Google has made a rather radical change to its search results, sprinkling its “Social Search” listings — which show your friends’ tweets, blog posts etc. about a topic — throughout your Google search results page. Before, such social results appeared only at the bottom of the page. The move signals that Google recognizes many consumers now use social media as much as search fields to get recommendations on topics of interest.
This tweak creates massive challenges for the organic Search Engine Optimization crowd, of course, because the inclusion of more social results limits the visual inventory for other organic search listings. A search for “Obama Daily Show” on Google, for instance, returns 9 total organic results on page 1, with only 6 visible in the initial window. If 2 or 3 of those results are now friends commenting about the show, SEO inventory has diminished by 33%.
Google has never seemed fond of the SEO ploys of marketers who try to game its system (J.C. Penney was just spanked harshly for alleged black-hat SEO tactics), likely because any off-topic victories for marketers diminish the overall quality of search results, making Google less useful and pushing away consumer usage. Now, Google is shrinking the space for SEO games-players to play in.