by Chris Horton
Google+ has been becoming increasingly involved in your search results starting with the footnoted results that allowed you to see links or places that you or people in your circles had visited previously. This was a great tip to let you know where you had been before or what your friends or coworkers found value in.
As of today, however, Google Plus has taken it even further by now including your personal photos, friends photos, etc into the SERP’s. It initially shows personal image results that are relevant to your search, but when you click on “Show Personal Results”, whoa Nelly. It shows you the image results you had seen previously, along with all relevant content posted from friends and family that contain that keyword term that you searched for.
Now while this is all neat ans fancy, what implications does this have for SEO? Let’s ask some questions and assume answers.
Will sites that relied on image results take a hit on that first SERP?
If you look at what’s happening now, the end result is Yes. Stock photo communities stand to lose quite a bit when that first page real estate they once had is now replaced by a person’s personal images. While it’s understood that there would have to be a relevant term that matched a personal photo for their images to be pushed out, the possibility still exists and will be worth watching.
Even in our example below, you can see that the image results show three rows of our personal images before displaying images on other sites even without clicking for personal results. A cause for alarm for photographers and stock photo companies.
How will it affect the first page results?
A lot. A Google search for the term “SEO Experts” gave us two results on the first page because we were logged into our Google account. The other notable thing is that the SERP’s were then increased from 10 spots to 11 when you’re logged in, which doesn’t count shopping or image results. Log out and perform the same search and not only is it less real estate, but the results are back down to 10. The increase to 11 slots was most definitely to account for the personalized entries, but if you notice, THREE of the entries on the “logged in” page are not present on the “logged out” version. Which begs to question, was adding 1 slot enough?
It’s designed to make it personal right out of the gate without even clicking on personal results, but people not involved with SEO or how Google makes those decisions may make incorrect assumptions based on those results. And we can’t think of many people that don’t have a Google account in some form or fashion for Gmail, Google+, Reader or something else. And if they are, they’ll get a whole new SERP and not even know why. We’re waiting for the uninitiated to start bragging about how they’re on the first page of Google. While it’s an anomaly that’s nothing new, it’s even more prevalent now.
Will it be harder to get on the first page of Google now?
The short answer is No, but as time progresses and more people sign on to Google’s various services, the answer inevitably becomes Yes. Especially since in our random tests, 30% to as much as 50% of the results on the “logged in” version aren’t present when compared to the “logged out” version.
That means at minimum, there’s a 30% less chance that your business won’t be on that first page if a person is logged into their Google account. Or if you’re a “glass half full” type of person, a 30% chance that you will be on that page when the person logs out. But just how many folks do you think that will be at the rate Google is pushing their services?
And we’re sure there are tons more questions that need to be answered, but for now, this opens the doors for all types of questions for SEO professionals. While the changes are positive for the user, it makes the front page real estate even more difficult to master and as more people begin to utilize the Google+ service, the less probability that a new site will be able to crack that top 11.
Needless to say there’s a lot of positive things that will come of it, not to mention that Google will most certainly utilize your personal information even more to push relevant ads to you, steer you first to content residing on Google, or very simply making mad money off of you and all under the guise of “a personal experience”. You read that fine print when you signed up for Google services, right?
But the real question is figuring out how you, as a small business owner, can capitalize on these changes. That’s not an electrical fire you’re smelling. That’s your brain on Google+.