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Google’s ‘Search Plus Your World’ + Your Website

Earlier this week Google announced a major update for logged in users that they dubbed “Search Plus Your World”. SEO’s and Social Media Marketers almost immediately reacted negatively to the news viewing it as an aggressive push for Google’s own social media network. Protesters claimed it is destructive to the current social websites enjoyed by hundreds of millions of users around the world and disruptive to the natural organic rankings that Google is so well known for.

Danny Sullivan has been covering the issue from the moment the word was announced and has sided solidly with the rest of the industry. However, Google is not backing down. Matt Cutts Tweeted about it and Google had read-write-web cover the launch. Some have said it effectively just made Bing the best search engine; others have hailed it as big step forward for the search giant.

If you’re a website owner you probably don’t care about any of the arguments about the open web, how this ruins Google’s credibility, how creepy it is that your privately shared content is now showing up in search results, how this might attract more attention from the FTC or how this makes it harder for Eric Schmidt to tell congress that Google doesn’t have other products besides search. You probably just want to know how it might affect your ability to market your website and gain traffic in the search engine.

You were here

See that? When a user is logged in and has “personal” set (which seems to be the default) they get a nice big social highlights box above the ads on the right hand side. If you use PPC and thrive in the position 4 or 5 your honey hole is about to dry up.

With the introduction of images in this social highlights box (or more correctly the Google+ highlights box) users are going to be more drawn and attracted to this area and since these are above the ads you can expect to see a lower click through rate (and lower quality score?) on your ads. That means, depending on your industry, you could see more competition for the top 3 ads and that means the ads will become more expensive thanks to the bidding process.

Somewhere I hear Aaron Wall silently nodding his head and whispering ‘I told you so’, or shouting it pretty loud…one of the two. Just like with the “not provided” data from logged in users the line from Google will probably be that this will be of minimal impact to your PPC and they might even do some sort of adjustment so the cost doesn’t skyrocket, but there won’t be a lot of ways to get traffic back to those advertising in the right hand column, it’ll be time to pay up or find a new source of traffic to replace the lost visitors.

If my friends know whats most relevant why do I need Google?

Google has been doing Universal Search for years pulling in content from their vertical search services like Images, News and Video; and displaying this content somewhere in the SERPs. These Universal listings generally take up the same amount of space or just slightly more as a normal SERP listing for a webpage.

The new Search Plus Your World comes with some universal like content with images and posts from the individuals Google+ friends and from content they have uploaded or shared on the social network. This makes fighting for attention in the SERPs far more difficult and increases the value of having your content shared on Google+. Something that the search engine is likely trying to accomplish with this controversial move.

If you’ve been noticing a considerable percentage of “not provided” keywords coming into your site for the past few months then you can likely anticipate a percentage of traffic loss from Google as the search engine rolls this feature out to all users. The amount of loss to anticipate is hard to decipher due to the fact that Google decided to not provide website owners with some way of knowing the keywords that brought logged in users to the website. Currently the only search terms that appear to be trigging the ‘Plus Your World, feature are very generic in nature, like “music” which is depicted in the screenshots above. So if you live off of the long tail you can breathe easy for now.

[side note: We’ve been working to figure out a process for discovering traffic loss. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments below].

What the future holds for Google’s Search Plus Your World feature is anyone’s guess. Will they be forced to stop this by government entities or industry pressure? Will Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks get invited to be featured in the highlight box? Will marketers get any data from logged in users such as keywords or when content from the social graph is included in search results? For now we have to sit on the sidelines and watch as Google undergoes dramatic changes.


  1. “Some have said it effectively just made Bing the best search engine”

    Really? Honestly?! Whilst the way Google goes about its business and the methods it deploys, might not be to everyone’s taste, Bing has a LONG way to to go before they are even considered an equal to Google, let alone superior.

    Personally, I’m a fan of Google; regardless of what they keep throwing at site owners in way of obscuring KW data etc, they still (as of writing this comment) produce easily the best experience for the end user with the most relevant search results and least invasive adverts. If they’re providing the best service for the end user, this *SHOULD* translate to the best targetted traffic for media owners.

    I appreciate this is quite a simplistic and idealistic viewpoint, but hey, it’s a comment post!!

    • I won’t say I disagree, I just sifted through comments on twitter (not google+) to see what folks were saying about the upgrade. The result was a varied mix of opinions including an angry Hitler:

      Amit and Matt have said it plenty of times, the goal isn’t to appease the marketers, it’s to appease the users and improve experience. Personally I dont see shoving organic around to put less relevant things from my ‘friends’ in the SERPs as a user-friendly initiative. To me it’s a blatant way of pushing the least used social network and ignoring the most use.

      I would rather see annotations to the SERPs highlighting them much like this blog post is with twitter, facebook, and google +1. Heck even include Reddit please!

      This blog post, however, was more about the impact website owners can expect. As organic traffic losses mount we’ll see more spam on Google+, so you better get in early, and more competition in PPC thanks to ads being shoved down and organic losses.

      Basically Google probably knows they are going to see some negative reaction, a monetary bump on ~15% of keywords and likely some users going to other search engines like Bing, DuckDuckGo and Blekko. Their hope is probably that more users instead of leaving sign up for Google+ and get involved in the social serps and more marketers will complain less and push G+ to clients.

      p.s. the read-write-web piece is clearly Google written propaganda and was the only positive news piece i’ve read about the update so far. The rest have been neutral or negative. feel free to post more positive ones here.

      • I would hazard a guess that those who drift from Google to Bing et al, will gradually drift back. I await to see the effects of it all anyhow.

        • A friend of mine is an electrical worker, one of the guys that climb the poles to fix things. He switched to duckduckgo without even asking me about it. His pc, his laptop all switched to it for the home page. I was pretty surprised but he said he didn’t want to be tracked when he searches and decided Google and Bing will do that.

          not saying my friend is a good measure of society, but there are people out there who simply dont want this and will use a lesser-known search engine if they can. Bing will also 1-up Google because they have the facebook and twitter feeds, if they can find a way to display it better Google’s SPYW will pale in comparison.

          Remember pre-2000 search engines operated mostly the same utilizing the meta data and a few other factors to rank pages. When Google’s formula proved superior to them consumers flocked to it, laughed at those who used others and gave Google their dominant market position.

          But today rankings based on link analysis and other factors is getting pretty easy to duplicate. Blekko, Bing, DuckDuckGo and others are popping up. In the pre-2000 times consumers had a multitude of search options, we might be seeing an era like that coming again, which is possibly why Google is forcing social so hard.


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