Improving Google Search Results with Google Circles

Get Better Google Search Results with Google Social

By Rob FallaYour Presence Online

The guys and gals at Google have been working hard to improving your search experience. They have been forced to because the quality of Google search results has been suffering for some time now thanks in no small part to the efforts of search engine optimization practitioners who place a greater premium on fees then on content and use all manner of underhanded techniques to improve the positioning of a page. Google circles offers some hope that your search results will be better soon. If Google implement Google social search or Google circles properly we should all see better search results soon.

Why Google Needs Fixing

From the start Google has built a major flaw into the search engine results positioning algorithm (the computer program that decides where a particular page belongs in the results list). The flaw is inherent in the assumption that the more links to a page the more important, and therefore relevant, that page must be. It was such an obvious flaw that thousands of pages of what can only be described charitably as crap have been pushed to the top of the search results listings, simply by littering the internet with links back to those crap pages.

With many Social Media ‘gurus’ predicting Google being displaced by Twitter as the search tool of choice (and there are good justifications for such musings), what else could they do.

So Google has gotten serious about social search, but they seem to have applied the innovative breaks a bit early.

Manipulating Search Engine Results Positioning is Profitable

What is the prize for being in the top position? There was a leaked document making its rounds some time back showing that something not so far from 40% of us click the first link displayed in our search results. We do this because we believe Google ensure the first link will always contain the results most relevant to our search, the second link will still be highly relevant, just not as relevant as the first, and on… and in theory that is how it is supposed to work. Apparently fewer than 2% of us will ever bother to look at any results after the 4th page.

If you are selling low cost goods you can make a lot of money by being having your page appear first in the search engine results positioning. People are investing a lot of money in an attempt to secure a place on the first page of a search but especially in the coveted first position of the first page. They know that their money well spent because they will get lots of clicks to their page. They can use that to provide links to affiliate systems or to push cheap products just as easily as to provide valuable and relevant (to the search term) content.

Top Search Engine Optimization Tip:

Do you want to know “how to get to the top spot”?

Well, it would be really good if you got to the top spot by having a good reputation as a merchant.
That is how it works… in theory. You cram your page with lots of quality content, lots of meta data, lots of images, and a meta description. You get people, your happy customers, to post links to your page. The good quality content and use of meta data and referrals all roved evidence of the quality of your page. Google reward you for all the work you put into the page and site by giving you the top spot.

In theory that is what happens today. In practice things as we discussed above.

In short: People are paid money to ensure a specific merchant website appears at the top of the list. They do this by littering the web with lots of links back to that page, those links have no real value, they are often created using bots, and they are often inserted into blog and article comments. Worse, their comments often have no relevance to the article they purport to be commenting on.

Google are trying, they really are, to make search better. With all the SEO efforts it is difficult to find the results you really want without writing as full a search phrase as possible. It does look like social searching will make search better.

Enter Google Social Search (Google Circles)

Sure, you will now see social results from your friends, but there are a number of limitations on this assertion. First, Social search is only available on http://www.google.com at the moment. Like many people living outside of the United States I prefer to use my national variant. As of today, March 17th 2011, “Social” as an option does not exist on http://www.google.co.uk. Ok, so I would be prepared to switch to using the .com version if it meant my search results would be better, but it doesn’t. Even on http://www.google.com Social searching is a search filter instead of an integrated part of your search results. By selecting the “Social” option you exclude all other search results. I did a test search and was only served three results. I appreciate that the number of results will improve as more of my friends and colleagues create and populate their Google profiles, but thin Google can do better.

Google Circles Limitations

Google Social only works if you and your friends have a Google profile and have linked your other social profiles to your Google profile using the Google interface (not OAuth). But this integrated social search feature is of limited value.
Yes, you can select the “Social” search results in Google, which will give you the results of social searches, but that excludes other results.

Google circle only provides results from your contacts on their postings. There does not appear to be any sort of analysis and weighting of other pages based on the posting, liking, retweeting habits of my community.

Social Search Could Improve Relevance

It is a Google tool. Therefore, you must be signed into your Google account for it to work.
But if you are the only one of your friends who are signed into Google you will not get much out of it.
So you need to be signed into Google and your friends, contacts need to be signed into Google.

But there is more!

If you really want to make the circle concept of social search work you, and your friends, and your friends of friends, need to link your other social accounts to you Google account. This is simply done. Much easier then linking HootSuite to Twitter, for example. Google are not looking to access your other accounts in any overt way. Actually Google are only going to use the social media account names (user name) so they can scrape and create the circle of friends.

The idea is that if the people in your social media circle are using a particular resource you are more likely to find that resource relevant. You can think of this as crowd sourcing with a local twist (local to your ‘community’ without necessarily being local to you). When talking with clients and at seminars about this issue I describe it as you meta-community. Those people who share common interest with you but do not live in your neighbourhood, town, region, country, or even continent. Search will become amazingly relevant and powerful as a business tool if Google get this right.

I have added several social media accounts to my Google account, so I will be contributing to the circle of others, but if my connections do not add their social media accounts to their Google account my results will be pretty much as they are today.

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