Anyone who uses Google will see that their search results have changed slightly. If you are meticulous and you have a Google Plus profile as well, you will also notice that new options for filtering results appear, among them being one that is especially highlighted called Your World and pictures of your contacts to filter content generated by them.
Is this important? Very, because soon the famous search algorithm of Google, as secretive as the Coca-Cola formula, will start to give priority to the content that generates, shares, or collectivizes the members of the Google+ circles of the user that is using the search engine. So much so that they appear as first options among the results.
The logic that Google employs for this is pretty simple: facing the avalanche of information that currently exists on the Internet, the probability that the same results that my acquaintances have (or who I follow) are of interest to me also is very high. It’s a way of filtering and prioritizing based on social behavior, something that is totally natural to human beings.
As is the same as is with everything, this new logic has its critics and skeptics, who see behind this an intent to monopolize and dominate everything that we do on the Internet on the part of the Mountain View company. This could be, of course, but it’s also true that Google already knows so much about our habits that if this is utilized so that information retrieval is closer to that which really interests us, it is something that we have won.
As it is, it doesn’t appear that Google is going to change the behavior of its search engine because there are those that doubt its transparency. In fact, the most probable thing is that this is only the beginning of a movement to integrate the social-digital layer more and more into everything that we do online and that sitting on the sidelines isn’t a good idea.
The Social Search isn’t something new
Although now more obvious, we have to remember that Google was already experimenting with the social search in 2009, when it introduced “social-search.” It consisted of an experiment for helping to find public content from your social circle in a quicker, easier way. Google+ didn’t exist yet, but the concept of a social circle was already being used.
In that context, everyone has different sites where they make social connections with other people and where they publish web content, like blogs, status updates, tweets, and photos. Google Social Search was showing different pieces of content from the social circle of each person in the search results.
So, Google had three ways of getting an idea of what the social circle of its users was. The most important was to create a profile on Google and add links to other social services, like Twitter, Quora, etc. Once the profile was created and the links were added to these other services, Google understood that the user was giving their approval so that the rest of the world knew this information.
The second step in identifying the social circle was to get to know the Google Chat contacts. Knowing who they were, they could use them in order to adapt the search results.
And lastly, if the user had an account with Google Reader, coincidences related with the blogs to which the user was subscribed appeared in the results.
With the arrival of G+, the circle is closed, the results returned are completely social and, from the point of view of Google, much more relevant for the users.
Business, take note
Many voices say that Google+ is not going to be able to overthrow Facebook as a social network. The problem is that those that think this only see it as another social network. If this were so, it’s true that the competition would be hard. But we’re not talking simply about a site where you can find old friends and post vacation pictures. What underlies is much more profound and can notably change the way that we navigate and retrieve information.
In fact, it is recommended to not lose sight and to be aware of the changes that keep being introduced from the Googleplex in California. Above all if there is a company that has some type of relationship with the Internet, since it does business online or simply because some commercial contacts come for the network.
4 main reasons for this:
Read more about Why Every Marketer Now Needs a Google+ Strategy from SEOmoz.
- If you are not on G+ you are not a suggestion. The pages on Google Plus and the shared content on this network are positioned better and in a faster way for the users connected with their accounts, as well as the web content in those that have been made +1 (the equivalent of “Like” on Facebook), above all for terms concerning profiles of people and brands.
- The humanization of the results and distrust toward brands. According to the eMarketer report: “Social commerce on Facebook, Twitter, and retail sites,” when talking about online sales, 79% of consumers first look at the opinions of their friends. In addition, they place more value on the information forthcoming of people that aren’t even close to them, more so than the publicity messages or the information from the companies themselves. Because of this, Google, from now on, will show images, author content, videos…based on the connections of your contact network and mixed with relevant organic results. In a world with so much information, people normally turn to their friends to get advice and they are more inclined to remember and bear in mind information from friends than from a brand. The social web is evolving to make getting information about companies more easy.
- The impressive growth of Google+. With only 7 months of life, on January 1st of 2012, it has already gotten 90 million users (the same of the entire population of Germany and Portugal combined), at a rhythm of 625,000 sign-ups daily, with a high level of daily activity. And the previsions are overwhelming: they are hoping for 100 million users in February and 200 million in August of this year.
- It changes the criteria for identifying quality content. This is not nonsense, because, among other things, the changes in the algorithm of Google will allow the filtering of the results of brands and websites that don’t have activity in the SocialGraph , or if they are not referenced, shared or visited through links on social networks. To put it bluntly, Google can decide that a website is not of good quality, if none of their content if socialized. If nobody is talking about you, you are not important. Google already updated their positioning algorithm last year, integrating different factors like the average time on the site, rebound percentages, ratio of clicks per impressions, as well as the ratio of entrances from different traffic channels. Now the social factor is introduced.
If until now companies have centered their communication efforts on Twitter and Facebook, it is time that they turn around and also look toward the giant Mountain View network. The wave has already left from there and it can go over the top of those that get caught unprepared in the form of a tsunami. For now it seems that the best lifeguard is getting on the Google Plus boat and creating a profile. At the very least it is that which will keep us afloat until we receive more news and we know that more innovations have prepared us, the boys of California.
We are social beings, on the street and on the Internet
Sharing information makes our lives more easy; speaking helps to create social bonds with others more close, and choosing what we speak about allows us to manage how the rest perceive us. We speak about other people, of what surrounds us, of things that generate feelings. We frequently speak of personal experiences, or we gossip about who is doing what with who. We also speak of brands, often motivated by what we see in our surroundings, and many times to fill a gap in conversation with another person.
According to a study from Pew Research Center (“The strength of internet ties”), published in 2006, almost all of our communication is centered around the people closest to us. 80 percent of the time, we connect with a small group of between 5 and 10 people.
Our social network is made up of all those people to whom we are connected and all the people with whom they are connected. Friends, and the friends of your friends, people that we don’t normally know, can have a dramatic impact on our behavior and in the decisions that we make.
We have unique relationships with each person that we know, and those relationships influence us greatly in how we behave ourselves with everyone else. When we are not sure of what to do, we look to others to help us to make a decision.
We know that we have a limited access to the information as well as a more scarce memory, so we confide in other people in our group or social circle because we know that they can have more information. We do this so frequently and in such a natural way, that many times people ask others, even knowing that the response is obvious.
When we see ourselves facing many options, it is much more difficult to make decisions. And in a world with an exponential increase of information, decisions will be more and more difficult to make, because our ability of memorizing will continue being the same. So more and more we will refer to others to help us to make decisions. Similarly, our digital social circle will be the great reference that we will have to ask, to confide in, and to decide with.
I’m sharing this article that was published in Spanish on ElPais.com (8th, FEB 2012), because people loved and shared 46 times on Google Plus (as you can see in the image below) and 118 linkedin shares, 606 tweets, 161 facebook shares and 86 +1′s.
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