Play along with me here for a minute.
Imagine some drunk wandering down the sidewalk at 3 in the morning. He’s got a cigarette dangling from his lip and a half-empty beer bottle he’s sloshing around in his hand. He’s alternately singing “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” kicking the rearview mirrors of parked cars, and sobbing.
He’s a sad sight — until he slips on the ice in front of your house.
You run out and help him to his feet. He thanks you, pinches your cheek, and says, “I love you man.” You hand him his now empty bottle, shove him off, and think that’s the end of it.
A few days later, however, you get a letter in the mail. It’s from a lawyer, the lawyer of the chap who slipped on the ice in front of your house. Turns out that fall broke his jaw and sprained his shoulder — and now he wants to sue you for medical expenses.
You’ll have to put aside your feelings about personal responsibility, laziness, greed, and the declining condition of the human race for the moment. You need a lawyer.
And the last place you’re going to look is in the phone book. Instead, you’ll ask your friends. Who do they recommend?
Google is in your world now
Whether we are looking for a lawyer, mechanic, or a great restaurant, we look to our friends for recommendations. In other words, we look to people we trust.
The same principle applies online.
We look to social signals when evaluating any piece of content. A blog post with 1,000 Twitter shares is an indication that we probably won’t be disappointed by reading it. The same with a photograph shared more than 600 times on Google+ or a YouTube video with 5 million views.
In other words, social proof is the new marketing.
Well, Google took this idea to another level with Search Plus Your World (S+YW), a search feature that enhances your results with posts, photos and more from your friends. It’s yet another intriguing wrinkle in the ever-unfolding story of authorship and how it may affect search rankings.
While S+YW has been around for awhile, let’s review what it looks like in practice for those people who may be new to the concept.
Try this little experiment
Head over to Google and type in “hide personal results.”
Depending on who’s in your Google+ circles and contacts, you’re going to receive both personal and private results — relevant tips, photos and articles from your friends — right beside other relevant content from the web.
Here are the top two results I received for the phrase “hide your personal results”:
The number one listing is from a gal who has implemented Google’s authorship markup. It helps that she posted on a site with high authority — Lifehacker is a blog brand just about everyone recognizes.
The second result is from a guy I kind of know. In fact, the grey head-and-shoulders icon says this guy is in my Google+ network (he obviously has authorship markup implemented, too).
So, whose article do you think I clicked on? That’s right, Brian Gardner’s. And this, my friends, is how social recommendation in search is now working, thanks to S+YW.
S+YW drastically changed the SEO game
Here’s the deal: because of S+YW you and I will not receive the same results in Google for a given phrase — even if we’re connected on Google+.
We simply don’t have the same search history profile.
What that means is when it comes to measuring our success with the classic SEO metric — page ranking — you need to rethink your strategy because the game has changed.
It’s changed so much that Danny Sullivan said that S+YW was the most radical transformation of Google search results ever.
What this means in the long run is that ranking has become an even more complex equation. Who you know has become an incredibly important factor for most searches. (As always, it’s debatable whether this is a good thing or not.)
Another reason to grow your Google+ network
For example, if you want to land in your network’s search results for the phrase “hide personal results,” you would need to do at least four things:
- Create an epic post on “how to hide personal search results on Google.”
- Publish that post on an authoritative site.
- Get people to link to and share that post.
- Grow your Google+ network.
While you have control over the four above steps in varying degrees, it’s that last point that you probably have the most control over.
Here’s why …
Let’s say you are in more than 1,000 Circles, but you have another 1,000 Gmail contacts. (People who have Gmail accounts have Google+ accounts — even if they don’t know it.)
That means your total net reach in search is more than 2,000 people. Not too bad, since you can extend that reach simply by growing your presence and audience on Google+ (I’ll show you how below — don’t worry, it’s pretty easy).
But things get even better.
Why Google+ is the better social network
See, your network impact on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Pinterest doesn’t extend beyond those social media domains.
Your content is sheltered (which is another reason not to be a digital sharecropper).
On Google+ your network impact extends beyond the social media domain. It follows you across all of Google’s products: Reviews, Maps, Chrome, Ads, Hangouts, YouTube, Drive, Calendar, Wallet.
It follows you across every Google product.
This is what people mean when they say that Google+ is a social layer. And this is why head of Google+, Vic Gundotra, called Google+ “Google 2.0.”
Search has been upgraded by social.
In addition, where a tweet or a Facebook post has a shelf life of 30 minutes at the most, a Google+ post can be found during a search by someone in your network … no matter how old it is.
How to build your personal impact in S+YW
Fortunately, the process for increasing your S+YW influence is pretty straightforward:
- Continue to create more content — The classic SEO advice to stretch your reach in search results through content marketing is still true in an S+YW world. However …
- Continue to grow your Google+ profile — Now you must follow like-minded people, interact with thought leaders, and publish interesting articles, photos, and images on Google+. In other words, use these seven suggestions for building online authority with Google+.
And keep in mind that the growth of your Google+ network is actually exponential. Google+ expert Mark Traphagen explains what this means in his article Your Google Plus Network Is More Powerful Than You Know:
… if one person who has 10,000 Google+ followers (and/or other Google contacts, such as people in her Gmail contacts) follows you, you’ve gained the ability to potentially influence the search of not just one, but 10,000 other people, most of whom don’t even know you exist!
Over to you …
Listen. You simply don’t get this kind of reach on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, or LinkedIn.
This kind of reach is only available through S+YW, which is just one more reason why you should make Google+ an essential component of your content marketing strategy.
Of course, we all need a new social media platform to manage like we need a hole in our head. But here’s the deal … if you value your reputation and your work … if you want to establish online authority and build an audience … if you want to drive more traffic to your website and boost sales and opportunities …
Then get over yourself and get on Google+. We’d love it if you joined us.
There’s a whole new world of content marketing waiting for you. Besides, you’ll need a Google+ account to implement authorship markup — the topic of conversation for the next post in my Author Rank series.
This is the fourth in my series exploring the power and future of Google+ and authorship. You can grab the others right here …
- Why Hunter S. Thompson Would’ve Loved Author Rank (And Why You Should, Too)
- How Google’s PageRank Algorithm Screwed the Online Writer (and What They Did to Fix It)
- Seven Ways Writers Can Build Online Authority with Google+
… and make sure you subscribe to Copyblogger so the next one lands right in your inbox or RSS reader.