The Rise of Social Search (And How to Take Advantage Of It)

The Rise of Social Search (And How to Take Advantage Of It)

Social content is increasingly being used by people to find information and purchase products. Search engines have embraced this trend and are displaying more social content and profiles into it’s results pages and the Knowledge Graph.

Social content appearing in Google search results is nothing new. In fact, it dates back to 2009 when Google introduced an experiment called Social Search which added a new level of personalization to search results by including relevant content from social circles for signed-in users.

In the same year, Google Real-Time Search was introduced which included timely content from sources such as Twitter and Facebook, but was discontinued two years later in 2011 when Google lost access to Twitter’s firehose (Twitter’s API that provided access to tweets as they are shared).

Knowing that people trust recommendations from their friends and peers, in 2012 Google launched Search plus Your World which introduced Google+ posts and pages into signed-in users search results. Fast forward to the present it was announced in February 2015 that Google would once again gain access to Twitter’s firehose and tweets as they are shared in real-time.

In this post, I’m going to show you examples of indexed social content from Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, SlideShare, and Facebook and what you can be doing to optimize and increase visibility for your social content and profiles in Google Search.

How to increase visibility for your Pinterest content in Google Search

Did you know that both boards and pins can “rank” or appear in Google’s search results for keywords that Google finds relevant for your shared content on Pinterest?

Here’s an example of a Pinterest board appearing on the first page of Google’s search results for the keyword “surfboard rack.”

Google search results for the keyword Surfboard Rack on Pinterest

Cool right? But boards aren’t the only types of Pinterest content appearing in Google Search, pins are as well. Here’s a result for the Google search “Ultimate Google Posting Guide.”

Ultimate Google Plus Posting Guide Real Integrated Marekting

How many Pinterest boards and pins are indexed in Google Search?

At the time of writing this post, a search in Google ( returned about 166,000,000 Pinterest results (this number can and will vary depending on when and where you are searching from in the world).

It’s important to note that many of these results are most likely buried deep in Google’s search results pages, so to gain a better understanding of the total opportunity, I turned to the competitive research and analysis tool SEMrush to help me understand how many results were being returned on the first two pages (most likely to get clicks from a Google searcher). The tool returned 5,510,977 Pinterest content surfacing on the first two pages of Google results which included a healthy mix of pages, pins and boards.

Pinterest Organic Search Positions

Increasing search real estate through your Pinterest content

Optimizing your pins and boards can increase the chances that they will surface in both Google and Pinterest search. This additional visibility across channels can work to build your following on the image sharing social network.

How to optimize your Pinterest pins

1. Add a detailed description using specific keywords that accurately describe the topic of the pin. Make descriptions a couple sentences long, tell your readers why they should care, and include a call-to-action

2. Add the correct meta tags and apply for Rich Pins. If you are using WordPress as your CMS and have Yoast’s SEO plugin installed, setting-up article Rich Pins is as easy as enabling Open Graph meta data

3. Validate your Rich Pins using Pinterest’s Rich Pins validator tool

4. Size matters. Making your pins tall not wide improves the experience for mobile visitors. In a test performed by Dustin Stout, he found that the optimal Pinterest pin size is 735px wide and 1102px tall

How to optimize your Pinterest boards

1. Use the main topic of your board as the name. If you’re creating a board about blue vases, blue vases would be a great choice for the board name

2. Add a detailed description (a few sentences) about the topic and include the types of pins users can expect to find on the board

3. Consider adding board collaborators to keep the board active

Twitter profiles and tweets in Google Search

Tweets and Twitter profiles are no strangers to Google Search and are likely to become even more prominent with the recent agreement between Twitter and Google.

Here’s an example of an indexed tweet from user Joshua March that I found in Google search discussing the new partnership:

Indexed tweet about the new twitter, google partnership

At the time of writing this post, Josh had 580 tweets indexed in Google Search. He’s tweeted 10,400 times which gives him an indexation rate of 5.6%.

Number of tweets indexed

How many tweets are getting indexed in Google Search?

In a recent study by Eric Enge and the Stone Temple Consulting team, they analyzed  133K+ tweets, and  found that around 7% were indexed in Google Search. Eric’s study also uncovered a correlation with profiles that have a higher follower count and the indexation rate of tweets for these users.

While it’s not known if Google is exclusively using the number of followers, it’s likely they’re using a combination of metrics to evaluate which tweets to index and from which users.

It’s important to clarify that you don’t need to be following a user for their tweets to appear in your results. Indexed tweets that surface in Google Search seem to be more based on relevance and authority than personalization.

How to increase the chances your tweets will get indexed

As mentioned before, it’s a guess as to the specific factors that are influencing what tweets get indexed, but it’s likely a combination of both authority and popularity metrics are part of the equation.  Use the following tips to increase the authority and popularity of your Twitter profile:

1. Stay active on the network and frequently engage with other users

2. Include rich media e.g. images and videos in your tweets

3. Use keywords and hashtags relevant to what your are sharing in your tweets

4. Include links to your Twitter profile from your website and other social profiles

5. Thank and engage with any users who follow you

6. Create lists to help categorize the users that you follow

It’s possible that once Google starts crawling and indexing tweets in real time, searchers will notice an uptick of tweets appearing in search results. This additional visibility represents an exciting opportunity for active users to build their following and make their Twitter accounts destinations.

Google+ and the incredible power of personalized search

Did you know that Google+ posts, pages and communities all get crawled by Googlebot and can appear both inside and outside of personalized search? A personalized search occurs anytime a user performs a logged-in search from any Google property including Gmail, YouTube, Google Play, Google Analytics, etc. Google uses your search history in conjunction with your connections to display results if feels are relevant to your search.

Personalized search represents an incredible opportunity for users to bypass many of Google’s traditional ranking factors and instead become visible based on an element of social trust. Other Google+ users that have you in a circle and engage with your posts may be served results that include posts you’ve shared that Google feels are relevant to the user’s search.

To provide you with an example of a personalized search in action, here’s a screenshot from a logged-in search I performed for the query “content marketing.”

Google+ personalized search results

Both Jason Darrell and Ryan Hanley are in my circles and users that I engage with frequently on Google+. You’ll notice the Wikipedia result is appearing below both Ryan and Jason’s posts which showcases how personalization and search history lead to social content that’s often ranking higher than authoritative, trusted websites in Google Search.

Google+ communities can rank outside of personalized search

Before the Google Authorship program was discontinued, the Google Authorship and Author Rank community on Google+ had become a destination for users to discuss, share, and learn more about utilizing Google Authorship. Because the community was actively moderated, it provided a great user experience and as as result earned many links.

Google authorship and author rank

This combined with other factors has made the community visible outside of personalized search. This community isn’t alone in that other large, active, communities on Google+ are surfacing for relevant queries outside of personalized search.

How to increase the visibility of your Google+ content in personalized search

1. Stay active and engage frequently with other users

2. Include relevant keywords in the first line of your title (Google+ uses the first line of your post as thetag)

3. Work to make your profile or page a destination by embedding posts into your website’s posts and pages, and including links from your website and other social profiles

SlideShare presentations are indexed and appear in Google Search

SlideShare is the world’s largest community for sharing presentations and presents marketers and businesses alike with an opportunity to get discovered in Google Search.

Here’s a SlideShare result appearing in Google for the search “SMX 2015 presentations.”

SlideShare SMX 2015 presentations

How many SlideShare presentations are indexed?

In performing an site search for SlideShare presentations and profiles in Google, it appears there are around 77,900,000 results indexed. I again used SEMrush to evaluate how many results were ranking on the first two pages which returned 362,099 results.

How to increase the visibility of your SlideShare account and presentations in Google Search

1. Include keywords relevant to the topic of your presentations in the title, description and tags

2. Share your presentation across social social networks

3. Link to your SlideShare account from your website and other social profiles

4. Embed your presentations in posts and pages

5. Engage with other users

Using SlideShare to repurpose your content is a great way to reach new audiences and potentially increase your visibility in Google’s search results.

YouTube Videos in Google Web and Videos Search

Videos are a powerful content format that can be utilized to help you attract and convert new leads. Hosting your video content on YouTube presents users with unique benefits in Google Search.

Why YouTube?

YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine and has an estimated 1 billions users with 4 billions video views per day.  If that wasn’t enough, YouTube videos frequently surface in Google’s Web and Videos search and receive a “rich snippet” next to video results which makes videos standout from other search results.

Here’s a YouTube Web Search result for the query “how to do a VLOOKUP.”

YouTube web search result

Similar to webpages, YouTube videos can amass authority which can lead to increased exposure for your YouTube video content in both Google Web, Videos, and YouTube search.

How to increase the visibility for your YouTube video content in Google Search

1. Include relevant keywords in the video title, description, and tags

2. Add links/badges to your YouTube channel from your website and other social media profiles

3. Share your videos across your social profiles and embed them into posts and pages where they’d add additional value or context

4. Engage with other users

5. Create playlists which group similar videos together and optimize the playlist to be relevant to the main topic of the videos

YouTube Optimization Tip

Aligning the title, description and tags with relevant keywords and phrases that searchers are actively using can work to increase the chances your video content will appear for related searches.

The autocomplete tool provides search suggestions from some of the major providers on the web including YouTube!

Here’s a screenshot showing results for the query “CRM” in Soovle. autocomplete results for CRM


Facebook Pages in Google Search

Facebook pages and posts are crawled by Google. While pages seem to surface much more frequently, posts can and do get indexed. I performed a site search for HubSpot’s Facebook page which returned 3,630 results.

Here’s a screenshot showing indexed Facebook posts in search results.

HubSpot Facebook posts in Google search

Google will look closely at your page’s name and web address to help it understand what entities (people, places and things) your page might be relevant for. If you are setting-up a business page, these will both most likely be your business name.

How to increase the visibility of Facebook pages in Google Search

1. Keeping your page active by regularly posting engaging content

2. Create events through your page

3. Interact with users who leave comments

4. Link to your Facebook page from your website and other social media accounts

5. Provide detailed descriptions in the Page Info section and use these fields to communicate who you are, what you do/offer and why you love doing it

6. Embed Facebook posts and videos into your site’s posts and pages to raise awareness for your page

Bonus: Social profiles in search results

In January of 2015, Google announced support for markup that specifies social profile information in Knowledge Panel results for some searchers. While the move primarily affects public figures and larger corporate brands that receive a Knowledge Panel result for branded searches, the move signfies a continued effort by Google to incorporate social in to search.

Here’s a screenshot of Starbucks Knowledge Panel that includes links to its verified social profiles.

Starbucks Knowledge Panel result

Wrapping it up

Social profiles and content are becoming an increasingly prominent touch point on the path to purchase for many industries and can be a customer’s first experience with a business or brand. Your social profiles and the content you publish can be optimized and transformed into effective marketing tools that can be utilized to create experiences that lead to both awareness and advocacy.

While I’ve advocated using keyword to optimize your social content, they should always be used in a way that’s natural and provides value to the user. You’ll also notice that I’ve listed engagement as a way to increase the visibility of your social content both on social platform and Google Search. Connecting and building relationships with other users is a great way help amplify your the content you publish across social platforms and increase the chances that it will get shared, liked and engaged with.

How has social search impacted your online presence?


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