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Can Google’s Algo Co-exist with Trust?

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In a previous article, Is Universal Search Harder?, I discussed how a universal type of search can actually make finding what you are searching for more difficult. Google includes their own version of Universal Search in many of their search results pages, bringing us news, images, videos and so forth along with traditional web pages.

Now, however, Google has also decided to become its own social network as well. Sharing is now very popular with the search giant. The most recent evidence of this is their ill-received roll out of sharing in Google Reader, which kicked off a fresh round of privacy concerns.

Even ranking well in Universal Search requires joining their "social" circle. You need to be sure share your content with YouTube, Google News, image search, book search, etc. to cover all of your bases these days. Being in all of those can mean the difference between a presence in the top search results and not ranking at all. For instance, your web site might not show up in the top results for a given search phrase, but your video just might.

With Personalized Search, you’re sharing your search history, not with others, but with Google so that they can dish out results based on that history. Sites you’ve frequented often will rank higher when you are logged into your Google account. Of course, if you forget you’re logged in, you might have a "What the ****?" moment over the same site coming up high in your searches. I’ve had the experience of wondering why a certain page kept coming up #1 when I knew it normally doesn’t (I was logged into my Google account without knowing it). It would be very helpful if there was an easier way to know you are logged in, like the page background changes or something.

Then there’s the added clutter of ads and promotional sites that make finding what you are really looking for in Google search even more difficult. Google has gone from concentrating on what it does best – search – to attempting to be everything to everyone.

With Google trying so hard to compete with social sites like Facebook, where you can find information based on trusted sources rather than the shotgun approach of Universal Search, what does this mean?

Could trust kill the algorithm?

To be clear, I don’t see Google getting trounced by Facebook or any of the other social sites, but it is very clear that a lot of searchers are finding their way to these sites to find information from sources that they trust rather than navigate through the hodgepodge of ads, videos, news, images and so forth being dished out in search results these days.

It’s interesting that ranking in Google depends, in part, on backlinks from trusted sites, but searchers are finding their way to Facebook, StumbleUpon and so forth to find trusted results.

How many more hats can Google put on before they start leaning to one side and eventually tip over, their newest hat being the social networking hat? Can a search engine dish out results based on trusted back links as well as trusted social connections?

Can the algorithm co-exist with trust?

Will we wind up with FaceGoogStumble?

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Can Google’s Algo Co-exist with Trust?
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