Why Google Is Adding Social Search Features
With Google’s recent launch of “Search Plus Your World,” the debate for and against Google adding social search features to its algorithm has reached a fevered pitch; even the Federal Trade Commission has added Google’s social search functionality to a growing list of Google antitrust concerns.
While it’s been suggested by more than one search expert that Search Plus Your World clearly favors Google-owned results (particularly Google+) over other, more objectively relevant results, it appears that social search is here to stay. Here are some of the primary reasons why Google is adding social search features to its core search functionality.
Increasing Google Dependence
In recent years, Google has been very transparent in its goal to fully integrate all of its products and services. This increased Google dependency among the online population has happened fairly unobtrusively. For example, people seemed to be quite willing to log in to YouTube using their Gmail credentials or to find specific fields in Google Analytics that linked to their Google Places accounts.
All of this integration made the Google brand more versatile and important to consumers and opened the doors for Google to launch new products with a built-in audience. Some products tanked (Google Buzz, Google Wave) but that Google-dependency meant consumers wouldn’t stray far from the brand they relied on, believed in, and trusted. It’s a great story of successful brand building.
In mid-2011, Google introduced a tool that would capture personal information and aid its goal to develop a personalized, social search product. That tool was the Google +1 button for websites. Not long after that Google+ opened its doors for the first time.
Fast forward a few months to present day and Google appears to be introducing new social search functionality at a feverish pace. Now, when Google account holders are logged into their profiles, Google+ content is highlighted at the top of the search results, and high-profile Google+ accounts and pages get a special box at the top of the right sidebar for extra promotion. Looks like a perfect place for some future monetization, which leads us to the second reason Google is adding social search features, namely, to make more money!
Making More Money
Yes, Google makes a lot of money from search ads (approximately $30 billion in annual search ad revenue) but there is a lot more money to be made by increasing Google-dependence among consumers. More eyes on Google products and services means more potential clicks on ads.
Combine those standard search ads with a repository of personal information gathered through Google+, YouTube, Picasa, Blogger, and other Google applications and search advertisers can better target their ads so the right audiences see them.
But that’s not all. The new personalized results that Google delivers through Search Plus Your World also appear to favor Google+ Pages, making those pages the likely first stop for people looking for information about brands and companies. What better way to increase brand reliance on Google+ and open the doors for more money-making opportunities for Google? It’s very clever.
Competing with Facebook, Twitter, and More
To the casual observer, all the hype around social sharing and social data exploded when the Facebook Like button took off. It’s not surprising that Google’s +1 button followed in the Facebook Like button footsteps. When the +1 button launched, the search community saw the writing on the wall and predicted it would soon affect Google search results. Google admitted those predictions were spot on, so no one should be surprised that Search Plus Your World is becoming such a priority for Google.
Despite the fact that Facebook and Twitter results are blatantly missing from Search Plus Your World results and Google-related results are given top billing, it’s a move that Google had to make. Facebook has 800 million users to Google+’s approximately 60 million. The new focus on Google+ results in search results makes it incredibly easy for people to expand their Google+ Circles and activities.
Facebook and Twitter continue to ramp up their advertising opportunities for businesses, and Google can’t get lazy as the search advertising leader. To stay ahead of its competitors, Google needs to get the same kind of social data access that Facebook and Twitter have. A growing Google+ means access to more personal and behavioral data, which means better targeting for advertisers, higher click-through rates, and higher return on investment.
What’s your take on social search? Do you like Google’s new “Search Plus Your World” protocol? Would you like to see more, or less social sharing in your Google search results? Share your thoughts below.