Posted by Sam Battin, Senior Natural Search Specialist
Search engine users who are logged in to Google are now seeing pages in their search results because those pages are recommended by people who are in their Google+ circles.
For example, when I’m logged in to Google and I search for “Performics,” the third-ranked result is the Performics Twitter feed. Perhaps not un-coincidentally, this particular URL was +1’d by fellow employees who are in my Google+ circles:
Now, the Performics Twitter feed isn’t an unlikely choice for the 3rd result, as this URL delivers content which is useful and relevant to the search query. Not only does having my colleague’s photos below the link offer me a compelling reason to click, but it could be that their +1 caused this result to rank #3. For example, when I’m not logged in to Google, the Performics Twitter page is ranked #5, below the fold.
What was really interesting, though, was a search another colleague here at Performics made for the search term “Video.” “Video” has a local search volume of 101,000,000 searches each month. It’s a pretty generic keyword, and the top-ranked competitors are currently such luminaries as Google Video, CNN Video, and YouTube Video.
When my colleague was logged in to Google, the 9th and 10th results for the query “Video” were two URLs that were +1’d by people in his Google+ circles some time ago. As you can see, one URL was “Shared” (e.g. posted on Google+) and the other URL was +1’d:
In all fairness, these two pages had no business being in the top 10 for a generic search like “Video.” The pages themselves did offer good content related to “video,” but the content was of a very specific nature and had nothing to recommend it. It’s likely that aside from the +1s and shares in my colleague’s Google circles, these pages would not have made it into the top 10.
Implications for Google+ for Businesses
This could have implications for businesses that set up Google+ pages. According to our initial tests, your results are slightly different if you happen to be in a company’s circle.
For example, I went to the WWE’s Google+ page and clicked “Add to Circles.” When I did a search for “Wrestling” on Google, the WWE site showed up at #1 (not a surprise) and I was informed that the WWE shared the link:
When I did a search for a related subject, “Lucha Libre,” the main page for WWE.com showed up as the #47 result (though without the site links such as “Raw,” “SmackDown,” etc.):
When I’m not signed in to Google, I don’t see the WWE home page result. Of course, in this instance the #47 result is way below the fold and I’d likely never see it in a normal search, but what’s important to note is that the result only appears because I’m logged in and in their circle. If I wasn’t in this brand’s circle, I wouldn’t see the result. This held true with certain other brand-related searches (e.g. when I’m logged in, the WWE.com main page is the #12 result for “John Cena,” and when I’m not the main page doesn’t appear in the top 100).
This is certainly something to keep an eye on; if you’re a brand and you share or +1 specific pages, the people who join your circle may have a better chance of seeing those pages if they’re relevant to a specific search. Your business’s Google+ Page may function as a guide for your customers; make sure you’re pointing them to useful pages.
For more info, see our post: Why Your Brand Needs a Google+ Page Now.