Google has launched a new feature called “Search Plus Your World” – a deep integration of Google Search with the Google+ social network – in an attempt to turn search into a much more social experience. “Search Plus Your World” was announced on Tuesday, January 10, and will continue rolling out to all Google users over the next few days. Below are some important things to know about the new feature.
“Anything that impacts search results this strongly is something brands and organizations need to be paying attention to and experimenting with,” said Craig Kronenberger, Global Managing Director of Search at Edelman. “The opportunities and impact with ‘Search Plus Your World’ on search results are too great to wait and see what happens.”
How it Works
The new feature allows Google users to search across both the public web and the private web, meaning a logged-in user’s search query (when not opted out of the “Your World” feature) will return a mixture of 1) both traditional, public web pages, and 2) content that has either been shared with them on Google+ or a post that has been made public by a Google+ user. For example, when searching for “Edelman Digital” when logged-in, Google will return the public page www.EdelmanDigital.com as a result, but may also return any of your connections’ Google+ posts or photos that contained the phrase “Edelman Digital.”
The “personal results” generated by “Your World” will include posts, pictures, personal Google+ profiles and brand pages. These “personal results” will be marked with a blue humanoid icon as well as the name of who shared the content (pictured in the above image). While Google will prioritize the content and profiles of those you are connected to, it will also include in its results public profiles to which you are not connected. Additionally, search results will include profiles of experts on the topic you are searching around. Users can add these public/expert profiles to their circles directly from the search results page with the click of a button.
The “Your World” feature will be automatically turned on for logged-in users, but users can opt out by simply clicking a toggle button to show to non-personal results.
Google is also integrating “Your World” with its Instant or autocomplete function, which will help users quickly find the profiles of friends and family.
Thoughts and Things to Consider
This Impacts SEO, Making an Active Google+ Presence a Way to Greatly Increase Search Visibility
The integration of search and social is an area Google continues to experiment with in order to provide users with the most valuable search results. Google launched the +1 button last year, which was at first met with negative reviews, but has begun to show up more and more across the web and has shown to contribute to higher rankings in search results. “Your World” is another step in Google’s experimentation with the integration of search and social.
“Your World” could provide a way for brands and organizations to greatly increase their presence on the world’s largest search engine. By having a Google+ brand page, working to increase connections and optimizing Google+ posts and photos, brands can effectively increase their “shelf-space” in search results for branded terms.
“Your World” could also help a brand or organization be seen as an authority figure in a specific area of conversation. For example, if a brand had a Google+ page solely centered on a green initiative, then by actively posting about trending “green” topics, the brand’s page and posts could become visible in Google results to users searching around those topics, helping the brand become an authoritative voice in that arena. By optimizing profiles and posts around keywords, the brand’s profile would also be more likely to appear as a recommendation under “People and Pages”.
See below for Google’s explanation on how to appear as a recommended page:
Search Results Will Differ Depending On Your Logged-In Status
Users have to be logged-in to Google and using secure search (https://www.google.com) to see the new “personal results”. These “personal results” will, however, differ depending on if the logged-in user does or does not have a Google+ account. For those only logged-in to Google, “personal results” will be based off of information in your basic Google profile such as your location. For those with a Google+ account, results will be much richer and will present results based on Google+ pages and things shared across the network. Even if you aren’t an active Google+ user, your results will still be affected by what your existing contacts have shared.
Users who are not logged-in to Google won’t see any personalized results, but they may be presented with recommended “People and Pages” to follow on Google+ for certain search queries. Logged-out users will only be able to view these Google+ pages, and won’t be able to interact with them until they have created their own accounts. The social network currently has 60 million users and has been projected to reach 400 million by the end of 2012.
Edelman Digital’s Take
The battle continues with another punch from Google. Remember, the intersection of social and search is a marriage that will only grow. One can no longer live without the other and this clearly gives Google an advantage.
Expect Facebook to be forced with a tough decision on either partnering with Bing more closely or opening up so its content can be indexed by Google. Sheer volume of searches alone on Google would presume Facebook would plan to open up more. The ad dollars Google searches can drive to Facebook are too critical to both companies. Bing’s market share has been growing, but it will need a pretty deep partnership from Facebook to make any headway; seems difficult when you’re dealing with two big giants like Microsoft and Facebook. At the end of the day Google needs Facebook and Facebook needs Google with the ball in Google’s court.
This move will also increase adoption on Google+ and force more brands to play on the platform.
Don’t buy into the cries from Twitter. Twitter has done a great job of playing both sides and may in fact prove to be a big winner in the move. Expect Google to cool down the conversation by opening up more to Twitter, a plan Google most likely intended from the beginning.
Since launching, “Search Plus Your World” has received some backlash from the online community and questions around antitrust violations. Some are saying Google users do not care about what their friends have to say about what they are searching for, but this isn’t true. In many categories, such as travel and technology in particular, users highly value their friends’ opinions when it comes to things like what hotel to stay at or what smartphone to buy.
In many instances, when the names and photos of individuals who use a site are shown on the homepage, it can lead to high click-through and conversion rates. This is much like how in recipe results on Google, users are much more likely to click on a recipe with an average rating of 4 stars than one with no rating at all, because these ratings add social context and more value to the user.
The “Your World” feature is a significant change is Google’s user experience, but it’s a good change as it ultimately provides users with better results. We’ve seen Facebook change its layouts several times, and there is always backlash at first, but users adapt to and embrace the changes over time. The same will likely happen with Google search once users begin to realize the value “Your World” provides.
Brands should not wait to get involved and should take advantage of this opportunity by experimenting more with Google+, as it could go a long way in helping increase a brand’s presence in Google results.
For the search and social industry this is nothing but good news. Google has been lightly playing with the convergence of social and search. This move pushes us into the next era. Continued development in making personalization and relevancy a key factor in how people find information ultimately creates better user experiences, quicker access to information that matters, organized results based on trust and people who matter to you. The outcome is a richer search experience for consumers and higher conversions for those brands that have earned trust and loyalty from consumers.
Below are articles we recommend reading to learn more about “Google Plus Your World” and how the change will affect the search experience:
- Official Google Blog: Search, plus Your World
- Mashable: Google Merges Search and Google+ Into Social Media Juggernaut
- Search Engine Land: Google’s Results Get More Personal with Search Plus Your World