Your Friend Shared this on Google+


Many people still consider social media and search two different things. They will even say things like “SEO is dead and will be replaced by SMO”. In reality by now there is only social search.

Most people do not log out of Google when searching and latest Google changes even actively prevent you from logging out so that your search results get personalized all of the time. In fact it takes real effort to de-personalize your search results. You have to

  • log out of Google
  • delete your browser history
  • remove cookies
  • wipe out the invisible Flash cookies (you need a special tool for that)

and even then you will get results customized to your location. Also despite those steps Google will still show me personalized ads so that there must be some level of personalization going on elsewhere I don’t know of. Of course most people do not even try to get a not personalized search experience unless they switch to DuckDuckGo which offer it by default.

So at the end of the day we are facing social search results. How can we actually influence these? How can we optimize for them? Do we even need to? Should we? I ask myself such questions all the time. While at it I already optimize a bit for social search. What exactly does that mean?


Social search on Google


As you see above in the first partial screen shot I rank with two sites for [link building success]. My articles rank at 2 and 4 respectively. When I log out and search for the query on a clean browser without cookies I see the second article on Positionly below the top 5 but still on the first page, at #7. So I and my friends see it higher up on the search results. My Ahrefs post ranks at #2 in any case.

The screen shot directly above shows how you can even rank on top for major one word keywords in personalized aka social search results on Google.

Here I rank #2 for Picasa when logged in with a Google+ update of mine. My closer Google+ friends will see me for [picasa] for awhile or rather could have done it as the time is already over. Sometimes it’s a few hours, sometimes it’s days.

You just need to add a headline of your own containing the desired keywords. Some of the most renowned Google+ experts write whole stories with a link they share. I prefer only to add a headline of my own adding some common keywords people would search for usually.


Search on Google+


You can search directly on Google+ as well to get the latest shares by real people served in the results. I have tested those a bit recently. Of course I have only anecdotal evidence but it’s apparently easy for me to show on top of these results when I search for keywords I shared articles about recently. Even when logged out you can find my shares on top for many searches.

With almost 10,000 followers on Google+ and almost daily engagement there I’d expect a prominent position but this impact surprised me nonetheless.

In the screenshot above I rank for [forms ux] even when logged out. As you see Google+ wants me to join. So these results could be replicated by anybody not just my friends. At first I thought that maybe the hashtags I added for both keywords made me ran that high but it’s not always the case. I also rank without hashtags for other keyword pairs. See the next example of [sitting kills]:



Remember that I’m not the best known UX (User Experience) expert so it’s not that obvious that I rank there. Neither am I an expert on health issues and I rather seldom deal with them in my Google+ stream.

You may wonder whether there were many results for such an outlandish keyphrase in the first place but there were! There’s even a new book called “Sitting Kills…” by a former NASA doctor and researcher. It’s pretty popular and many posts referenced it. So there was considerable competition.

Of course your shares do not stay on top forever as already mentioned above. The [forms ux] search does not show me anymore unless I’m logged in. It’s about time-sensitive sharing then. When you expect a rise in demand you need to share timely. It’s likely though that your competition will do the same. By now you have to scroll for a while too to find my [sitting kills] update.

Even in case Google+ will be disbanded or left to rot like many other Google services social search will stay with us. There is no way back.

Last updated on May 6th, 2014: Added three links thanks to suggestions in the comments!