The Effect of Google’s Experiments on SEO and Search Engine Results

Google is always testing and experimenting with new and creative ways to display the best possible result for your Internet search. This experimentation has made it more challenging for SEOs to stay on top of Google’s frequent changes to their top secret search engine ranking algorithm.

In Google’s mind, if we don’t click on the top result they feel that they failed us by not providing us the most relevant result first. Although they’ve done a pretty good job at figuring out what websites should rank #1 for each search (the #1 search engine result receives 42% of all the search traffic and the #2 result only gets 12%), Google will continue to experiment with and adjust their algorithm until they’ve perfected the search engine results.  Herein lies the challenge for SEOs and search engine marketers.

A little over a year ago, Google began showing us results based on our previous searches. For example, pretend that earlier in the day we were searching for apples, bananas and Florida exports. If we then searched for “orange,” Google would display us results for a fruit instead of displaying results for the color orange.  Why would we need to see a website about the color orange when we clearly were interested in the fruit? This was one of Google’s first experiments with search context.

Then earlier this year, Google announced major updates to their Google Social Search feature. The updates meant that search engine results could be altered based on your social graph. For instance, if you’re looking for information on Florida orange groves and your Facebook friend, Bill, wrote a blog post about his recent trip to a Florida orange grove, his blog post would be bumped up higher in the search results. Below the search engine listing for Bill’s blog post, Google will show Bill’s picture and a quick note that says, “Bill Johnson shared this.” With these improvements to Google Social Search, Google assumes (and usually rightfully so) that we’ll value the recommendations of our social graph higher than a random website.

And now, Google announced the testing of the Google +1 button. While still in the experimentation phase and not available to the general public yet, the +1 button is Google’s attempt at the Facebook “Like” button or Twitter’s “Share” button. Google’s intent is to encourage webmasters to include a +1 button next to their other social sharing buttons on their websites. With the +1 button, website visitors can easily recommend a website to their social graph. But, instead of the recommendation showing up on a social network, the recommendation will show up in Google search results with your friend’s picture and a note that says, “Bill Johnson +1’d this.”

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Some marketers fear that these new social features will negatively affect their websites’ search engine rankings based on their current SEO strategy, and unless marketers understand the value of incorporating a social element into their SEO strategy, these marketers’ fears could become reality.

What do you think? Have you tried incorporating the social graph into your SEO plan? Has your website’s ranking been affected (positively or negatively) by Google’s social experiments? Please share your experiences/thoughts in the Comments below.

Phil Wocken is the Director of Emerging Media at d.trio marketing group. He rants, reviews and reports on the latest social media and emerging media news, technologies and strategies.

d.trio

d.trio marketing group is a full-service marketing services agency (marketing management, direct marketing, SEO, social media, design and email) based in Minneapolis, MN. d.trio provides clients with innovative strategy and award-winning creative.

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