Cheers for sharing the thoughts

    • All great questions–if only I knew the answers! 😉

  • Interesting how Google does all of these things THEN they throw in that you need to be connected through Google with your friends who may not be so these things can happen.

    Think about the world that is not thinking like Google engineers thinks (which is likely to be about 99.999% of the planet)! I bet you’ll be surprised what you find. But hey, you guys know better since you have that human to human support thing licked, right?

  • dean


    Re: Spammers are going to do their best to weasel their way into your social network so that they can push their content higher up in your search results?

    Spammer, yes, but doesn’t this also mean that for legitimate businesses ‘social relationship building’ is the new ‘link building‘ and that we are seeing the convergence of social, search, and SEO?

  • Andy, one begins to wonder if all this social stuff is a useful a measurement factor as the search engines have been touting for the past year. I am of firm belief that 20% of all links are for spam or SEO manipulation reasons.

    Sometimes it seems that in business you are ligitimized by how much money you have. For instance, in the yellow pages (and possibly in the real world) the companies that can afford the biggest ad have the best confidence factor for a consumer to make a decision. The extra size for ad content also helps them share key differentiators. In the content world is it now those that can afford the most content writing or link building efforts? Is it those with the most “friends?”

    What will be the future standard? My opinion is that the future of web authority has too many “Fishing Stories” that are labeled as “experiences.”

    I like the idea of turning these signals off. Is Matt Cutts listening?