Just 10 days ago, Google announced a major new initiative to incorporate social media into our search results. The combination of social media and search has a sticky past – and from the looks of it, it’s only getting more gooey.
“Search is still limited to a universe of webpages created publicly, mostly by people you’ve never met. Today, we’re changing that by bringing your world, rich with people and information, into search. We’re transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships. We began this transformation with Social Search, and today we’re taking another big step in this direction by introducing three new features.”
Google’s page-rank algorithm has been analyzed by marketers and technologists for years. We’re always looking for a few ways to improve how our site is listed amongs relevant results. A few weeks back, we wrote about Mitch Joel’s suggestion that Google is the new homepage, so we can definitely see how Google has crossed the line between a handy service to a formidable force in determining who customers see, and who they don’t see.
While Google may be providing over a million links on any given search, web users are known for only considering the first few and rarely ever make it to the second page. With this is mind, how Google chooses to list those first few links stands to make a major impact for any business. With the announcement that Google+ data with now be incorporated into those results, many are questioning how this will impact business, and the purity of the search results.
Consider this scenario: Bob is the operator of a local gym, and has invested heavily into a good website, but has little to no social media presence. Previously, when people searched for gyms in his community, he was included in the top two results. Now, because of new social search platform and his top competitor’s active use of Google+, Bob’s gym has been push down the page. He has gone from being at the top of the page to the bottom – all because of social search.
Not so great for Bob, right?
How Social Search Works
The theory behind social search is that if there is something that our friends like, then we might like it, too. For this reason, Google has chosen to prioritize socially relevant messages directly into the search results. This seems pretty reasonable until we consider that at this time, those results only features data from Google’s own Google+ social network.
And therein lies the problem.
The vast majority of social media activity takes place on Facebook and Twitter. While these networks are still included in some ways, they have generally been ousted in favor of Google’s own social media pride and joy. For obvious reasons many are calling foul on Google. Where the chips fall in the end, we will have to wait and see.
So, internet squabbles aside, where does that leave us – the business owner, or the marketing professional? It once again emphasizes the near-urgent importance of social media in any given marketing plan. Businesses that choose to not get involved in social media early on will almost certainly be left behind. But, as Google proves, a mere presence is not going to be enough. Should your company have a Facebook page, a Google+ page, and a Twitter profile? The answer is a unanimous yes, but we also need to go further than that. In order for a company to dominate social search, they must now be cultivating social conversation around their brand.
The most obvious and final takeaway from this is the absolute importance of the Google+ page for any, and all, businesses. It appears that Google+ truly is the sleeping giant that we feared it would be. Google is flexing its muscles and prioritizing their own networks over the other main players. Some may argue that this entire situation is just an attempt to gain leverage over Facebook and Twitter when it comes to contract negotiations (a.k.a. How much information these networks share with Google). There is some precedence to that theory, but the main concern for the modern business right now is to make sure that we aren’t left behind in this little social war.
We need to be everywhere, and we need to be ready for real engagement with our fans, because as of this week search is now social.