Last week Google rolled out one of the biggest moves in search for quite a long time. That might sound a bit over the top but I genuinely believe that “Search, plus your World” (SPYW) or social search will transform the way we all approach online marketing.
And it should come as no surprise. Google first talked about social search back in 2009 and, in many ways, the most interesting fact is that it has taken the company this long to actually roll it out!
The impact on the SEO industry is clear. It will totally transform the way SEO professionals approach the work they do and, while traditional search will be popular for some time to come, Google will aim to move SPYW into the mainstream as quickly as possible.
Of course, not everyone has welcomed this move with open arms. SPYW is almost entirely focused on Google+ at the moment, as you might expect. This has caused outcry from other social networks – such as Twitter – and also from other parts of the web, with allegations that Google is using it’s all-commanding position to force this new network into our lives.
[It was actually Twitter itself though that decided not to renew its search deal with Google last year, even though it did renew a similar agreement with Bing.]
For social search to work in the future, these other networks will have to be included. Whether or not Google expected this level of backlash is unclear, but moves to integrate Twitter and Facebook must surely now be at the top of its to do list.
Of course Bing and Facebook have had a ‘social search relationship’ for some time (and Microsoft does hold shares in Zuckerberg’s network) even if access to it is opt-in.
Earned media FTW
But what about PR? SEO is a massive opportunity for the tech PR industry and social search is a great illustration of this point. The truth is that search is a fundamental part of a company’s reputation; something that PR has always been concerned with.
Whereas organic SEO focuses on ‘gaming’ the system by optimising sites and/or obtaining links in the wider web, it will be much harder for social search to be gamed in this way – which is one reason why Google is so keen to push it.
With SPYW, searchers will – so the argument goes – have more relevant results (based on the opinions of their peers) and companies will find it much harder to boost their rankings artificially.
As with any form of social media marketing, the focus for businesses will be on producing quality content – or social objects – that will encourage audiences to interact and engage.
There are no shortcuts here, so it is not hard to see how PR will have a powerful role to play. It’s a natural extension of what we currently do for the tech PR campaigns we run.
Of course, these are early days and it remains to be seen how quickly the general populous will adopt social search. But, if Google has its way – and it often does – this trend looks set to skyrocket throughout 2012 and beyond.