How is Social Graph Integration Affecting the SERPs?

Updated April 16, 2011

Doc Sheldon

In the Friday Dojo Chat, David and Terry shared some findings they unearthed during their run-up to the Regulators show. They found a number of interesting bits about the Social Graph integration into the SERPs, as well as some +1 findings.

While I listened to the Regulators program last night, I played around in Google a little, trying to duplicate what Dave was describing. I wasn’t able to duplicate all his results, but I did manage to see one thing that apparently didn’t occur for him.

For instance, he noticed that Google is even looking at secondary connections. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see that example, and couldn’t find any evidence of it myself.

The +1 button, as David explained to us, doesn’t re-order the SERPs rankings. In a screenshot of a search for SEO Training, you can see where he and two others had +1‘d the result.

Unlike the +1 notations, however, which are run on an opt-in basis through Google Labs, social search affects everyone’s SERPs. You’ve probably noticed things like this in your search results lately:

SERP screenshot of search for SEO Training

Notice the avatars of his social connections?

An interesting point on those social connections is that if you mouse-over them in the SERP, a small pop-up will tell you where you’re connected with them. I even found one instance in which a mouse-over of the same individual on two different results gave me a different connection point that puzzled me a little bit.

Two different "connected via" mouse-overs

In the example above, the first two instances of Bill Slawski show me connected to him via Twitter. But the third, which is a result featuring his Twitter account, shows us connected via Quora. My first thought was, perhaps it showed me Quora as a connection node, simply because it was a Twitter result.

Then, I did another search, for David Harry.

Screeshot of SERP for David Harry

That time, on the first result shared by him, of his Huomah site, I was connected to him via Quora. But on the second result, we were connected via Facebook. That pretty  much removed any theory I had given thought to on the last SERP.

Next, David had said that the social graph results were only appearing on the first page of the SERPs. Last night, I found some on page 2 & 3, but I couldn’t duplicate that today, until I did a search for SEO Training Dojo.

screenshot of page 2 of SERPs for SEO Training Dojo

So, it appears that +1s can appear after page 1, just not very often. We’ll probably learn more about that with time.

So, don’t confuse +1 and the social graph… they’re two very different things. If and how +1 may ever play into the rankings remains to be seen, but for the time being, they’re little more than eye-candy.


  1. Anthony Piwarun says:

    Excellent post Doc – I think Google looking at secondary connections was all but inevitable. Some really good data can be generated by looking at the social graph and with the recent hard push on social, it’s now more important than ever to expand and engage your online connections.

  2. Doc Sheldon says:

    Thanks, Anthony. Yeah, it certainly seems to be an important part of the landscape now. And from my perspective, it’s well worth the effort. Frankly, I assumed from the beginning that Google would be looking beyond just direct connections.

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting.