GoogleIf you’ve been on Google today, you’ve probably noticed a bit of a design change. Google announced the changes are a continuing effort to streamline their design, making it cleaner, more elastic and easier to use. For those of you who, like me, think the design may take some getting used to, Google was kind enough to provide a screen shot of their original 1997 homepage. Wow. Yep, change CAN be good.

Of course, for this particular set of changes, the reviews are mixed so far. Some find the muted gray-and-red sidebar and black top navigation rather gloomy. Another, perhaps more practical, criticism is that in an effort to “simplify” the design, Google has hidden some navigational features and actually made navigation LESS intuitive.

What’s more interesting to the search world than the pure aesthetics of the changes is their timing. Just yesterday, Google rolled out the first public invitations to join the Google+ project (though invites were closed off after just a few hours due to “insanely high” demand). It seems highly unlikely that this is a coincidence. Once Google+ goes more public, it will be interesting to see how their newest foray into the social arena integrates with the updated design of their staple products and how that will affect search marketing.

What’s very obvious by now is that social is impossible to ignore when it comes to search. With the introduction of the +1 button, the integration of real-time search results from social media networks like Twitter, the Google+ project and other recent Google moves, top SERP rankings are increasingly dependent on an active social presence as well as traditional SEO methods.