Today Google announced a dramatic change in the format of search results coming to your browser in a steady roll-out across English results. The change is called Google Search Plus the World which will present users logged in to Google with search results mingled with a myriad of socially derived results from friends on Google Plus.
Haven’t we Seen this For a While Now?
This may sound similar to what you have seen over the past while where certain results had a profile shot of a friend next to them because your friend had recently given it a social nod (liked, +1′d, etc.) but this is far more intense. The new additions are opt-out only and include any of the following content showing in results if it is relevant: images, video, and websites. In addition, these results can also include semi-private and private content such as content shared with you via a limited circle in Google Plus or directly from someone in your network; note that does not mean this is visible to anyone else on Google so don’t get freaked about privacy unless you plan on leaving your browser logged in to your Google profile.
Here is the official (and rather cool) video Google used to demonstrate the functionality all Google users will soon see:
The biggest and most alarming takeaway here is that the only social content found within these socialized search results is that of Google Plus! That’s right, Google did not include one iota of content from Twitter, Facebook, Flickr or any other social platform. Their excuse is painfully simple and transparent; the others won’t let them spider their content to that degree (the simple part) and Google is whacking them over the head for it (the transparent part). Welcome to a classic case of cause and effect except in this case Google has tread heavily on dangerous ground.
So, based on this news did you pick up how Google just dropped its pants for its competitors? The outright antitrust implications of Google integrating its own social network into supposedly neutral search results without catering to the competition – the pants loosen. The full bare arse is revealed when Google made this new functionality opt-out by default; in other words you are in whether you like it or not until you manually remove yourself. This, in my opinion is the dumbest move imaginable and has the social industry quickly aiming at Google’s privates.
Here are a few examples of the rush of heated headlines spurned by this news:
- Twitter Really, Really Hates Google’s New Google+ Integration by Jason Kincaid at Tech Crunch
- Twitter: Google+ Integration In Google Search Is “Bad” For Everyone by Matt McGee, Marketing Land
- “Search, Plus Your World As Long as it is Our World” by John Battelle
- “Twitter Dumps on Google for Pushing Google+ in Search” by Liz Gannes of AllThingsDigital
- Many more are found here (this link will show the latest) courtesy of TechMeme
What Google Could Have Done to Minimize Anti-Trust Exposure
I don’t understand when a company willingly puts itself in the path of legal harm which Google clearly has done by not including its competitors in Search Plus; perhaps it is just another clear example of corporations having too much money to care. At any rate, I would have done one or both of the following options to minimize exposure:
- Included the content that Google does have access to from the other social platforms. For example, they can index public information from any of the platforms; there is a lot to be had and we see it often in everyday searches on Google. By adding this information they would have the ability to say, “well we would love to include more but we need to create better relationships with each company to get more of that data.” At least that position would have held more water than simply not trying which opens a downright palatial foothold for an antitrust lawsuit.
- Not everyone has a Google Profile but the advantages of having one is made abundantly clear if you want to take advantage of Google’s vast array of free applications. Since Google’s entire future strategy relies critically upon pushing Google Profiles it just makes sense to make Search Plus a very bold opt-in option when signing up. And for those who already have a Profile, just use ads to push the benefits of Search Plus and make it dirt simple to enable the option. Chances are that many will take the option and by going this route Google is free and clear of antitrust; at least I think so based on my admittedly puny knowledge of law.
Living With Google Search Plus
- If you are not on Google Plus then this is yet another reason to get your butt in gear and give it a go otherwise your competitors could end up having even more sway over your marketplace.
- Who you are connected with on G+ will be more important than ever for you. After all, the more people you really don’t have a connection with the more you are likely to see noise in your results. So, begin cutting back people you follow to those you really care to listen to. On a personal note I know I have been throwing people into circles willy-nilly and I am now concerned my results will be jammed with pictures and noise I have no interest in seeing during my daily searches.
- Pay even more attention to what you like and comment on within Google Plus because it is more likely to haunt you if you choose unwisely thanks to this extra exposure of your social habits.
- Consider this yet another indicator that social signals will be playing a greater role in how content is found and ranked online… links simply are not enough anymore (although still important). Yes, that means social has added to your workload but that isn’t news is it?