On Tuesday Google launched Search, plus your world, an additional option in search results that allows you to overlay your social network (that is, Google+ network) over your search results, allowing you to filter the world and easily search for content that has been recommended, developed or posted by your (Google+) social network.
They also announced much tighter integration of social results into the search space, including showcasing (Google+) personal pages off the back of searches and replacing some of it’s paid search with People and Profile pages and references.
There are a number of interesting angles to this – the bloggosphere and SEO universe has gone off about how this is now deeply skewing results to Google+, how it’s breaking Google’s mantra of “do no evil” and that there is a big possibility that the anti-trust suits being brought against Google will be extended into this space. Search Engine Land has some great examples of just how this is working, and the guys at Twitter are going mental about the fact that even though news breaks on Twitter, Google isn’t ranking Twitter in the social feeds.
Google have fought back, saying that Twitter were the ones who stopped the deal to supply a feed into Google, and that Facebook won’t let them get into their network, so they can’t add them into the loop, a positioning that’s been hammered a little, as seen in the Search Engine Land post.
This means that suddenly it’s imperative for all brands to start playing in Google+ – whereas previously we were advising all our clients to “wait and see” on Google, this was on the basis that from a user perspective, very few people are going there. However, we know that everyone uses Google, and now that Google+ is seeing massive favoritism in search results, you need to get in there.
From a slightly more business orientated perspective – this is an incredibly smart move by Google. As we discuss frequently at my ADMA classes, the growth of Facebook (and other social platforms) is a huge threat to Google – not only does it suck in large amounts of user time (if you take Facebook out of the mix, the amount of time Australians spend online has actually decreased over the last few months, because we’re all getting more social). It is also becoming a massive content store that Google can’t get into – videos, photos, text content etc. are being stored in FB and we’re starting to do things like Search for content in Facebook, get our news in Facebook, read our jokes in FaceBook etc. a dangerous trend for Google. So whilst it needs Google+ to work in it’s own right, it’s also a huge protectionist strategy to ensure that Google remains relevant as a search engine – by creating the social overlay, it creates benefits for both Google and Google+. Facebook has been following a similar strategy, with OpenGraph allowing Facebook to track you around the web, and then present comments, likes, reviews etc in spaces well outside the Facebook site itself.
What’s interesting about Google’s latest move is it’s response. It hasn’t just said “tough, it’s our product and we’ll do what we like to promote our company group products”, it’s come out and said “we’re happy to list other people’s stuff, but then they need to play nicely with us”. So they’re putting the onus on Twitter and Facebook to share in a way that suits Google, by threatening them with tight integration of Google+. Suddenly Facebook and Twitter will be re-evaluating their whole data sharing with Google policy, based on the fact that their big users will now be strongly considering ramping up Google+ presences because of the search results.
A gutsy move by Google, and done at a time where they have enough market share to be highly successful. Google once again proving the definition of Frienemy
What do you think – is this proof that Google has well and truly abandoned it’s “Don’t be evil” mantra, or are they on the right track ?