What Google’s Real-Time Search Means to SEO, PPC & Reputation Management

By: Chris Crum - December 28, 2009

It seems that over the course of the entire year, we’ve been waiting for Google to get real-time search. Now it’s here. If you have ever had a hard time finding a direct relationship between social media and search engine marketing, it doesn’t get any more direct than this. Real-time search results (from Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and other sources) right in regular SERPs.

Do you like the idea of real-time results in Google SERPs? Discuss here.

While "real-time search" has certainly been a buzzword this year, the concept itself has been around for a while longer in some capacity. Sure, the concept of searching Twitter has been around for quite some time now, but even as far as Google is concerned, freshness has been a factor of great interest.

"Google has been working on real-time search for years," as Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb points out. "In the spring of 2006, the story goes, Google launched Google Finance onto the Web and was promptly dismayed to find that the service didn’t appear in a Google search for its own name later that day. It was after that, and a few other similar experiences, that Google engineers created an algorithm called QDF, or Query Deserves Freshness. QDF determines when results for a query need to be augmented with the newest content available, in addition to the content with the highest PageRank."

"Search users are utilizing results that show up because of it everyday," says Dave Snyder at Search Engine Journal. "However, in terms of rankings QDF can have huge impacts on the SERPs. The first thing that came to mind when I saw the real time search data pouring through was that Google is getting a massive amount of real time link data without the issue of a crawl. I am convinced they will be utilizing this data to help shape SERPs for terms that are trending or based on timeliness."

The Potential for Abuse

Snyder also makes a good point about spam. "Seriously, any new feature that Google rolls out is a playground for SPAM," he says. "My head is spinning thinking of all the cool/evil implications of the service. I am sure lots of people are going to be testing how Google is choosing the results coming in the box. Some people might ask the importance of coming up for a mere moment in that position, but the sheer amount of traffic generated for a trending term can make even a 30 second window profitable."

Update: Sidenote: Watch the following interview with Rae Hoffman, who talks about some real spam problems with Google’s Real-Time search results. She highlights some issues that can even be a threat to safety.

The nature or real-time search reults showing content as it is created leads to questions of accuracy of content as well. It does bring up questions about Google showing results that are quite possibly just inaccurate, but in a prominent place on the first page. Google’s Vice President of Search Products & User Experience, Marissa Mayer told TechCrunch that she uses real-time search a lot, and that she trusts the content "most of the time, even if they’re public and not coming from friends." Do you trust the content? Comment here.

Marissa Mayer of Google

When asked whether or not she thinks Google can solve the problems of filtering, the virality of rumors (true or false), and mob-forming in real-time search, she said, "Hard to say. We can’t simply apply the PageRank algorithm to content shared in real time, but we look at the ecosystem and detect signals we can use to reveal authority, for instance. It’s difficult, but there are data points out there that can be used for filtering."

Will Real-Time Search Results Drive PPC?

Much like with Google’s recently launched (for everyone) personalized search results, or any other universal search results for that matter, the addition of real-time results is just one more element that can add to the challenge of getting organic results to show up high on the page. As iEntry CEO and WebProNews Publisher Rich Ord noted when talking about personalized search, this could give marketers more cause to focus on PPC, where they have more control over their campaign. This notion seems to be becoming a more common theme.

"I certainly think this will have a more profound impact on results sitting below the Twitter feed and those above," says Peter Young of Holistic Search, as quoted by MediaPost. "The scramble for the top positions will become fiercer. That may mean more people invest in PPC to gain more control of their presence."


Few Organic Listings at the top

Notice how few organic listings are at the top of the page.

Tips for Getting in Real-Time Search Results

There are ways to take advantage of real-time search functionality without spamming. In fact, these ways really involve a number of principles that are already staples of social media and search engine marketing in general. Allow me to reiterate some tips I gave in a previous article for getting found in real-time searches.

Note: These I wrote these tips more based on Twitter search, they do not take into account any back-end algorithms Google may use in selecting the real-time results they display. However, the concepts behind them should still generally be relevant.

1. Use Keywords

This seems obvious, but use keywords in not only your content, but in your titles, and your updates. If you’re writing an article, you have to consider what people are going to include in their updates if they share it on a social network, whether this be Facebook, Twitter, or anything else. More often than not, they are going to include the title. If the right keywords are in the title, then those keywords are also more likely to appear in any ensuing tweets, Facebook updates, etc. If someone searches for those keywords, they will be more likely to find your content in real-time search results as they are created. The same goes for your own Tweets/status updates. Even if you are not sharing an article, if you want your update to be found, use relevant keywords. Again, obvious, but true.

2. Talk About Timely Events

Mentioning events that are current  can put you directly into the results for any searches having to do with that topic, provided the right keywords are in play. This is a method that could and (surely is) being exploited by spammers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide legitimate conversation and simply put yourself on more people’s radars, without throwing links at them every time.

3. Have a Lot of Followers

If you have a lot of followers or friends on social networks, or even just readers of your blog, you are going to get more people sharing your content. The more people sharing your content, the more impressions of your content will be making their way into real time searches. There is no easy way to instantly get a bunch of legitimate readers/followers. It will take some promotion. Provide useful content that people will link to and it will spread virally. Provide clear ways for them to follow you (like links to Facebook pages and Twitter accounts on your blog).

4. Promote Conversation

Whether on your blog or on a social network, spark conversations. Talk about topics that people are interested in. This is tied to number 2. The more conversations you are involved with, the more retweets (and equivalents on other networks) you are likely to get. And again, this potentially means more impressions in real times search results.

5. Include Calls to Engagement

Use buttons for sharing your content on different social networks. If you have been into marketing through social media, there’s a good chance you’re already doing this, but it will also cater to sharing and possibly increased visibility in real-time search results.

Reputation Management Concerns

The introduction of real-time search results into SERPs does bring up some new and interesting reputation management concerns. It does after all thrust whatever people are saying at any given moment right into the forefront. David Whitehouse, writing on Dave Naylor’s blog, suggests that the move will force more companies to get Twitter accounts and actively particpate in social media.

"The reason?" he says. "Well, check out the Amazon query for a few minutes and I am sure you will see a complaint (as well as around a hundred offers!) – if Amazon doesn’t respond, it would reflect badly upon them." (Note: at the time of this writing, a query for Amazon is no longer delivering real-time results. This indicates that it is based on the amount of conversation at any given time).

Not a bad point. In real-time search results, you may show up at the top of the results page, but that may or may not be a favorable result. Of course there is a good chance a query for your brand will not return any real-time results unless that option is activated. It’s not yet clear exactly what criteria Google uses for displaying these results, but it probably helps if a whole lot of people are already talking about the keywords used in the query.

Wrapping Up

In any regard, real-time search results in SERPs means you can’t ignore social media. The more you engage in social media, the better shot you have at hitting high placement on Google SERPs that display real-time results.

While real-time search presents both opportunities and challenges for businesses, it’s here whether you like it or not, and it’s right where it matters the most – on Google. As Kirkpatrick noted, it’s going to introduce millions of people to the concept of real-time search for the first time. You can bet that you will see similar features appear on Yahoo and Bing. Wait until Twitter opens up that firehose to everyone, if you even have to wait that long. More deals will probably be made and APIs made available. Wait until practically everything from the real-time web becomes available in each of the search engines in actual real-time. We’re bound to get there sooner or later.

What challenges do you see coming from mainstream real-time search? Opportunities? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Related Articles:

> Tips for Getting Found in Real-Time Searches

> Google Makes a Second Real-Time Search Announcement

> Yahoo Rolling Out Something Kind of Like Real-Time Search

> Facebook/Twitter Use May Now Mean More For Google/Bing Rankings

> How Does Bing Rank Tweets?

> Yahoo Showing Tweets For News Results

> Twitter to Spray Developers With the Coveted Firehose

> Showtime For Real-Time With Google

> Can You "Rank" in Google if Everyone Has Different Search Results?

> New APIs Should Help MySpace Stay Relevant

Chris Crum

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

View all posts by Chris Crum
  • http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3595541/restaurant_consultants Restaurant Consultants Chicago

    Well thats great for of us marketers in any industry!, we don’t care how or where they get the info indexed just do it and let us see the results right on the SERP!

  • http://www.flamexdesign.com/blog/ Flamex Marketing

    Google SERP’s have gone Twitter Insane! Surely this is open to spam. How can Google manage quality? Google Search Results = Circus

    How people are getting instant traffic using twitter-feed-in-google-has-google-gone-twitter-insane/”>Google Gone Twitter Insane blog post!

  • http://www.rankontoponline.com Rank On Top Online

    one thing that annoys us is that the general public does not have a clue on this. as we stated before, with all these changes we think that it really hurts the average user because with all the confusion of adding extra features to search results, I

  • http://zoesands.tumblr.com Zoe Sands

    Thanks for the tips, great summary!

    Follow the leader no more – Google is trying hard to keep up with the recent deals Yahoo and Bing have struck with the leading social network providers, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. It is good to see that the smaller search providers are driving innovation in the search marketplace rather than Google. And at the end of day it offers a better search experience for users whatever their preferred search engine is.

  • Zoe

    Try increasing your SEO with SiteVacuume

  • http://officialsafetyandsecurity.com Official Safety and Security

    I typically use Twitter and FaceBook to socially market my safety and security web site so it sounds like a good thing but like Brent, I’m not completely sure. Thanks, Chris, for the information.

  • Barb

    There is a lot of worthless, personal, non relavant, time wasting and some stupid chatter on the socal networks and real time search it should not be mixed in with the natural organic search reults, where people are looking for valid relevant information and products for the keywords, subjects or products, they are searching for . It will make it harder for the searcher to find valid worthwhile information and sites. This will make it alot more difficult for site that has done everything google has asked for in relation to SEO. This is going to clog up the search results and maybe even drive people away from using the search engines because they can not find anything they are looking for because of all the personal comments and opinions particularly twitter the comments are so short they are not valuable just gossip. I dislike the social networks they are just time wasters. This is going to hurt valid business marketing on the internet.
    The real time search social network comment should be left where they are now or have their own separate search engine that people can go to if they want that kind of thing.

    • http://www.chiropracticworksma.com chiropractic works Pittsfield

      I have spent many hours building revelant information about my Chiropractic office and procedures I use to get great information out to the public. It makes it hard to believe that someone could come along tweet a new message and over take my organic rankings

  • http://www.googleadwordsexpert.net Googl Adwords Expert

    After reading this post I went to the google and got an observation which would like to share with you. I type in “Tiger Woods” I saw news in real time search from radaronline that her wife is going to give him divorce and google said it is 1 minute back story. But when I went to radaronline that post was about 10 hours old. And same thing I saw with a twitter post.

  • http://www.chiropracticworksma.com Chiropractic Works Pittsfield

    Thanks for the article which will be very helpful in me being able to use social media to get a better ranking.

  • Guest

    Oh great, now we get to see all the worthless, personal, non relavant and stupid chatter from every pre-teen and/or spammer that has a twitter account. Keep all this stuff on a seperate search engine/channel and call it Noogle (the N is for “New” or “News” or whatever turns people on who want to read that kind of stuff)…

    The information arteries are already clogged enough.

  • neo

    If it’s real, all it will do is push searchers deeper into the pages to find what they are looking for.

    It could potentially help a lot of websites that have never been able to hold first page placements.

    If the first page continues to be a crap bucket it’s pretty predictable what users will do to find what they are looking for.

    • http://www.sciencelives.com ScienceLives

      That’s not exactly right … now the first page results will potentially be pushed further down and the ones that were below them will be even further back.

      It’s tough to say how this will turn out, on the one hand it will be good to have fresh up-to-date information (versus news articles that are a couple years old popping up high in the search), on the other hand the results are potentially lower quality. I guess we will see, if it doesn’t work out they will just change it back to the way it was.

  • http://www.cliffordrealtors.com Mike Clifford

    Well Google appears to be trying to destroy the great market that presently is enjoyed by thousands of businesses through their web sites. Social presence, espacially twitter babel from teenagers who don’t have the resources to make serious purchases on line. Limited social presence in real life can be of limited use. Who in their right mind would twitter for a new home, car, computer ect. It looks like Google is getting desperate and didn’t think this last move out before taking action.

  • http://www.clickbuzz.info srikanth boorela

    hello, thx for a nice article, I was wondering if this happens ! then what would be the future of search? I mean what would be the impact of the sites which does’t know SEO, or any other means to promote the site, If only updates help to get in good positions what is the meaning of Google? Google really helping the SEOs to sustain in the market? or the customers who are willing to get the right information in the web.

  • http://bit.ly/4WKytP Phantom Link Cloaker 2.0

    Providing real time search to social media could make a great impact on your ppc campaign.Depending on the information used by google to get the results and what is relavant.If the results are based on fresh content & keywords it opens up a wider avenue of competition and ultimately reduce the quality of the overal results.

  • Mike

    I think this is going to destroy the results of relevant serps. Say a casual surfer was looking for “widget” as in the past they would find informative pages. Now all a competitor or oblivious teenager has to do is post a few drunken tweets and smash the relevant content.

    Lets see how they work this out. Maybe Google needs two search engines. Google standard and Google live.

    Maybe Cuil does has a future

  • Mike

    I think this is going to destroy the results of relevant serps. Say a casual surfer was looking for “widget” as in the past they would find informative pages. Now all a competitor or oblivious teenager has to do is post a few drunken tweets and smash the relevant content.

    Lets see how they work this out. Maybe Google needs two search engines. Google standard and Google live.

    Maybe Cuil does has a future

  • http://adscendmedia.com Affiliate Network

    It’ll be interesting to see how well the filtering of real-time search results works out. Sounds to me like it’ll be on a massive scale, unless they’re very smart about it.

  • http://www.cheapseeds.com Jeff

    Google won’t show bad content for long no matter where it is found. There are Billions of dollars on the line and their not about to give any of it up.

  • http://www.laokay.com Adsense Publisher

    This will make it increasingly difficult to be placed on page 1 for the most relevant up to date results.

    This is borderline racketeering. I mean it’s like Google is saying in essence “If you want to be on page 1, spend lots of time, effort, and money to get there, or just pay us to advertise and be placed there.”

    Which will still take time, effort, and money to make sure it’s working the right way you want it to.

    So either way I think Google expects us to give up SEO and just give them a bunch of money.

  • http://stroseo.com/ stroseo

    Google’s implementation is far from ideal. It can be easily spammed, doesn’t apply the stringent filters that it’s traditional results require. Google really tossed this one together just to show it can answer to Bing. Watch closely for major refinements to Google’s implementation. Watch my video that shows how easy it is to show up on the first page of Google results: http://stroseo.com/real-time-search, very easily spammed!

  • http://www.tag44.com Tag44

    Thanks for the post and for sharing the very useful information related to Google real time search, it really helps a lot in coming days.

  • Bogo

    There are two basic kinds of sites on internet:
    web sites (no better term) and community sites.

    Since community sites are composed of many individual “sites” or people’s pages, they are in fact a “salad” made of many relevant or less relevant “ingredients”.
    Twitter is even more “atomized” version of above.

    Web sites on the other hand, are usually maintained by one company or individual, and their quality level is higher.

    Putting them all together will create a mess.
    My kid on Tweeter can not be a relevant source of information to serious searchers on Google.

    This Tweeter/Facebook thing has gone far enough.
    Google should stay out of it.

    Facebook and Twitter are in fact a kind of search engines themselves.
    I can choose right there what kind of information I need. So I can add / remove friends, follow / unfollow tweets etc.

    Google is pressured to expand searches to include those sites by companies who have twisted the reason why Twitter and Facebook exist: to connect friends.
    So now I should add an online shop as a friend??? Come on.

    All of us are responsible for misuse of those sites. Large amounts of money exchange hands, but where does that money go? Not to you and me. They feed on us like vampires.
    I want Google as it is. No garbage. No bs. Just an accurate and fair search engine with clear rules that are the same for all. Big and small.

    • http://www.soundwebsolutions.com Guest

      I totally agree. I think search results that mix up websites and twitter/facebook posts are going to return lower quality to the searcher. To me, it’s the difference between research and gossip. When I do research I’m looking for durable, static, factual information — which is what most websites are designed to offer. When I want to engage in gossip (and I don’t mean this pejoratively, I just mean opinion-based commentary), I’m looking for dynamic discussion and interaction. They are both important sources of input in my life and activities, but I don’t want to mix them, as both get muddied when they’re mixed. I think they belong in different realms of the infosphere and should each be indexed and searched by different means of access.

  • http://juegos.gs Juegos

    I like the idea of real-time results in Google SERPs but i can’t trust the results, real time search can’t replace SEO, some niches don’t update the content frequently. Eg. the web hosting companies, domain name providers, offline companies, they should make everyday a promotion to be listed in the real-time results.
    Many can use real-time results to make negative publicity, eg. again about web hosts, someone is searching “hosting” and the first reasult is “hostgatonga host is a scam, don’t buy!” , without any proof plus many will think is true because is posted like a news by one or the biggest companies in the world.
    Hope everything will be fine.
    In my opinion this is just another feature.

  • http://www.marketingloudly.com Mike G

    Real time search will be the nail in the coffin of the major news outlets as we know it (especially the newspaper industry dinosaurs).

    The catch is that most of the real time comments getting spidered as relevant will be opinions – a large percentage of the time not based in fact – coming from the blogosphere and (shudders) Twitter.

    Hipsters, geeks and early tech adopters will rejoice, while the rest of the rank and file Internet users will just follow like sheep as usual or shake their heads in confusion.

    Not to mention the ‘Anyone order a SPAM sandwich..?’ issues that will mushroom faster than, well, mushrooms..

  • http://ldii-sidoarjo-jawatimur.blogspot.com/ ldii

    Real-time search seem suitable for daily news that naturally changes daily. But to advertise product we need established message for building brand image can not be done in a short time. I think, Real-time search in search engine like Google tends to arise chaos situation.

  • http://www.simplyclicks.com Simply Clicks

    I spotted Google’s real time search in action earlier today about 1:30pm GMT. I noticed a blend of Twitter and other results were included. I then posted a thread on my Twitter account at http://twitter.com/ukseo and to my surprise failed to appear in the Google results.

    I wasn’t daunted and tried a different approach. I made a post on my search blog at http://uksearch.blogspot.com/2009/12/twitter-updates-in-google-now-live.html. I then referred to this blog post on my Twitter account. Amazingly, within a minute the new Twitter post and Blog post appeared in the Google real time results. I then made a further post in the blog which then featured a screenshot of the SERPs that looks very similar to your screenshot above. See: http://uksearch.blogspot.com/2009/12/twitter-feed-updates-on-google.html .
    I would be glad to hear of other people’s experience of the new service.

  • http://www.bigears.net.au Big Ears

    Considering I make my living off getting found in google searches organically I’ll probably lose business I’ll just have to change with the times. On saying that and looking at it from a consumer point of view I think what Google is doing rocks…

    I wonder when they plan to incorporate Google Directory dmoz.org into it or has Wikipeadia taken over its role?

    • http://www.bigears.net.au Big Ears

      I don’t see shopping carts yet but they will get added I’m sure…

  • http://thecomputergal.com Nora McDougall-Collins

    I got quite a surprise a couple of weeks ago when my Twitter posts, Diggs, LinkedIn, forum comments, etc started showing up in my Google Alerts for my name and domain name, which is the Profile Name I normally use. Since I don’t post general fluff in any of my accounts, its a good thing for me, and I hope that when they come up in someone’s search, there is real content they can use. With relevant searches, the chatter shouldn’t show anyway.

  • http://www.direct-quotes.com direct quotes

    All of us are responsible for misuse of those sites. Large amounts of money exchange hands, but where does that money go? Not to you and me. They feed on us like vampires.
    I want Google as it is. No garbage. No bs. Just an accurate and fair search engine with clear rules that are the same for all. Big and small.

  • http://www.dress4less.com/ Margi

    i don’t know why we have to just stick to google. it’s not that worth, at least in my opinion!

  • http://seo-voyage.com Lisa Curry, SEM Manager

    Real-time search will definitely have big influence on ppc and search engine marketing and i totally agree that we can’t say enough about importance of social media these days. Thanks for a fantastic analysis!

  • http://www.goodsamdental.org Mexico Dentist

    I have been working hard with the optimization of my Dental tourism web page and trying to get it to rank well. I almost feel overwhelmed with all the new changes coming. I just hope I can keep up.

  • http://www.glenwoodfin.com/ Reputation Manager

    Digg founder, Kevin Rose, said to Leo LaPorte on last weeks TWIT that the thing the new Google real time search lacks is a way to weight the SERPs heavier for social media posts that come from those with more authority. Clearly on Digg, they rule in that method.

  • http://www.pr-interactive.com florida web design company

    now it’s easier to win for highly competitive keywords. You just need to keep your website up to the minute updated. Bloging like crazy and tweeting like crazy. It’s very easy to get on Google if you update , update and update more.

  • http://www.ebridgesoft.com/blog/ Kevin

    It just makes sense to have real-time results in Google SERPs. I know of many people who now receive their daily news exclusively through social media outlets. Be it Twitter, blogs, or YouTube – social media matters.

  • http://www.photolinkdigital.co.uk/ Digital Creative

    We heard a lot of talk about real time search and some people where even thinking this could have an affect on seo we can see the twitter results appearing in the results but do we think their is going to be more to come?

    • http://www.americandentaltours.com mexico dental

      I think there will be much more to real time search than just twitter and a few scattered news sites

      mexico dental

  • http://tivisiana.blogspot.com/ Tivisiana

    Well thats great for of us marketers in any industry!, we don’t care how or where they get the info indexed just do it and let us see the results right on the SERP!

  • http://www.riodental.com mexico dentist

    Its a mixed bag. I have noticed old material creep higher in search results that had not been there in the recent past.