Additional reporting by Story’s Director of Audience Generation Cyrus Karimi.
In early December, Google updated their search algorithm to provide each user with personalized results—the information Google deemed most relevant to the specific user. The news garnered little chatter in the social media realm. According to Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land, less than 50 news articles and blog posts were written about in its initial week (and only 290 to date).
Earlier this month Google made another important change, updating their search algorithm to include personalized search results specifically pulled from Google+ activity, naming the new results “Google Personalized Results.” Once again the news spread through social circles and landed on a few of blogs, but compared to the hoopla surrounding SOPA, Facebook Timeline, and emerging technologies like Pinterest, its effect was more of a ripple than a tidal wave and has many users and news outlets slamming the change.
However, love it or hate it, these changes may be the new “normal” for search, forever.
Google’s new feature, Search, plus Your World, has three major components:
- Personal Results, which enable you to find information just for you, such as Google+ photos and posts taken from sources which can include both your own and those shared specifically with you. These results are only shown on your own results page.
- Profiles in Search, shown both in auto-complete and results, which enables you to immediately find people you’re close to or may be interested in following.
- People and Pages, which help the user find profiles and Google+ pages related to a specific topic or area of interest, enabling you to follow them with just a few clicks.
Personal results can help a user in a multitude of ways. An example would be if a user were looking to plan a trip. While she could conduct a traditional search around a given vacation spot, a better experience would be to see if her personal network of friends or colleagues have experience travelling to the destination she is searching for. What better way is there to find out about a potential vacation that to view personal experiences from the people you know and trust?
With the advent of Personal Results a user can see what users have said about a given destination on their Google + profiles as well as the associated photo content users may have uploaded on Google +. With these results, the user can find information from her social network in regards to the experiences that they shared at this destination, the photos they have taken, etc., all embedded within Google’s search results.
The goal of these search results is to provide users with a socially driven, personalized search result experience while leveraging their strong search platform. These results get populated based on the user’s Google+ activity, including posts that have been made on Google+’s Stream, links that have been posted by you or your connections, information that has been “+1’d”, etc.
PROFILES IN SEARCH
Based on the fact that there are thousands of searches for people conducted daily, Google launched this feature as a method to instantly connect and interact with people, all within your search results. As the user begins typing in a name, Google will populate a drop down menu of your Google + contacts, eventually showing their profile and giving the user the ability to connect with that user, all from Google’s search results. This development will help connect users in an easier fashion while allowing Google to expand upon their user base of 65 million.
PEOPLE AND PAGES
The People and Pages functionality will show what Google+ users are saying around a given topic. These results are shown on the right hand side of the page, as displayed below. These results encourage users to have a dialog with those displayed results, while finding a community of Google+ users that are centric to that given topic that was queried.
Please note that this change could have a major effect on paid search campaigns, which typically were shown on the right side of a search result page (as well as the top). While top results are unchanged by this development, the results shown on the right side now are pushed to the bottom of the search engine result page, which could result in lower CTRs for advertisers conducting a Google AdWords buy.
Google is providing this information in an effort to further increase their share within the social landscape by promoting the Google+ network. Google’s bread and butter is search. They are now using this platform as a method to gain traction for their own social network’s results, thus devaluing search results that have been created from other social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook. Needless to say, Twitter is not a fan of this development! Twitter lambasted the changes as “bad” for consumers and Web publishers. Meanwhile, a privacy watchdog group is threatening to file a compliant with the FTC. There will be more info as this develops but one thing is clear, Google is going “all in” with their social network, using the argument that their search results are now more personalized and social providing a richer search experience.
An op-ed piece on Mashable outlined what many people are echoing about the latest changes: too much too soon. Forbes cited the change as biased (and shows you how to turn it off) Google became the most popular search engine because it was really good at returning relevant results. So what happens when the best (non-Google+) results are pushed halfway down the page? Will people love it or hate it?
What do you think? Is this good for the user or just Google trying to muscle their social platform to the top?
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