Monday, 16th January 2012
Google has given its own Google+ social service a massive boost in the search rankings with the launch of "Search, plus Your World" - perhaps the biggest change to Google results for a decade. The company says it is "transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships.
Last year at the UPA conference in Atlanta, ex-Googler Paul Adams, who is now at Facebook, argued that the entire future of the web was going to be social, with the data to prove it. That social aspect of the web looks to be strengthened with the announcement of perhaps the most radical change to Google Search since the introduction of advertising – Search, plus Your World. An official Google blog post explains that the company is "transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships".
Starting with users searching Google.com when they are signed in, search results pages will also include three new elements. Google describe them as:
The examples given in the official post include the rather bizarre one of getting pictures of your pet dog returned to you when you are searching for something related to their name, but there is a full write-up by Danny Sullivan on Search Engine Land which also includes a handy timeline of how Google search has become increasingly personalised since June 2005.
In his write-up, Sullivan makes a key point about the new feature:
"Search Plus Your World doesn’t cover content on Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Flickr. Or any social network or place where content might be shared to a more limited audience. Currently, 'Search Plus Your World' would be better described as 'Search Plus Google+.'" This, he says, may cause the company to "come under renewed fire that it is leveraging its search engine to favour its own content and crowd out competitors".
Neil Vidyarthi notes that the effect is mainly to include bits of Google+ at the top of the results. He says that "with such powerful placement the arguments for businesses to get themselves on Google Plus just got a whole lot more compelling".
Another good analysis comes from Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic. Despite worrying that this blurs Google's mission to organise all of the information on the internet, not just to favour their own social network, he states:
"There are some excellent new things about the design of the new personal search results. For one, Google added a toggle to the upper right corner of the search page that allows you to switch between global results and your personal set of results. That's a nice way to opt out on a case-by-case basis and lets us maintain something like a universally legible Internet".
Google's own video about the new service can be found on YouTube.
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