Should Google Favor Google+ More Or Less In Search Results?

    April 8, 2012
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

In a letter to investors this week, Google CEO Larry Page expressed Google’s goal to create “a beautifully simple experience across Google”. That’s what the company’s controversial privacy policy change is all about. It’s about tying all of Google’s products together as one Google.

Should data from the various Google services you use be integrated with one another? Tell us what you think.

“Think about basic actions like sharing or recommendations,” wrote Page. “When you find a great article, you want to share that knowledge with people who will find it interesting, too. If you see a great movie, you want to recommend it to friends. Google+ makes sharing super easy by creating a social layer across all our products so users connect with the people who matter to them.”

“When you sign up for Google+, you can use Circles to group people into different categories, such as ‘Friends,’ ‘Family,’ or ‘Rocket Scientists,’ and then engage with them just like in real life,” he continued. “You can recommend great news articles, websites, and videos to specific Circles, or share photos with ‘Family’ straight from your Android device. And the photos are even uploaded for you automatically! To follow people with shared interests, such as photography, just add them to your Circles. And you can share your own ideas with the world, or a smaller group, via the Google+ Stream and have others respond.”

“It’s still early days, and we have a long way to go,” he noted. “But these are tremendously important changes, and with over 120 Google+ integrations to date (including Google Search, YouTube and Android), we are on the right track. Well over 100 million users are active on Google+, and we’re seeing a positive impact across the Web, with Google users being able to recommend search results and videos they like—a goal we’ve had ever since we started the company.”

Now imagine that Google+ had over 800 million users like Facebook. You might be surprised to know that in some ways it already does.

Google’s Vic Gundotra recently explained that Google counts active users as users who sign into Google+ and use another Google product within a month. Google may not be up to the 800 million mark in that regard (though they’re an 1/8 of the way there apparently – not bad for less than a year), but if Google+ is really just a social layer over Google products, you have to consider that Google has a lot more users than that. YouTube itself, in fact, has over 800 million.

Now consider that Facebook is working on its own search engine. It may only be internal (at least at first), but at 800 million users, even that in itself is enough to potentially take some searches away from Google. In a recent article on this subject, I wrote:

I’ve long maintained that the biggest threat to Google’s search market share is likely not the threat of a single competitor, but the diversification of search in general. People are using more apps than ever (from more devices than ever), and just don’t have to rely on Google (or other traditional search engines) for access to content the way they used to. Take Twitter search, for example, which has become the go-to destination for finding quick info on events and topics in real time. When was the last time you turned to Google’s realtime search feature? It’s been a while, because it’s been MIA since Google’s partnership with Twitter expired last year. Sometimes a Twitter search is simply more relevant than a Google search for new information, despite Google’s increased efforts in freshness.

One Googler told me he thought this paragraph was “dead-on”.

Even if Facebook doesn’t come out with an actual web search engine in the style of Google or Bing, significant improvements to Facebook search (with the right marketing behind it) could chip away a nice chunk of searches that would otherwise go to Google.

But, before we get too far off base here, the point is that Facebook as a whole is a direct competitor to Google as a whole. If you look at it from this perspective (which seems to be the way Google looks at it), search is just a feature. Facebook certainly favors Facebook results in Facebook searches. Web searches are only added on at the end via Bing.

“Activity on the Google+ Stream itself is increasing too,” said Page. “We’re excited about the tremendous speed with which some people have amassed over one million followers, as well as the depth of the discussions taking place among happy, passionate users—all evidence that we’re generating genuine engagement. When I post publicly I get a ton of high quality comments, which makes me happy and encourages me to keep posting. I strongly encourage all of you to follow me on Google+—I love having this new way to communicate and share with all of you!”

In a different portion of his letter called, “next-generation search,” Page basically discussed Search Plus Your World, and a bit about delivering more direct answers in results. Search Plus Your World, if you’re unfamiliar, is the personalization that Google launched earlier this year, which initially put a great deal more emphasis on Google+ content in search results.

It still does this, but Google seems to have toned it down a bit. At one point, Google was ranking Mark Zuckerberg’s Google+ Page over his public Facebook profile, which made no sense in terms of relevancy. Google was also ranking the WWE’s Google+ page over its Twitter account, even though the Twitter account was much more popular.

In both of these cases, the Google+ Pages are no longer outranking their more relevant counterparts, with SPYW toggled on or off. This may or may not be a direct result of a recent algorithm change. Earlier this week, Google posted its monthly list of algorithm changes. One of the things on the list was:

Better indexing of profile pages. [launch codename “Prof-2″] This change improves the comprehensiveness of public profile pages in our index from more than two-hundred social sites.

Plus, as another Googler recently told us, “Search plus Your World builds upon existing search features such as Social Search, personalized search, and authorship,” some of which Google has had in place for much longer. “You will continue to see existing Social Search features including +1s and content shared by your connections on Google+ and other sites. We’ll continue to look at your Google+ profile to see other content you’ve published online and linked to your profile.”

So what makes one profile more relevant than another? That’s a tricky question that Google is likely to continue to struggle with. It’s not always as easy as the Facebook CEO and his Facebook profile vs. his Google profile. It’s not necessarily as simple as which one has more followers either. The WWE’s Twitter account may have more followers than its Google+ account, but if you don’t use Twitter and you use Google+, the latter is most likely more relevant to you.

Google will likely continue to struggle with relevance vs. social/personalization. It must be hard to grow a social network when you have to promote a rival social network’s content ahead of the content from the one you’re trying to build. Facebook doesn’t have that problem. You wouldn’t go to Facebook and complain if you searched for “Larry Page” and it delivered you a Facebook Page for Larry Page rather than his Google+ profile.

So, as Google has already established itself for years as a web search engine, it faces some major hurdles in this chess match with Facebook that Facebook may not have to worry about, and even if both companies are headed to similar futures (at least in the social and search space), they come from very different backgrounds. They’re both working to the middle of one spectrum from opposite sides – Google from search moving towards social, and Facebook vice versa.

Facebook, at least has the social data to begin with, and is able to partner with another major search engine in Bing, along the way.

From Page’s letter, it is clear that Google is still more focused on search than on social as the overall strategy, with social simply being a means to improve search. But if Google+ is its social strategy, and Google is already favoring Google+ less in its search results, can Google win this battle? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

  • http://thebasscollege.com Steve Vonbrandt

    Yes Its a great idea.

  • Renaldo

    With google putting so many advertisements in the search results, it doesn’t really matter what they do with the organic serps. They’re shooting themselves in the foot with the adverts.

  • http://cozumelmexico.net Bob Rodriguez

    How many “forward” mails do you get from “friends”?

    Do you put all of them in a special file called “likes”?

    Or do you DELETE most of them. And what about the ones that you “forward” to someone else? Do they keep them in a special file? or do they DELETE them?

    I remember when I used to get litterally hundreds of junk e-mails from people who considered them to be “important”. I guess google wants to set the clock back to a time when everyone is going to bompbard their friends with a bunch of crap!

    Let’s just throw individuality out the window while we’re at it!

    • http://www.webpronews.com/author/chris-crum Chris Crum

      That’s a pretty interesting way of looking at it.

  • http://www.worldwar2treasure.com/ Mae

    I have not been able to log on to my YouTube account and respond to hundreds of subscribers and commenters because Google changed the YouTube password to an unknown Google one and the reset instructions are in Tagalog when I only understand English. So much for a multibillion dollar company with so much talent.

  • http://www.duckduckgo.com Patricia

    I have to agree with Renaldo, google is not a search engine anymore, it is an Ad engine, mostly everything you see is an ad when you do a search. We now use DuckDuckgo.com at home and at the office and we are a lot more pleased with the results.

  • http://www.LAokay.com Steve G

    I think it’s a great idea only if there is a filter for it. So I can search for something and see a link that would tell me that my friends have +1’d things that are related to my current query, or I can do a search where it only shows me things related to my query and my circles. That way I can click on the link or not. I don’t mind Google suggesting things, but how about letting me choose when to display that information instead of always trying to force it upon me?

  • http://Agrotising.com Chris Agro

    I read this article and all I can think of is the Rock ‘Um Sock ‘Um robots. The red and blue warriors start off in their respective corners and slowly come into the the center to do battle. I am constantly amazed and intrigued by all that is going on with the Internet. I think back to the days when I first got online, when search engines like Alta Vista and Yahoo where the big boys. Now the Internet has grown so much. Who knows how this will all play out, I just appreciate writers like you Chris Crum who keep us informed with such great articles. Keep ‘Um coming!

  • http://www.herrickconstruction.net Greg

    I like the idea of Google+. Not everyone buys the news paper. I speed less $ using Google in general. I can use Micosoft Writer for my blogs, facebook, twitter, and other meda, still waiting to link it to Google+. I can still search using google and find what I need. If google is not going to do it then someone else will.

  • http://amseek.com abhi
  • http://www.herrickconstruction.net Greg

    In the mid 70’s – my teen years in the Bay Area, I was with a group learning a system that was thought to be great. A young man with two body guards came to visit our group. The young man ask what we thought of the system. I said there are to many steps to go though in order to receive an end result. So I will have to say, come on Google, join us in this venture. I have ideas, but I’m just a carpenter with a IT/SE degree.

  • http://www.captaincyberzone.com Cap’n Cyberzone

    Google has been telling us that all the Panda changes were to optimize the search results in order to deliver the most accurate, concise content to the user. Now we’re getting drips and drabs that Google+ results might (will probably) be favored …
    Why am I getting that feeling of being used and lied to like a cheap whore?! It must have been a laugh-riot at Google when they’re reminded of their motto, “Don’t be evil”.

  • http://www.minishop.com web master

    Google should stop playing with the search results. It is incredibly unfair to give weight to a site in search results simply because that site is part of google+, or pays for or participates in any other google product. Search results should be based on the relevance of the site to the search string…. PERIOD!!

    Every time google messes with the search algorithms we lose money.

  • http://karras-bommer.blogspot.com Karras Bommer

    I love having almost everything I do online go through only one service, in this case Google. Once I get a Google operating system and Google television, I’ll be totally Google. Gotta trust someone in cyberspace; I’ve chosen to trust Google.

  • http://www.medlawplus.com medlaw

    The problem goes well beyond Google+ to Google Local and a host of other Google content pages. Google is a monopolist in the search market. Can we really trust Google to fairly rank their own content pages in search results? It’s really a ludicrous suggestion that they can. The real solution of the problem of Google leveraging its monopoly power into other markets: i.e., split Google search into a separate company.

  • http://ofinteresttome.com Matt

    I don’t really care what Google does with search anymore. While I still use many of their products, Gmail, YouTube, Docs, etc, and I love Google+, I really do not like their search anymore. About 6 months ago I started using Bing and not once have I missed Google.

  • http://www.mysquareonecondo.ca/ Square One condos

    I think that it could work, but Google would have to be very careful of the way it integrates the +1 to its exiting algorithm.

  • http://ephedrinewheretobuy.com Mike Budd

    I am ok with the fact that Google shares my data from one Google App to another, but of course not with third parties. I use G+ and I like it. For me Facebook is the “BBQ” side of social relation, ideal for teenagers, Linkedin is the professional one and G+ is the global version, more suitable for adults who can organize their circles, including family, friends, business etc…
    So to come back to the question, yes, definitely, Google should favor G+ in search results for the sake of consistency & quality.

  • http://www.sewakursifutura.com sewa kursi

    Thanks For Atention

  • http://tech-sharing.com Krishna

    It is violation of Google’s own policy that does not allow the linking together of all of one’s own sites and friends’ sites. Such practices are often described by Google’s experts as creating link farms. Moreover, Google uses a policy of ‘carrot and sticks’ by offering more exposure in search results if you display a link to Google+ on your sites. I find this kind of prompting in many Goggle services. If what they promise, or seemingly promise, is true, it is another violation of their promise of delivering unbiased search results.

  • http://www.herrickconstruction.net Greg

    After reading the post above, I will have to agree google is in violation of their own terms. My sites have dropped in the past six months. I no longer depend on google to promote my biz. I have been receiving better results from monthly and weekly news letters. I have also started emailing thank you letters. Staying in contact with my customs on a one on one basis has generated more work.

  • http://jeffdownerbailbonds.com Jeff Downer

    I think context is important. A search performed from a Google+ page should be treated differently that a search performed from a tool bar.

    Let the user have the option to determine the context of a search’s intent. If it is all about users then user defined filters should be the goal.

  • http://www.solarflairlighting.com AM McElroy

    Our Google rankings have gone down since the integration. Our customer base is mostly over the age of 45-50, and for the most part this generation doesn’t seem comfortable with Google+, Facebook and other social media. http://www.SolarFlairLighting.com has gone from consistently being in the top five of page 1 of Google searches to top/middle of page 2 for our top keyword. Nothing changed, just the Google+.

    It seems unfair that there is so much integration considering certain market segments just aren’t really into social media.

  • http://www.royalbisnisonline.com/?id=asdi samudi

    i like the idea of google.

  • http://www.royalbisnisonline.com/?id=asdi samudi

    i like the idea of google,i like this.

  • http://bestbizdirectory.com Nick G

    If I am searching for a simple answer such as a celebrity’s birthday or the stats of a basketball player, I will search signed into a Google account. If I am searching for more detailed information or a useful article, I make sure I search while signed out of Google. I feel like the results are better and more useful. I am really not interested in seeing what other people with Google accounts have written about or recommended.

  • Adymat

    I think yes since they have better clarity of Google+ working than what is lying hidden in facebook, Twitter etc.

    But the question arises will they do the same in other cases as well. :)

  • chase

    Personally I hope for your Gods sake Google implements a rankings system that ranks solely on how much money you have and how much you pay them.

    It would end all the BS – He who has the most and pays the most – ranks highest… screw the rest.

    And if they did I’d be first to say “Back to the end of the Google line with you, you artisticly creative webmastering content filling website bastards.” I’ve got more money than you so I rank higher and higher till I’m at the top of the Gooogle World… !!!

    till then though… Hi 😉

  • http://www.seonorthamerica.com Tom Aikins

    Why does Google use SPYW in the first place? I’d like to see a good explanation for that. I saw a comment above where someone mentioned that they used duckduckgo.com and I think they’re right. I think I get better results with Bing also. I’ve stopped with AdWords as well. The ROI just isn’t there.

  • http://www.honed.co @matdwright

    The real opportunity is real-time.

    Google has a strong YouTube social network and a great delivery on quality (authorank) search but it lacks direct network posts as real as a quick tweet.

    Google please take another look at http://www.focusontheuser.org/