Now that the dust has settled from Google’s latest update, I thought I would give my opinion on Search, plus Your World. There has been a lot of talk recently regarding this update and the introduction of social search results incorporated in SERPs. In a recent blog post, Google said that it is “transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships.” This means ‘social search’ has arrived, however potentially not in a good way.
The new Google update introduces 2012 to social search by incorporating personalised results using various social signals. But by social signals we are not talking about Facebook or Twitter, two of the largest social behemoths, we are talking Google+. Whether you do or do not have a Google+ account you will start to see personalised results calculated using Google+ information, which is where Twitter has a problem. They released a statement saying, “We’re concerned that as a result of Google’s changes, finding this information [relevant and real-time news] will be much harder for everyone. We think that’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users.” They are certainly not happy although did they really not see it coming? A few months back Google announced that it would not renew its contract to prioritise tweets in SERPs, therefore is this recent move a surprise to anyone?
Subject to the privacy options selected when people post information to their Google+ account, Google will now include your friends’ data within its algorithm to see if they have been talking about anything that relates to your search, with these conversations appearing in your personalised results pages. In addition to seeing your friends’ posts and pictures at the top of results page, Google will display data based on what your friends have been doing; therefore if they recommend a good place to eat, this is more likely to appear at the top of your results. Similarly if you’re searching for a person who has a Google profile, this will also more likely appear near the top. The update has been released in an attempt to combat search engine spam; however, has it opened the door to the worst kind of spam possible – non-relevant results and spam from my friends? Has the update decreased the legitimacy of search results? If all of my friends share or +1 information from pages with bogus data on it, will that appear top of my search results? The answer is yes.
Google’s job as the leader in search engines is to provide the most relevant results. The problem with Search, plus Your World is that it prioritises results based on the perspective of your friends, and while I do have things in common with them, we are still different people with different tastes and opinions. Lucky, you’re able to turn off personal search if you so wish. The problem here is for the less savvy of Google searchers; will they know to do this? Probably not, meaning their results will always be potentially flawed.
Facebook and Twitter are silos, storing social graph information into databases, and perhaps Google is paranoid that important data is being held behind the scenes by these social giants, which is possibly why it’s taking steps towards countering this. Is Google bullying though? Maybe, but what’s wrong with Google promoting itself? Nothing… however, Google has built its business around pointing to the best content on the web. Is it a positive move? Time will tell, however change is necessary and with social design incorporated into every facet of our online activities it was only a matter of time until social became unified with our search habits.