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Are Google’s Results Better Or Worse With Google+ Integration?

Either way, webmasters and marketers can't ignore it

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Earlier this month, Google launched “Search Plus Your World”. We’ll refer to it as “SPYW” to save time. The set of personalization features essentially equates to Google injecting a whole lot of Google+ into Google search results. This has been met with widespread criticism that continues two weeks later. According to a lot of the chatter going on, Google has lost the respect of a lot of users, and even some of its alumni.

The real question is: has SPYW made Google’s results better or worse? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Competitors like Twtitter and Facebook have been pretty vocal about the changes. Twitter publicly complained as soon as the features launched, claiming they’re bad for the Internet. Various Facebook staff complained about the features in status updates.

This week, we learned that one Facebook staffer took things a great deal further by creating a bookmarklet for web browsers that eliminate the features, and “Focus on the user,” as they put it.

One of the main things it does is add content from other places like Twitter , Facebook, YouTube, etc. to the “People and Places” section that appears for some queries. Google in its current state only shows Google+ pages and profiles here. This is why some find the whole thing anticompetitive, and even a sacrifice of relevancy, as Twitter profiles and Facebook pages will often be much more heavily followed and/or updated.

Focus on the User

Marketing Implications

The +1 button already gave marketers incentive to use Google+. Google has been clear about the button having an impact on search ranking from the beginning. They’ve also been pushing authorship, which is tied to the Google Profile (the heart of a user’s Google+ presence). Google has indicated it would use this as a ranking signal. At the very least, it’s already adding to search visibility by simply adding a visual standout in search results (by showing the author’s photo). It’s also a link right back to the user’s profile, which promotes Google+.

Online marketing firm iProspect recently shared some commentary on SPYW after distributing a POV to its clients with insights into the changes. In the POV, the firm said:

These moves mark a continuation of the trends to include more social content and signals as part of both search results and the algorithms that determine them. By integrating both related Google+ profiles and the ability to follow them directly from SERPs for musicians, this may also mean the integration of Google+ business pages as well – for example, suggesting users follow the adidas brand page as a result of searching for adidas, or Motel 6 as a result of searching for Motels, making optimization, linking, following and keywords usage surrounding these profiles even more important.

Furthermore, the wider use of content from a user’s social sphere theoretically opens the door to other Google-related services and activities becoming part of search results. For example, highlighting YouTube channels that a user (or a user’s contacts) are subscribed to, have liked, rated highly, stores and restaurants reviewed by people in a user’s circles, or content from sites that are part of their friends’ reader list, makes participation and gaining a following in these spheres even more important.

Clearly marketers are respecting Google’s strategy. How can they not?

“Brands definitely need to at least be claiming their names in Google+, if not contributing at the same level that they might in other social networks to take advantage of the special preferences that Google+ is getting in results,” Herndon Hasty, Associate Director, SEO at iProspect told WebProNews. “Images shared on Google+ are getting a lot more real estate on the SERPs than they did before, and shared videos are called out in the new SERPs as well, so making sure to share these kinds of assets from Google+ can help put you at an advantage when it comes to continually attracting your followers’ attention.”

Another thing worth considering is that SPYW seems to be indexing content faster. We recently looked at a test from Google+ power user Paul Allen, who found that it took less than a minute for a Google+ post to show up in logged-in, personalized Google search results for Google+ users, and it took 20 minutes to show up for non-logged in users via Google’s main search results.

As Google+ is clearly having a bigger impact on search visibility, some are even questioning how big a factor on-page text even is for ranking in Google these days. Barry Schwartz points to some conversation on this topic in the WebmasterWorld forum. The hypothesis here is that Google is basically using on-page text to determine relevance, but hardly at all for ranking.

I’m not sure if I am buying this entirely, given the huge emphasis Google has been placing on deep, quality content over the past year with the Panda update. That said, social does appear to be taking a bigger role. The good news is that deep, quality content is likely to be shared.

Who is this content coming from?

As we’ve been saying for months, Google is placing a great deal more emphasis on who you are, when it comes to search. This is evident with the authorship strategy and Google+ integration as a whole. Now, however, Google has made the interesting choice of allowing Google+ users to use pseudonyms, something the company resisted greatly when Google+ first launched (though some slipped through the cracks).

Google wants its search results to represent quality. It’s the same mentality expressed when Google wanted real-looking photos of people in the authorship program (real as in, non-zombie, for example).

“One of the complications it’s complicated on is atmosphere,” said Google’s Vic Gundotra on why they didn’t allow pseudonyms from the get go. “If you’re a woman and you post a photo and Captain Crunch or Dog Fart comments on it, it changes the atmosphere of the product.”

But never mind all of that, because you can use pseudonyms now. Bradley Horowitz, Google+ VP of Product Management, said:

Over the next week, we’ll be adding support for alternate names – be they nicknames, maiden names, or names in another script – alongside your common name. This name will show up on your Google+ profile and in the hovercards which appear over your name. In the next few weeks, we’ll be displaying it more broadly as part of your name in other areas of Google+ as well. So if you’re Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jane Doe (Smith), or Saurabh Sharma (सौरभ शर्मा), you can now communicate your identity the way you want to.

To add an alternate name, go to your Google+ profile, click Edit Profile, select your name and click on “More options.”

I don’t see this having much of an effect on search rankings. If you go by the name “Dog Fart,” you’re still going to have to have enough clout on Google+ to send Google signals that you should be ranking for things. I don’t expect the Dog Farts of the Google Plusiverse to be ranking particularly well for medical advice. On the other hand, with SPYW, if you’re friends with Dog Fart, and he has posted about how to treat cancer, I suppose there’s a fair chance you’ll see that. We’ll have to keep our eyes peeled for such examples.

Criticism

Google is even taking criticism for the timing of the pseudonym roll-out. Trevor Gilbert at PandoDaily, for example, writes, “Search, Plus Your World wouldn’t have worked if pseudonyms remained disabled. Instead, people would search and find nothing relevant (certainly not the Twitter and Facebook pages they were looking for). At the same time, Google+ would have been – marginally – worse at launch if they had accepted pseudonyms from the get-go. So what did Google do? They played dumb for a few months to get users to use their legal names, and then when Google needed pseudonyms, they are suddenly open to the idea.”

“The entire thing is a joke, really,” he adds. “Google waited as long as it could without hurting itself, then changed positions entirely. In the end, Google is doing what is best for the user, so long as it is also best for Google.”

Google is really taking criticism from all angles these days, particularly since SPYW launched. That includes competitors and users. We never really saw Twitter speak out about the company the way it has in this case, and the whole bookmarket thing is really an extension of that, with Facebook and Myspace jumping in too (engineers from these companies contributed to the bookmarklet).

As mentioned earlier, some Facebook employees have criticized SPYW, and that includes at least one former Googler (the guy credited with coming up with the Circles concept implemented in Google+ no less). “Some of my ex-colleagues (who I still love) are going to shout at me, but well, I’ve just moved my default search engine to Bing.”

Business Insider talked to a former Googler who called SPYW “a sad day” and “a turning point”.

One has to wonder if there are people within Google still, who are offended by Google’s moves.

At any rate, the relevancy of Google’s search results is what is really at stake, and that’s what is going to make people either continue to use Google as a search engine or go “a click away” to Bing, Yahoo or somewhere else for their search needs.

Is Google shooting itself in the foot with SPYW or is Google’s version of personalized search a step in the right direction? Tell us what you think.

Are Google’s Results Better Or Worse With Google+ Integration?
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  • C. Celik

    No I’m not. I don’t want to get information about my friends that I already know. If I need to see that they are doing I’ll just go check Facebook. I use google to find new information but now with + they show the stuff that I already know.

    I think Google is playing too much with their search engine. I wish there is another strong search engine to compete with Google (I think it’s the perfect time right now) If google loses its ground with search engine that would be the end of them!

    • Dick Smith

      Take a look at DuckDuckGo.com

  • http://www.dtmagazine.com Rick Gagliano

    I switched over to Bing as my default search engine six months ago and almost never use Google any more. Integration of their new + product seems to be a desperate attempt by the “don’t be evil” guys to integrate social networks on their own terms. It won’t work, and, as mentioned above, this marks a real “turning point” for the company.

    Having watched Google gyrate wildly over the past five-six years, it looks like they’ve worn out their welcome on the web, gotten too big, into too many things they don’t know about and it’s hurting them. See their latest Q-10 for proof.

    In the final analysis, the death of Google, like any monolithic internet structures, would be a good thing for the internet overall. Next, can we convince eBay that it would be in their best interests to spin off PayPal? That, to me, a webmaster and online marketer since 1998, is the Holy Grail of internet freedom.

    • Joseph

      Rick,

      Well said my friend, as a fellow brother webmaster since 2001 ( Pre-Google) I would 10000% agree with your above statement,

      I would also like to ADD:

      When they rolled out the “panda” they KILLED many companies and webmasters pockets……You know how many people havwe now switched to Black hat / auto scrpts now? Thousands……why?

      Because why work hard and publish quality when Google is just going to put the BIG names ahead of you anyway….

      In fact, I will book mark this thread and say Web Pro News will out last Google.

      Google has about 3.5 more years before they go belly up and bankrupt :)

      I know that sounds crazy…….But its Internetism, Darwinism for search engines.

      Bye Google, I will miss you

      Used to love you,

      Joseph

  • Charlie Yacuzzi

    Has made it much harder to find what I am looking for……

  • Scott

    I just really don’t like google anymore. They just mess with everyone. They’re on the road to failure.

    I agree with Rick “In the final analysis, the death of Google, like any monolithic internet structures, would be a good thing for the internet overall. Next, can we convince eBay that it would be in their best interests to spin off PayPal? That, to me, a webmaster and online marketer since 1998, is the Holy Grail of internet freedom.”

  • Rob Osborne

    I think Google’s position is becoming quite confusing and they are in danger of alienating users. However, you have to wonder how much the general public will be aware of the impact of Google + on google search results and so as the owner of a website where SEO is important I can’t ignore Google+ as part of our strategy.

  • http://www.mindmagic123.com Holistic Hypnosis & Hypnotherapy – Los Angeles

    I use my computer to check for my website search ranking. Now it shows my personal stuff instead, so I am unable to do so. I don’t know how to “depersonalize” my search, so I am stuck.

    Holistic Hypnosis & Hypnotherapy Los Angeles

    • Anonymous

      click the hide personal results option towards the top right of your google search page (one looks like a globe, one looks like a douche)

  • http://www.howtobecomeanaffiliatemarketer.com Andre Daniel Rice

    I was watching this youtube video yesterday. It shows how Google omits or devalues current information in favor of it’s it’s own platforms. I haven’t tried the bookmarklet the commentator discusses but I think the “relevancy” argument can be challenged if this is happening.

  • http://www.laymanwebdesign.com Obdurate

    I guess when I figure out how to post photos and videos under my business name rather than me as an individual, I’ll try to figure a lot more of this out.

    I’d love to use photos, videos etc. under the business names just like I do with Facebook, but I really don’t want anyone finding my personal account in search.

  • http://thechiropractoratlanta.com janedd

    Worse…as mentioned several times already if I want to know what my friends think I have 500 or so I can ask on facebook.

  • http://ultimatemarketingstrategies.net Peter Sundstrom

    Obviously social media has become more and more important in the last few years, but whether or not it should be a more dominant factor in search engine results is debatable.

    One thing I wish Google would do is to make the personalised results the non-default option. If users really think they will benefit from the personalised search results, then they should have to actively switch it on.

  • http://dynodan.com Chris S

    I think it’s horrible that Google has chosen to include social media sites in their listings. Social media is so overblown,it is not relevant to a fair business marketing sector. Business sites should continue to be marketed by the human factor, individual marketing rather than on false “friend” information. I have lost a lot of respect for Google reading this article and it just goes to show that a product that is not good anymore will continue to the the industry leader once again. Where are Bing and Yahoo? The time is right for them to put Google to shame.

    • steve

      I agree with Chris, I hate all this facebook crap and the demand we participate in this “false friend” enviro. This is a ripe opportunity for Bing, “but who listens”

  • http://www.captaincyberzone.com CaptainCyberzone

    After the last algorithm tweak my Adsense hits went to “0″.
    When the hell is Google going to get it right?! It’s like being on a roller-coaster … up, down,up,down,up,down.
    I thought Google was supposed to be a hive of “extra smart” people … that sure as hell is a load of “spin”.

  • http://www.nevadawebsitedesign.com Frank

    Personally, I think Google is putting “overkill” on search. I find the new feature annoying. In fact, in order to view actual search results, I have to log out of Gmail so that my own search results are eliminated from the search page. Maybe Google is trying to make things more convenient, but I think it has a negative impact. Google, and other search engines, should be less complicated – less is more…

  • B-Rad

    I truly believe Google has lost it’s edge and it’s all down hill from here. I have also noticed spam filled sites killing me in the search. There is even one clown ripping off my stuff and sitting on the front page on many searches. Pathetic. Now Bing and Yahoo seem to have it diled in much better from where I stand.

  • STR82U

    I use IE for logging into Google Accounts and other browsers for research.

  • http://www.swatsupply.nl Swatsupply

    I stopped using Google two months ago. Both as a search engine and advertising.
    Google does not give me the results I need anymore.
    I am using Dogpile.com as a search engine and for me this works great. It reminds me of ‘AltaVista’ in the old days.

  • kit

    Google thinks too hard. They should fire these people who want everyone in the world to be able to look up my shorts and concentrate on giving clean search results.

  • Dick Smith

    Abolutely worse…

  • sj

    Good grief – can’t believe that even Google would think these search results are anything but BAD. When I do a search I want results based on the CONTENT of a site not what my freaking Aunt Harriet thinks! And I don’t want pictures or profiles or whatever. I don’t care to read ‘authorship’ – I just want a few lines describing the site so I can determine if it meets my needs.
    For heaven sake Google it’s really ok to not integrate Twitter and Facebook-like nonsense into search results. You don’t have to be all things web. Yes, I can turn G+ off, but I’m just tired of Google and it’s all-consuming attempts to own the web. Definitely moving away from using Google as a search option.

  • T.Y.M

    I don’t what Google is anymore. I just don’t like it anymore. Too cluttered for me and lately I can’t find anything on the first page. What bothers me is that if I use quotes, I see there is content indexed for what I need. That’s exactly what I needed, not what they thought I needed. I’ve been using both Google and Bing but using Google is just a waste of my time now, really. Tired of using double quotes to find something relevant.

  • UFeedMe

    Much worse. Much much worse. I am finding myself logging out of my Google account (which is logged in from GMail) and re-searching the same phrase to clear out the Google + associated results.

  • http://thepsychicuniverse.com Diane Ollivett-Miles

    Google has all ready killed us in the way it ranks pages. We provide a service that no one can find if they do not know our name already.
    Now it is killing my genealogy web site by dropping the page rank to http://domiles.com and making it harder to find.
    I do not do social networking, I do not like social networking yet now we will have to place paid ads on Google+ and Face Book and Twitter in hopes of becoming findable again or close the business and I will have to shut down the genealogy web site for lack of viewers.
    When I am searching the internet for information, I do not want to wade through local listings to find information from other parts of the country or people stupid Utube videos or Social net work profiles. I am smart enough to go to those places if I want that stuff. Google is becoming a big pain that is destroying my finances and a life time of genealogy research. Now people will have to go to libraries for the information that has been at their finger tips. Those who live far away will no longer be able to do online research or any research unless they have deep pockets.
    I am disgusted!

  • http://www.ifactfinders.com Tanya

    Has SPYW made Google Search better or worse? For who is likely the best way to qualify my opinion. No doubt it is much better for Google+ future sustainability. Yet, so far as I can see – it didn’t do very much in respect to ‘unique end user experience’ catch phrase of 2011. Realistically, it may have even harmed the quality of search results across the board. Not only do I continue to find irrelevant results- there are many, many more in number than I have seen in the 10+years I have worked in marketing.
    It’s so sad that Google feels it must compete with Face book, I vote they drop this silly social ambition and do what they do best…act like a true search engine.

  • http://www.website-consultancy.com/ David Carley

    More and more annoying, I just wish Google would leave their search alone – I’m tempted to take Rick Gagliano’s advice with a switch to Bing, except Google, darn them, still generate most of my clients website visitors.

  • http://www.mlivetech.com/ mlivetech

    its not good at all in my opinion,it can help Bing to rise and who knows would beat Google.

  • http://www.whatisamedicalassistant.com Danni R.

    Google, as a search engine is certainly loosing my respect as a user. I no longer find the search results as relative as they used to be. Website owners have taken search engine ranking to a level that gets junky websites right on the first page via thousands of purchased links and web comment injection, pushing well established sites authority sites right off the front. Now with SPYW, while logged in I mostly see my own Google +1 results, for which, in the past, I found my own bookmark list much more efficient and appropriate. Google’s attempt to steer and manipluate its users and the Internet (including the new “ad heavy sites” demotion) has gone too far. I actively support the fight against SOPA and PIPA and Google’s new approach just leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I have been a web developer and designer since 2000 and can speak volumes to the way things have changed for the better and the worst. Right now, as it stands, everything seems to be pointing toward Bing and Yahoo getting the benefits from Google’s mistakes.

  • http://www.designtoads.com DesignToads

    I really think this could cause a backlash against Google. As I’ve read the comments here, some people are moving away from using them altogether and making the switch to Bing. I read this and was even more disappointed

  • LIZ

    ALL ABOUT THE BLESSED BUCK FOR BOTH THESE COMPANIES
    THEY ARE NOT ABOUT PEOPLE ANYMORE

    • http://rxseo.net greg smith

      Well I’ll tell ya, I just really don’t know . As a professional SEO, all of this is really killing my pockets. I’m definately sweating..

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