The last few months have been crazy if you are a 'Google watcher', somebody who follows the goings on of Google and other search engines. Google has been derided on several occasions recently. Most of the time it only has itself to blame.
A number of different projects have been under development at Google, one of which has been predicted ever since Google+ made its entrance. Indeed, a number of different articles we wrote at State of Search all saw Google heading this way. This project will significantly change the way we search and the way we as website owners work. That project is Google Search Plus Your World.
What is Google Search Plus Your World?
For those not familiar with Google's latest update, Google Search Plus Your World (SPYW) was launched a few weeks ago on the Google.com properties. Until now other top-level domain's like .co.uk have not been updated yet, so you won't see this new development might not be available to you yet. Although if you go to Google.com and log in, you might see a whole different world: your world.
Google has started to integrate "social" results into the search results. At the moment these are social results coming only through Google properties (that's one of the drawbacks, promoting only its own content), like Google+ or Blogger for example.
Mixed in with the regular search results you'll notice results that are 'promoted' in your social circle. You will see that people you know have shared that specific piece of content on social properties from Google, or that they are the authors of that specific piece of content.
Now in some cases, or at the moment that will be in most cases, the 'shared' result would be displayed even if nobody had shared it. There might also be results which would not be displayed were it not for your personal profile. It's likely we will see a lot more of these in the future.
Now, it's personal
Google has now personalised the results in an extensive way, but don't let this fool you because it has been doing this for years. Now though, it has been extended in a big way.
It's not necessary to view rankings in an entirely different way. Two people doing the same search might see completely different results. More importantly, they will be seeing content from people they trust as either author or the one sharing the content.
This is incredibly important! Why? Take a look at yourself. If you eat in specific restaurants, there's a very good chance you started going there because somebody recommended it to you. People tend to trust the opinions of friends or colleagues.
Now if those people were to show up in the search results, 'promoting' a specific result, what do you think people will click on..?
So what does this mean for affiliates and other website owners? It means that Google has added another factor, next to the 'regular' ranking factors: authority.
Authority means two things will happen: results might be given a higher position in the rankings. In some cases that might be a few spots, but others you might see a specific page ranking on the first page that normally ranks on say page 50 or so.
Google pushing authority
What we are seeing is that Google is making a concerted effore to push authority in the search engine results pages (SERPs). There are a few different ways in which Google focuses on the social authority here. First there's the "People and Pages" feature related to the search term in the sidebar. This is a direct link to Google+. Then there is the "shared by" links below posts from people within your social circle and thirdly Google is playing with its Google suggest options by recommend names of people you might know when you start typing.
The most important aspect is the Author authority. If you search for a topic you are usually active on and you know other people around you are as well, you will see people recommending results in addition to author information:
The author information which is shown here has multiple 'triggers'. There is the image of the author, the name of the author and a link to his or her Google+ Page. There is also meta information regarding the social strength of the author (how many circles he or she is listed in) and a link to more results from that specific author.
All of this can be triggered by implementing the "rel=author" to your pages. Be careful though: the actual implementation this is simple, but getting it to work is a bit harder because Google decides whether or not you're allowed this kind of visibility.
Authority and personalisation will play a role in several ways. One example of this is how Google has altered Google Suggest to now also recommend people in your network when you start typing.
How should you harness this potential?
Personalisation is unlikely to be a feature affiliates will warm to. I've had talks in the past few weeks about this topic where people ask me several times if they should be optimising their own profiles to push their sites and products this way. The remark that accompanied this was: "I don't want that because I don't want my personal profile to be connected to a business one."
It is not about that though. It is not just about your own profile. Yes, your own profile can help, but the profiles you should be looking for are the people who already have a higher authority in your niche. Those that already show up in the SERPs. You need to find people who will recommend your sites to their networks. That is what will show up in the SERPs of your potential visitors.
You have to use social media, and Google+ in particular, to spread your message because only then is it picked up by Google and shown in the SERPs.