Arment Dietrich

Google Search Plus Your World: The Debate

By: Arment Dietrich | January 23, 2012 | 

Search Plus Your WorldToday’s guest post is written by Molli Megasko.

I’m sure you’re as overwhelmed as I am with all Google+ search and looming FTC investigation stuff, but as marketers, it’s our jobs to stay on top of what is happening and how it can affect our clients or our companies.

If we break it down, I see two different debates going on:

1) Fairness (for corporations and businesses); and

2) Privacy (on the individual side).

Let’s dig into each one.

Fairness for Company Brands Not On Google+

Is Google monopolizing the Internet?  As Greg Sterling stated at the end of his Search Plus Your World experiment, “Google+ participation becomes effectively mandatory as an SEO tactic when it comes to the effect on local searches.”

The exercise of searching the same topics with search plus on, and with it off, shows little difference in organic results at the moment. However, it does show different GoogleAds results.

The issue here is once more companies start to treat Google+ with the same attention they give Facebook, they will be shown over others regardless of relevancy.

Privacy for the Google+ User

The gist is search plus your world search results are now customized to your particular interests and include photos and comments from your Google+ connections.

According to The Huffington Post, there are organizations criticizing “Google for changing search results to favor its content and raised concerns about the affect on consumer privacy.”

The issue is you can stop your searches from searching your network, but you can’t stop your Google+ information from being searched.

My Take

As an individual brought up on Facebook and the Internet, I know anything I post online can somehow be seen by people I may not want to see.  So, for me, no matter what the space, I don’t post anything I don’t want seen by my mom or my boss.

Regarding the fairness aspect of brand search, as a public relations professional, I say, “Bring it on!”  This is what we do; we make our brand visible and give them a competing voice against the rest.  For a small business owner, I might be scared.  If I’m not even on Facebook or Twitter yet, I would probably be so overwhelmed I might not even try.

What is your stance on these two debates?

You can connect with Molli on Twitter at @mollimegasko.

  • Well Molli, my take on this is that Big G plans do are to get the monopoly over the internet and that their real attitude on privacy and fairness is, well, a kind of joke. Privacy? They sold and sell almost every information about users, hopefully cloaked but who can really check? And who can know, like with Facebook, how many information they send to various Agencies? You know what I mean with Agencies right? 🙂

    Fairness? They can at their will delete you from their search results, throw you out of Adsense and they engage in practices which they do not allow to their publishers like slapping ads over the fold which always happens searching for something. And let’s forget the rank they give to their own services which guarantees they are always on top of results. Plus there is a debate if using Adword or Adsense can push you on the first page of search results. And please let’s forget if their search results are still relevant or true.

    The fact is that imho they will remain where they are until someone will come out with a better service not focused on making zillions selling ads and data. Which will happen sooner or later. Yahoo docet.

    Very good article, a pleasure to read. 🙂

    • MolliMegasko

      Interesting. So you don’t think the rules will change until the playing feild does?

      • @MolliMegasko It depends from the rules. Real fairness and real privacy should never change whatever the field and every internet user should have the right to opt in about everything and being clearly informed about what kind of information are kept and how they are used. Like FB who on request gives some data around ten A4 sheets of paper but a guy from Europe through a lawyer demonstrated that FB keeps enough data to fill a CD or a DVD. And no one knows what they use this for, the same for Big G.

        I’ve just read an Italian article explaining that G+ is not really another player in the social media field but in reality is just a way to collect more data and connect them to increase earnings through more targeted ads. That is they are profiling people even more to send relevant ads. Which is cool if someone agrees with this, it is not if it’s done under a cloak. Or however it’s said in English, I’m Italian and sometimes my vocabulary is not so good. 🙂

        Seems that FB and Big G are on the same wavelength. But my opinion is that five years from now they will both collapse and something better will arrive. Or maybe ten years probably. We’ll see. 🙂

        • MolliMegasko

          I think there will always be competition for something. But maybe not bigger, maybe we scale down and get more targeted.

        • @MolliMegasko I agree. I think, related to search engines, that the answer will come out from the net. No Bing, no Big G but something like Linux and Open Office. Not something created by monopolists but something that comes out from common people. Whatever connections monopolists have with goverments and whatever money they can put on the plate there will be an answer. Look at what happened with SOPA.

          Actually, at least for what I know, there is no real compettor to Big G: Blekko, DuckDuckGo, Bing and so on are far from being really a danger, also because they don’t have that enormous amount of money to twist the market, well maybe Bing has, but sooner or later things will change. As I said above Open Office and Linux where not created in a day but they arrived nevertheless.

          The same thing will happen for ads and I’m pretty positive about services like CrankyAds as publishers like to have a bit of control about what happens on their own website and to have at least some security about how much money they can raise per month just like advertisers prefer not to go broke on ads.

          As for social media I think it will come out something more user friendly and more private, or targeted as you said, probably from a service which would not consider users just as dairy cows or as Guinea pigs to be screened and profiled and sold.

          Something like Diaspora probably. They will fight it just like Yahoo tried to do but at the end they’ll lose and better services for wise users will come out.

          Always my opinion. 🙂

  • DTCchicago

    I dislike it greatly from both an end user and commercial perspective. I care more about the actual results than what my friends think about the subject. When searching for “Digital Marketing” I don’t need to know that my friend (who I haven’t talked to since college) posted on G+ that he is interviewing for a job in digital marketing… that’s what Facebook is for.

    It is trying too hard to make Google a social sphere, when all I/we really want is non-biased information. I think it has the potential for an information feedback loop. I have seen search results that are barely tangentially related to my query and are of low quality…. hopefully it will become more refined and relevant quickly. The social stuff is just ranking too high for my taste. ^jh

    • MolliMegasko

      @DTCchicago I agree and that’s why I am staying away from Google + (for now). I want to see what happens and like my searches the way they are…scrolling to the second and third page to end up emailing someone for the answer. 😉

  • More to the point, Molli, is what you ended with…”as a small business owner I might be scared…and so overwhelmed (if not on FB and Twitter).” Indeed.

    Ten trains have left the station; for those SMBs (and even larger companies) not playing, how do you engage quickly and with strengthened message. Now with the G+ situation, it is overwhelming even for we who’ve been engaged thus far.

    • MolliMegasko

      @Soulati | PR Have you thought about going on there as a brand and republishing blog posts or other content to stay in time with search?

      • @MolliMegasko Thank you. Please tell me more. Open a G+ business page; republish my blog posts there, or the links with anecdote/descriptor? To keep current so all can see content and push SEO for my brand?

  • MSchechter

    Even as an opt in service Google Plus Your World is a slippery slope. We didn’t allow this kind of bundling of products in the Microsoft age and I don’t see why we are going to allow it now.

    While I agree with you that anything we post is essentially public, I don’t think we would accept something similar had it come from another company. Google often hides behind it’s dont be evil motto, just as they do the same with “open” in the mobile space. Using their power in search to actively grow their social makes a lot of business sense, but it’s pretty darn evil if you ask me.

    • MolliMegasko

      @MSchechter I disagree, I think because it is Google is why people are causing fits, not in despite of them.

      • MSchechter

        @MolliMegasko Fair point, I just think I’m surprised by how soft the backlash has been. It’s there, but there is very little customer indignation, it’s more us and the tech world.

  • Thanks for boiling it down to this level, Molli. It is overwhelming, even if you’ve been on the platforms for some time now. As @Soulati | PR said, there are ten trains leaving or that have left the station. Where to begin? I think that all depends on your goals and yes, optimal search results factoring in quite heavily, the answers to the goal question can and should influence where time online is spent. What Google + does is leave many feeling like they can no longer weigh all factors and make their choices based on their unique situations. SMBs must instead hop on board or lose traction. I don’t find that to be a choice; I find that frustrating.

    • MolliMegasko

      @EricaAllison@Soulati | PR Are you a small business person Erica. I’d be interested to know if you or your company is on there and what your searches look like.

      • @MolliMegasko Yes, I am, Molli. I have a PR/Marketing firm and we ebb and flow from 2-4 people on board, depending on the account. I’m on Google +; took scant minutes to set up my corporate page and go in and out from time to time. When I pull up my searches, it’s all the folks that are in my circles or that I interact with on a regular basis. I also pop up #1 for marketing and PR in my area, but it’s because I fill up the results with my blog posts, comments, social platforms, etc. I don’t see it as a valid search, more of a search within a vacuum (@Soulati | PR might even call it the echo chamber).

  • I don’t necessarily care that Google favors itself in the searches, but at least put up something relevant. From what I have seen it was way out of line from my search query just to put soem Plus results on it….

    • MolliMegasko

      @keithbloemendaal What about on the other end? If you were a small business owner, would you feel you needed to get on there so your Plus results showed up for your connections?

      • @MolliMegasko Of course! And I already encourage my clients to do exactly that. Regardless of the social search part, it was apparent to me when plus first came out that it would effect search….

    • @keithbloemendaal Keith, I completely agree. However, when Universal Search was first rolled out, we saw the same thing, then Google corrected over time. Now they have been tamed and I appreciate the universal search results in Google. I do believe (and I hope!!) that Google will make the same type of corrections here. If they don’t, I’m going to turn my search over to Twitter (it won’t be pretty).

  • In the end, if this doesn’t result in better and more relevant search results, it will fail. Miserably.

  • At the end of the day, if this doesn’t result in more accurate search results it will fail. Miserably.

    • @Sean McGinnis I’d also point out that once people think they know what Google is doing, there are those who work to school Google. And Google doesn’t want that, so they then change things again and again. and the fact is, there are so many other factors. In the end, it still comes down to creating great content.

      • @KenMueller Ah, the SEO dance. 🙂

        • MolliMegasko

          @Sean McGinnis@KenMueller Could not agree more. Content, content, content. (While knowing what to do with the content. :))

        • ryancox

          @MolliMegasko@Sean McGinnis@KenMueller I’d argue that with some well placed friendships and loads of good content, you can out-rank just about anything. (with a fairly elementary understanding of SEO)

        • MolliMegasko

          But it’s still up to your community. Making sure you have a large audience first, is key.

        • @Sean McGinnis I think I need to make a video of the SEO dance.

        • MolliMegasko

          YES! Please do!

        • @MolliMegasko oy

    • @Sean McGinnis I don’t know about you, but I sure would like to see what BING’s numbers are looking like, now that people are starting to realize what is going on.

      • MolliMegasko

        @justinthesouth@Sean McGinnis It would also be interesting to know if Bing is going to come out with it’s own social world.

        • @MolliMegasko Great thought. In a way I think, they think they are, since they are the search of Facebook. @Sean McGinnis

        • ryancox

          @JustInTheSouth@MolliMegasko@Sean McGinnis The problem being that Bing would have to be something people thought about. What was glaringly missing from all the reporting about what Google is trying to do, is what Bing does instead / what Bing thinks / how it compares to Bing, etc… (if you ask me) Did anyone else notice that?

    • ginidietrich

      @Sean McGinnis CORPORATE BINGO!!!!

  • AMWClarkLaw

    @ginidietrich @mollimegasko I love it. Tremendously useful. Not bothered by “fairness” you mention… been the direction for a long time

  • MSchechter

    I forgot to mention, you may want to look at the “Dont Be Evil” bookmarklet. Shows what is already possible with current data, no additional invasions of privacy and no APIs.

    • MSchechter

      By the way from what I understand this was done by one of the lead programmers over at Facebook with help from Twitter and others.

    • ginidietrich

      @MSchechter Do they still pretend to do no evil?

      • MSchechter

        @ginidietrich Once you go with “Don’t Be Evil” you can’t really ever be anything but. And yes, they still hide behind that crap, just like they do with “Open”

        • ryancox

          @MSchechter@ginidietrich Can you ever be Apple/Google ‘great’ and not be ‘evil’ though? Answer: no. Like @MSchechter said — crap.

    • ryancox

      @MSchechter I love the bookmarklet and what the Facebook, Twitter, MySpace devs came up with over last weekend, lol. The video was pretty good too.

  • ginidietrich

    The thing that bothers me about all of this (and we talk about it on Inside PR this week) is it returns search results from my friends. Which is great. But I already know what my friends are reading and contributing. I want new stuff from people I don’t know.

    • ifdyperez

      @ginidietrich See, I agree with this. Not sure how beneficial it is to know (again) what you’re friends are into. But do you think this is just Google’s way of slowly dominating the social networking space? I think Google+ isn’t going to go away because of what Google’s doing in search.

    • ryancox

      @ginidietrich The only problem with that aspect of your argument, is that you’d be the 5% that does. The other 95% that doesn’t, (in theory of course) would want to see what their friends are doing on the Internet. (I am very adamant about my dislike of what Google is attempting to do *and lie about* with Google+)

    • MolliMegasko

      True, but what if you want to know a good Mexican place in Chicago? You could use Yelp, but if you try Google Search Plus Your World first, you could see if any of your netword has recently talked about that. Then communicate directly with them about it.

      • @MolliMegasko the problem with that, though, is that it requires your social network to a) be on Google + and b) be using it for things like that. I’m not seeing that yet. Locally here, very few non-techie, non-social media people are on there. And those that are, are using it to talk business, etc, not the kind of stuff they do on Facebook.

        I think for now it’s much more effective to just go on twitter or Facebook and say “hey, anyone know a good Mexican restaurant in town?” I’ll get a lot of answers fast.

  • NancyCawleyJean

    Thanks for breaking this down do simply, Molli. There are a couple issues — when you’re doing a search and you’re looking for quick facts you might get more clutter than you want to deal with. Also, companies who don’t have the time, resources or agencies to manage another social network are going to lose visibility through no fault of their own.

    • MolliMegasko

      Yes, exactly. Although, you can turn off the clutter if you don’t want it. You just don’t have the option for your message to show up on someone else’s search.

  • PattiRoseKnight

    I tell my 17 year old all the time not to post anything online he doesn’t want me or a potential employer to see.

    • MolliMegasko

      You would think that would be common sense but I see stuff on my newsfeed all the time and it makes me wonder how some people even have jobs!

  • Heather_O

    If it is online, assume it will be seen! My mom is freaking out over the new FB timeline & I keep reminding her that it isn’t posting anything she didn’t put there! It is just in a different format *sigh*

    • MolliMegasko

      Haha! That’s great. And I could not agree more with your first sentence.

  • whenpigsflyblog

    I completely agree. I always tell people not to put anything in print that you aren’t prepared to be seen on the front page of the NY Times. Somehow some way something you write could get out to the broader world.

  • MolliMegasko

    And then there is this:

  • Pingback: Who's the Real Loser In Social Search? by @lisagerber | Spin Sucks()

  • Pingback: The Name Game: How Branding Has Changed - musicBlogs()

  • Pingback: Who’s the Real Loser In Social Search? « MindCorp | Newsfeed()