This week, Google announced “Search Plus Your World” aimed at personalizing search results. This is accomplished by including your Google+ data in your search results when you are signed into your Google account. While there is much debate about this limited social-search implementation as well as antitrust concerns, the move is nothing short of a major digital break through.
Now I am not saying that Google has released a perfect or even thorough offering. What I am saying is that it is a game changer. A game changer, not necessarily for Google, but for individuals and brands that look for information that is specifically and contextually relevant to the information they seek.
Before I outline why I regard this to be a monumental capability, let’s explain a little more about how it functions and the controversy that is brewing. First, an example of how it works. Let’s say you do a Google search for bicycles as you are starting your search for a new bike to purchase. The search-plus-your-world capability means that any profiles, businesses pages, Picasa Photos, and Google+ post and comments that include bicycle/bike text or tagging automatically appear at the top of your search queue. These entries trump all other listings independent of previous SEO weightings.
The controversy as mentioned in PCWorld’s article “Google’s Search Plus Your World: What it Means for Users” … “Google’s new search feature is raising some concerns about Google prioritizing its own content instead of linking out to third-party sites, which arguably is the whole point of a search engine.” This may raise antitrust issues as Google is effectively capitalizing on its search strengthen to promote its social network. Note that Twitter is troubled by the Google announcement and publicly stated “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 organizations and Twitter users.” So Twitter is not part of the implementation, and also note that Google does not and cannot index Facebook either, at least at this time.
Agreed – far from a complete implementation of search and social. And yet, I still believe this is monumental as it clearly highlights the road going forward. What Google’s implementation means is that we are starting to see more contextual relevance to individual’s search as opposed to treating everyone the same. Information provided from your circles, network, and connections are more valuable than a generic search. you are also going to find the most trustworthy information?
And while there are strong benefits for users, there are equally powerful opportunities for brands. What this now means is that there is an added value for brands to establish relationships with individuals. As those relationships build, users will include brands in the social network circles. When brands are added to user social circles, they will automatically jump to the top of the queue for their relevant topic searches.
There is much work required on Google’s Search Plus Your World implementation. Maybe they will never work out the issues with Twitter, Facebook, and other social platforms to produce a holistic integration of search and social. Maybe that spells out an opportunity for Bing or other search engines to look to capitalize and increase market share. Frankly, I have no bias to any one search engine. I am looking for the one that gives me the most relevant search results that are useful to me.
The Google implementation represents the beginning of the end of search (as we know it today). Individual discovery replaces generic search. Yes, we still have search engines, but these search engines help people discover the most relevant information they seek as opposed to simply having search engine optimization be a gaming feat to accomplish. People are seeking greater control with regards to how brands become part of their lives. Brands will be most successful with their target audience if they concentrate on delivering true value and continuous engagement with that target group. If brands accomplish this relationship building with their target market, they will continue to be top of mind not only through social engagement, but through reinforced discovery via search.
And that folks is why Google’s Search+ is a big deal. Agree? Disagree? Comment and join the conversation.
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