The Latest Complaint About Google Plus: It's 'Breaking Search'


Credit: Flickr / mattbraga

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is a great search company. They defined how we enter the great brickyard of knowledge for most of this decade because they provided fast and clean to fresh information. But that stopped being enough when Facebook became large enough to threaten the search giant’s core advertising business. Google launched a series of social rejoinders, none of which got much momentum until Google Plus, which has the full weight of the Mountain View apparatus behind it.

But ReadWriteWeb’s Jon Mitchell, among others, is worried that as Google tries to compete in social, it will ruin the dependable search interface for which it was known. The core of his screed is that G+ is becoming social SEO, a way to draw attention (and therefore dollars) to content outside of the quality of the content itself. G+ has become a way to socially game Google’s core search product.

Google+ is the new SEO. Just look at what it’s done to Google News. In the name of highlighting authors, it now pulls in Google+ profiles. It doesn’t let the author choose, say, her own website as her profile. If she wants a clickable, personal link on Google News, she has to use Google+.

Google does all this in the name of personalization. The public face of this effort is Amit Singhal, who presents personalization as this crucial element of context. Google can better figure out what a query means to each user if it has social signals, his story goes.. All this personalization and real-time stuff surely helps Google organize its content, but it’s breaking search.

Perhaps Mitchell doesn’t go quite this far, but his argument suggests that the missions of a social network (As we’ve come to know them historically) and a search engine are antithetical or mutually defeating. You know synergy? Well, Google’s social search combination may generate the opposite of that, antergy perhaps.

I am willing to wait a while longer before declaring that Google’s social strategy can’t or won’t work. We’re still in the early days of refining search to incorporate social signals.

This article originally appeared in The Atlantic.


Andrew Hanelly

Google wants to serve content in its search results that people actually want to consume once they’ve clicked through. That’s the core of their user experience and one of the main reasons they’ve been so successful. With so much content being created in attempt to gain their algorithm, they’ve been forced to somehow let a more human filter impact the results they are serving their engine users. Incorporating social signal (from Google+, from Facebook shares, from Twitter, et al) is a necessary step in improving the ranking of pages in their index. I don’t and can’t blame them for that.

The point you’ve raised about the Google+ author bios is certainly concerning, but for those who take the stance against Google trying to incorporate the social graph into their search product I’d suggest that they are missing the point. The entire point of Google’s search algorithm is to evaluate tons of content as if it were a human visitor. That way, they can best serve the human visitor who uses their engine. Social signal is the logical next step, and Google upping their involvement in this arena only makes sense.

However, I may be taking in too much of the Kool Aid. Absolutely valuable for the industry to carefully watch how Google navigates these waters. Their future business and our future web experience (and access to knowledge) will be greatly impacted by how things unfold. 

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