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How Google+ is Affecting Search Results

The latest buzz the last couple of days on the search scene is all about Google+ and how it's affecting search results. Danny Sullivan did some research and wrote up a nice article about how Google's definitely pushing Google+ in the SERPs.

I decided to run my own little experiment this morning, just to see what I could see. At first I merely compared results from searches performed when I was logged in to Google versus not.

First up: searching for myself ("Sarah Bernier Danks"). This one is interesting because I had JUST been messing around with my Google+ profile, so I figured that's why it was suddenly showing up front and center (it hadn't before), and without me even getting more than "sarah b" typed into the search bar...

And here's without me being signed in (notice I had to type in my full name here):

Then I decided to type in a co-worker's name – well, I guess he's a friend...whatever – while signed in. Interesting that although I'm searching for someone ELSE, my own Google+ profile is the second result, just because I mentioned him:

(Thanks for the picture, Dennis :)

Here's without being signed in (and I'm out of the picture):

Okay, that's interesting enough but I wanted to try more general searches, so I tried "actors" while signed in:

And then once more without being signed in...hmmm, same thing:

This got me to thinking, why are THOSE actors showing up (and why are Britney & Snoop showing up for "music")? Here's a (slightly) less "famous" search:

Interesting how Rand's Google+ profile is showing up right in the suggestions. So I thought, maybe that's not a fair comparison, since Rand is huge in the search marketing/online world. Let's go back to celebrities. 

I did a search for, well, you know...and here's what I got:

Obviously, I reasoned, he's not on Google+, since that result's not showing up like it does for Rand Fishkin...I mean, Rob has to be AT LEAST as popular as Randfish, does he not? But, upon further searching, here he is, alive and well on Google+:

I got the same results for Brad Pitt and Charlize Theron – nothing showed up in searches for them, either, even though both have Google+ profiles. What the hell, Google? Why're you picking and choosing who "gets" to have their Google+ profile show up in your suggestions?  

Breathe. Relax. Try another search ("Minneapolis ad agencies") while signed in:

While it's fun to see ThinkSEM (a really great search marketing company based right here in the Twin Cities) show up for this search, is it the most relevant, considering the context in which ThinkSEM deals with ad agencies, versus actually BEING an ad agency? 

So here's my SERP without being signed into Google:

I'm finally getting to a point that'll hit closer to home with those of us who like to call ourselves Search Engine Marketers...what'll this do to the amount of time (in the near future since this has all started happening) we'll have to spend on the phone and in meetings with clients patiently explaining (and re-explaining) WHY we – the experts they're paying for optimization – can't control the SERPs and "how come at home I'm showing up NUMBER ONE and at work I'm NOT??" Or whatever else they're going to come up with whilst they continually while away the hours Googling themselves...

Only time will tell if Google will continue to "get away" with promoting Google+...and what affect it'll have on the way we search and optimize moving forward.