Google’s “Search Plus Your World” Gets Personal

Today is a big day for search results- Google is rolling out its biggest change ever in the “Search Plus Your World” format, which is going to find not only matches from the public Web to display in search results, but also content that has been shared with users privately. The change is live today, but it will take a few days up until the full launch before everyone will notice it. For now, users who are signed in to Google.com and performing searches in English will be able to use it.

So how will you know when you are experiencing the new change in Google’s search format? You’ll be able to see an alert from Google that contains a message for you at the top of your search results, informing you about the change going into effect. Overall the “Search Plus Your World” format will make using the Internet much easier for people, giving them access to privately shared content from friends and family members along with public Web information all in a single search, as opposed to searching twice for such content. As can be expected, the format is causing some to worry about private, mainly because some private content might look like it is being displayed publicly, even though it isn’t. Some people are also wondering if private content will be more visible to family members and friends than those who are sharing it would want. There are some questions and issues that people are asking regarding this new format, from how it works to what the concerns are; some of these are detailed below.

Are Personalized Search Results Really New?
Since 2005, Google has offered personalized results in their search engine results pages, or SERPS. In fact, the whole basis of search engine optimization is to deliver customized results based on a user’s interests and search behavior. SEO of course is nothing new, generally speaking. In early 2007, personalized results were expanded and displayed in a new format, and in December of 2009, another change came when Google changed its format so that users didn’t have to elect to receive personlized results. By default, at that point they became available to all users, regardless of whether or not they were signed in to Google. Social search results have been enabled with Google since late October of 2009, with listings being displayed based on people users know through social networks. These results were given a boost in rankings as well. Finally in February of last year (2011), those social results changed to include both content created by people users knew and content they shared through social networks.

Blending Social, Public, and Private Content in Search Results
Users will now see a new “Personal Results” view that will include content that has been shared with them through Google+ social network. Amit Singhal, who manages the ranking algorithms of Google, explained that the social, personal, and personalized search algorithms are now combined into one single algorithm. The intent is to make using the search engine “pleasant and useful”, according to Singhal.
When a person searches for something using Google, there will be an indicator at the top of the page letting them know how many personal results and how many “other” results of their searches were found. Some of the personal results will more than likely be included in the first page of the SERPS. There will also be a red arrow pointing to this indicator, along with a second arrow highlighting a new toggle, which will allow users to choose whether they want these personalized results displayed or not.

What does “Search Plus Your World” mean for SEO and Internet Marketing?
SEO experts and online marketers have questions about the new format too. It seems logical that with new “extra” results being shuffled into the first pages of search results, the only way to make room would be to bump some intermittent public results down the list. Website owners also wonder if their website will see decreases in their page rankings, and the answer to that is “Yes and No”. When users use the toggle to elect to see personalized results, public listings are going to have to make room for those personalized results. When users opt to toggle so that personal listings are not included, public rankings will hold their positions and not be affected by personalized results.

Will all of this bring about a way for search engine optimization pros to get personal with their SEO campaigning efforts by doing more than just social bookmarking? It seems likely.

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