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Thread: Search+ (Google's new search results page)

  1. #1
    Post Impressionist Array vangogh's Avatar
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    Default Search+ (Google's new search results page)

    Sometime this week Google made a significant change to it's search results page. I'm posting this thread in social, though because the change is more about the Google+ network. They've started to push Google+ heavily on the results page.

    Here's a post from Search Engine Land, Real-Life Examples Of How Google’s “Search Plus” Pushes Google+ Over Relevancy, with some examples and additional information.

    For a number of searches Google is now showing Google+ profiles on the right hand side above the ads. The profiles are very visible and clearly this is a way to help promote the new social side of Google. It's not without controversy as some are suggesting Google is taking advantage of their near monopoly in search to promote their social offering over sometimes more relevant Facebook or Twitter profiles. Some are calling the DOJ to investigate.

    To give you an example if you search Google for "Facebook" they show Mark Zuckerberg's Google+ profile, with it's 0 Google+ posts. Who honestly thinks that's the profile people would want to see there. His Facebook profile would be the obvious one to use.

    Beyond the controversy though, this is another sign Google is serious about pushing Google+ to all Google users. It'll likely give a boost to Google+ signups and it also means if you have a profile you just might start appearing in the search results more often and in a very visible location. The profiles are showing regardless of whether or not you're logged into anything Google, though I did notice different results when signing in and out.

    If you're signed into Google and have personal results on, above all the results you'll see 3 avatars above all results of people in your circles. If you have Instant search on as soon as you start typing people in Google+ are showing up as recommend searches. The personal results and Instant search are both defaults so it's how most people will be searching Google, assuming they have some kind of Google account and are logged in.

    This is definitely a bog change. You may want to play around and run some searches. Try some while logged out and some while logged in and play around with your personal settings.
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    Member Needs New Keyboard Array seolman's Avatar
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    Google has certainly earned it's position as "best product" when it comes to providing search results for the majority and so have been placed in a virtual monopoly position through demand. I think where they fail is when they assume this gives them a mandate to make decisions for all those who use their products. In this I see a backlash already arriving at a legal (regulatory) level and very likely to follow at a user level too. At just the right moment I expect Facebook or other major players to launch a huge "try our less invasive search engine" approach in an attempt to steal some market away from Google.

    When companies become arrogant the market itself will make corrections and savvy business people will be in the wings waiting to pounce on disgruntled customers.
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    Post Impressionist Array vangogh's Avatar
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    I generally agree. What's going on is a shift in the primary destination for people when they hop online. First it was the portal pages like AOL and Yahoo. Once Google showed search could work well, search engines became that first stop. Now it's shifting to social and for most that means Facebook. Google wants part that pie and has been working on building a social network for years, though always without success.

    So far Google+ seems to be doing well or well enough. I think the early signs suggest it will grow, though Google would prefer it grow faster hence search+

    There's definitely been a backlash. I'm sill of mixed opinion. I don't hold it against any company to use their properties to promote their other properties. If Google is indeed a monopoly in search they have to be more careful with how they do it. Right though the Google+ profiles are showing up in the sidebar above the ads. I'm not sure there's really anything wrong with that. Would people have a problem if Google spent money on AdWords and their ads showed up in the top spot? Probably not. If they were to push Google+ profiles in the organic search results and buried anything from Facebook or Twitter that would be different.

    Where Google really fails is trying to pretend those profiles show up completely based on some algorithm. Sure an algorithm probably chooses which Google+ profile to show, but it's clearly not including any other network beyond Google+ That's where the issue is. If they placed a heading above the profiles that read sponsored or something similar would there be the same issue and backlash?

    Google's problem is it wants to have things both ways. It wants to do the same things most any company does to promote itself, while still clinging to the warm fuzzy feeling that they don't and that the only reason you see anything on their search results page is because it's algorithmically been determined to be the best result.
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    Member Needs New Keyboard Array seolman's Avatar
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    I agree Google has a right to promote it's additional services (as would any business). But you hit the nail on the head with the observation they are "not including any other network beyond Google+". IMHO they should maintain separation between their social product (really any other Google product) and search to maintain credibility. Any time you try to force people to adopt something on the web it usually results in a negative backlash (a la Netflix). Also - if they include Google+ as a significant component of attaining good search results it will be adding fuel to the "monopoly" fire.
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    I think it depends on where they promote Google+ on the results page. If they mix it into the actual search results it's wrong. If it's on the side with the ads I'm not so sure. As long as it's clear those aren't search results for the user's query I'm not sure they're doing anything wrong. Google has a navigation bar at the top of the page now that includes links to Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, etc. That whole navbar could be seen as promoting those products that aren't search. Why aren't people complaining about it. Should Google have to mix in links to Vimeo and Yahoo Mail in the navbar too? I don't think so and I don't think most anyone else does either.

    I think of the sidebar in the same way. I just did a search for music and the results page shows 2 Google+ profiles in the upper right, above the ads. Above the profiles is a heading that reads

    People and Pages on Google+
    related to music

    I don't think that's in any way an indication those are search results. I'm not seeing any links to Google+ within the actual results, though I do see some to Facebook, though they'd be a few pages back. Assuming that prior to this change the results weren't showing Facebook or Twitter profiles in the results page, what's the big deal? Now if Google reranked things so Facebook and Twitter results that would have been there a week or two ago are no longer there, then yes there is a serious problem. But if the results are the same and the Google+ profiles are clearly not part of the results, I'm not sure this is anything different than a business advertising other things it owns.

    ABC will run commercials for ESPN and Disney, all owned by Disney. You don't see them running commercials for NBC or CBS shows. Should they have to? Maybe the difference is that ABC or even disney isn't considered a monopoly where Google (in search) probably is. At the same time Google is hardly a monopoly in social and it's possible that what's really more important here is the monopoly as a combined social and search platform. Facebook for example has search, but they don't show results from Google. Why not?

    I'm not trying to say Google is faultless here. I think they're a very hypercritical company and do a number of things that should be looked into. Just saying the issue here with showing the Google+ profiles isn't so black and white.

    Where it might be influencing rank could be a big issue, but this is one place where Google's suggestion that it's due to Facebook and Twitter holding back information holds some water. Parts of Facebook and Twitter are certainly public and Google should crawl those pages like they do any other on the web. At the same time large parts of both aren't accessible to Google so how could Google use data from those pages as a ranking signal.

    Google is not all good here. No question. They might not be as bad as some suggest though. Facebook isn't exactly the most "do not evil" company either. I can't say I trust either of them all that much. Twitter has also been known to do a few things that push the envelope toward the evil side.
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    My comments are not intended to call Google a huge evil monster. In fact I think Google is trying to walk the fine line of growing their business while not acting like a monopoly. A little bird told me that Google purposely pushes results from other video sites (such as Vimeo) above it's own YouTube results just to avoid the tag of being an unfair monopoly. This, in fact, is unfair to Google (and I think wrong) but it is clear they are feeling the pressure to avoid the look of promoting their products in search results above others.

    Your comments about Twitter and Facebook holding back info are well taken. I guess what I may have failed to make clear is my concern over usage of Google products being directly related to how well a web site may rank in the SERPs. IOW - use Google+, YouTube, Picasa etc. get a better ranking. Use only Facebook, Twitter - sorry. If my website has 1,000 +1's from Google should it outrank a site that does not make use of Google's +1 system? I don't pretend to know how any of this may or may not be affecting the algorithm. I'm just making the simple observation that it will be interesting to see what Google does and how others (competitors) may react.
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    I think we're actually in a lot more agreement here than our conversation would seem. I didn't think you were trying to paint Google as an evil monster at all. They certainly aren't angels either. I'm sure they're feeling pressure. Social is becoming the go to destination for most people to start their journey on the web. Where someone once went to Google first to find information they now get recommendations from Facebook friends and the people they're following on Twitter. That moves the advertising dollars away from Google and toward Facebook and maybe Twitter if they can figure out how to advertise well.

    In the last few years Google started taking more signals for their search algorithms from social. There's been plenty to suggest content being shared on Facebook and Twitter is ranking better, at least initially while it's being shared. Both Facebook and Twitter have worked our deals with search engines to allow access to some data not publicly available. Facebook has a deal with Bing and apparently offered the same deal to Google, but Google rejected it. Twitter and Google used to have a deal, but the deal fell apart, likely over money. Each side is blaming the other. I think this might be one of the places Google is being most disingenuous since they're blaming the entirety of those deals not going through on Facebook and Google, when Google has to take responsibility for at least part of the deals going bad.

    If my website has 1,000 +1's from Google should it outrank a site that does not make use of Google's +1 system?
    You could say the same thing about a website having 1,000 links from sources Google deems trusted or any other set of signals in the algorithm. Let's face it we don't know what's in there. It's programmed by human beings who have to make subjective decisions about what's more important. Is any of it fair? How often have you searched for something you think you should rank well only to find lots of garbage ranking better?

    I think where the algorithm is concerned as long as Google can deliver results it's users are happy with it'll be ok. That could be the greatest danger here. If the results suffer at all people may start migrating to Bing.

    My guess is this will play out with a few days or weeks of bad press for Google in some circles. Google will respond to the criticism poorly like they usually do and in time the whole thing goes away as everyone moves on to the next hot topic. The majority of people across the globe will never know about any of this. They'll simply notice the new Google+ profiles and some will open Google+ accounts.

    If the issue gets the attention of whichever government agencies can make life bad for Google they'll be investigated. The US will give Google a slap on the wrists and the EU will give them a bigger slap on the wrists and maybe even a kick somewhere painful. If Google picks up enough new users for Google+ they'll probably be happy with the slaps and the kick.
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    Love IT! More indexing!

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    Post Impressionist Array vangogh's Avatar
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    I don't think this recent change affects indexing at all.
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    Oh but it does. I call it profile indexing. It is all about Likes, Shares, +1's.

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