Google’s search results are undergoing their most radical transformation ever – and it’s getting lots of flak from the Internet.
Search plus your “world”
Earlier this month, Google launched their social search imitative dubbed (a little clunkily) “Search Plus Your World” . It finds both content that’s been shared with you privately on Google+, along with matches from the public web, all mixed into the set of listings. Basically, search results will now include:
1. Personal results – these are personalised information such as photos and posts from your Google+ network that are shared with you. Your search results may thus include:
- Listings from the web
- Listings from the web that have been boosted because of your personal behaviour on Google
- Listings from the web that have been boosted because of your social connections
- Public Google+ posts, photos or Google Picasa photos
- Private or “limited” Google+ posts, photos or Google Picasa photos that have been shared specifically with you
2. Profiles in Search – similar to typing into Chrome browsers, as you start typing a Google+ contact’s name, Google will autocomplete it to help you find people quicker.
3. People & Pages – this helps you to find people’s profiles and Google+ pages that relate to a specific topic or area of interest, and making it easier for you to follow them in a few clicks. Google’s idea behind this is tat behind almost every query, lies a community.
4. Ask a friend – this one’s just been added over the past few days and isn’t available to everyone yet. At the bottom of the search results page Google has started inviting you to ask your Google+ friends to help answer your queries. Clicking that brings up a dialog box that allows you to post your question (that you may have to specify further) to your Google+ account. But the lack of options to ask it to other social networks like Twitter and Facebook is disappointing. But is there a point shouting a question into an empty room?
Together these features combine to create…. (fanfare) Search Plus Your World! You can watch their happy promotional video below:
Is Google going too far?
But not everyone’s convinced.
For one, private content on Google+ appears within your search results when you are signed in to Google+ which is a little uncomfortable.. you may be searching for “getting drunk” and images of your Google+ friend’s drunken pictures appear on your search results if they so happen to have tagged their pictures just so. It’s very much unlike Facebook, Twitter or other channels where social content (photos, posts and so on) stay within that social realm and don’t cross over into your information search.
In another case, you may have shared pictures on Google+ of your cat Cupcake. If you type “cupcake” into Google search, pictures of your cat are likely to appear in the results, alongside links to webpages about actual edible cupcakes.
This leads to the argument that Search Plus Your World is turning Google into a biased search engine that favours Google+ content – often at the expense of rival social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and Flickr. Interestingly, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace have grouped together to create a new tool, aimed at drawing users’ attention to the ‘biased’ search results Google is now churning out. Entitled “Don’t be evil” (a nod to Google’s early mottos), the browser add-on for Firefox was created to prevent Google searches returning content that’s been ‘ranked up’ by the Google+ bias.
It’s hard to disagree with Twitter’s sentiment:
For years, people have relied on Google to deliver the most relevant results any time they wanted to find something on the internet.
As we’ve seen time and time again, news breaks first on Twitter, as a result, Twitter accounts and tweets are often the most relevant results. We’re concerned that as a result of Google’s changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone. We think that’s bad for people, publishers, news organisations and Twitter users.
Interestingly, Google’s changes may be deemed illegal (at least in America). There, it’s illegal for a company that is dominant in a field to use that dominance to gain competitive advantage in another field.
Search Plus Your World may be a great social integration for Google+ users – but it’s pushing biased clutter (including irrelevant ads) and also creating a potential for customers to switch their primary search engines. For example, Bing is steadily gaining greater market share. Current US trends indicate that although Google’s still the market leader, Bing is growing by 5 to 6% each month while Google is losing 2 – 3 %.
“Back when search wasn’t personalized, Google could defensibly say that one service was better than another because it got more traffic, was linked to more (better PageRank), and so on,” writes search expert John Battelle . “Back when everyone got the same results and the web was one homogenous glob of HTML, well, you could claim ‘this is the best result for the general population.’ But personalized search has broken that framework.”
Google+ is a must have for marketers
OK, so competitors and search purists are starting the hate on Google. And it might be a little empty. But these algorithms and bias do mean that having a Google+ page skyrockets you to the top of Google’s results page even though you might have a wildly popular Facebook page, LinkedIn or Twitter account (unfortunate as that is). A presence on Google+ matters more than ever now. Find out how to set up your Google+ business page in a few quick steps here.
Look how a search for “cars” brings up Ferrari, Toyota and Nissan on the side results. Sure, you may not even click on them – but it’s free advertising, isn’t it? Unfortunately, I can’t see how the social layer is going to improve the overall product that is Google+. More people are going to sign up for Google+ accounts to get the search juice, but it’s probably not going to drive people to actually use the platform. But since Australians are using search more than ever to research product purchases – there’s more reason to be on Google+ than ever.
To read more about the ongoing search saga, check out these links:
What do you think of Search Plus Your World?