Last week, Google announced that its new Social Network platform, Google Plus, will now effect search results.  The buzz spread like wildfire across the SEO industry. How much of a game changer will this be? Will search engine optimization still matter if search results are now personalized instead of taking the most relevant and trustworthy sites and ranking them accordingly?

It’s no secret that Google’s main goal for the past year has been integrating their new budding social network with their search results. Anyone logged into their Google account with a Google Plus profile will see a different set of results than a searcher not logged in. Google Plus users will have the option of personal or worldwide results. There is an icon at the top right of the SERP that shows a silhouette of a person or a globe, and the Plus user can toggle between the two sets of results.

Clicking on the person icon, the top results for a search will be based on recommendations, or Plus 1’s, that you and the people in your circles have made, or info that others have shared with you. Results with reviews and pluses will have higher ranking then those without. By switching over to the globe, you will see the natural results without these social signals affecting them as directly.

Google has used social signals as a part of their algorithm for years, with personalized results getting a boost.  Twitter follows, Facebook likes and shares, and Yelp reviews have factored in to results; companies have used this buzz to crawl up the rankings. Facebook and Twitter have criticized this change, citing that Google will give preferential treatment to its own social signals, a claim Google has denied.

Other features to Google Plus, like the fact that users must opt-out of the personal search and not opt-in, have led to concerns among users and SEO’s. However, it is easy enough to switch the results back to the global, impersonalized results. There is even a way to permanently remove the personalized results in the search settings. Concerns about privacy are also prevalent, as anyone with access to private information can share it publicly. It is ultimately up to the user who they share info with, but the receiver can post it at their whim, so know your circles. As with anything on the internet, it’s a good rule of thumb that if you wouldn’t want your content on the web, don’t upload it to begin with.

As Google Plus fixes the issues and bugs that are inevitable as it gains in popularity, it will be important to make the most of its features. As the social signals for sites that have “Plus 1’s” will affect their rankings, it will be essential to have your customers, friends, and followers take the time to “Plus 1” your website. While there are already business profiles in Google Plus, expect them to take an even bigger role in the coming year. Add your business and website to the Google Plus universe, and interact with as many people as you can. While you will undoubtedly hear a fair amount of back and forth criticism as this new platform gains traction, the fact is this is a product of Google, the search engine that typically dwarfs all competition. Even if it is never as popular as Facebook or Twitter, it will have an impact on your rankings, so you’ll want to get on board.

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