Google Search Plus Your World Launches…and Changes Search Up

Oh me oh my. Google sure does know how to get the buzz going. Their launch of the new “Search Plus Your World” update has the entire Internet marketing world in a tizzy. (Mashable has coverage of the launch if you’re just catching up.) If you missed the news, the basic idea is that Google will now offer real time Google Plus results and postings as part of their search results. Looking for music? They’ll point you to some musical artists you can follow on Google Plus, want to know how to make tiramisu, they’ll scan for recipe postings from within your circle.

They plug it all in a new ad:

As you can imagine, there’s a lot of mixed emotion on this one. Sure, it’s great to have access to data influenced by people you trust, but let’s also be realistic and remember that Google Plus isn’t exactly the major player in this field. (There are literally hundreds of Facebook users for every ONE active Google Plus user.) Google did include real time Twitter results in it’s search listings at one point in time, but that deal expired earlier this year.

Danny Sullivan has a good take on it over at Search Engine Land where he reminds people that Search Engines are supposed to send people to the BEST place to find what they need…without prioritizing their own content. He writes:

“That’s how search engines are supposed to be. They’re supposed to send you away to the best information, even if they don’t have their own in stock.”

and goes on to say:

“Today is different. Today’s change is one of the few times where I’m thinking “What the hell are you doing, Google?”

While it’s not uncommon to find the search and marketing pundits weighing in with thoughts, Google’s latest move even has Twitter issuing statements of complaint.

For years, people have relied on Google to deliver the most relevant results anytime they wanted to find something on the Internet.

Often, they want to know more about world events and breaking news. Twitter has emerged as a vital source of this real-time information, with more than 100 million users sending 250 million Tweets every day on virtually every topic. As we’ve seen time and time again, news breaks first on Twitter; as a result, Twitter accounts and Tweets are often the most relevant results.

We’re concerned that as a result of Google’s changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone. We think that’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users.

While it’s easy to argue that Twitter has its own vested interest in making sure its results are listed, the reality is that it goes well beyond Twitter. (Don’t forget, Google did once carry Twitter’s results as part of real time search, until Twitter ended the agreement.)There are hundreds and thousands of social networks being used by people around the world to stay connected and share information. For some people, it’s Twitter, for others its Facebook, or Tumblr or Pinterest or Orkut or…the list goes on and on.

Now, it’s not like Google OWES a listing to other web sites. However, it seems a little disingenuous to sell your update as something earth shattering if it’s only going to affect a small portion of the social media user base of the web.

Looking at this from the social media marketing perspective, I’ve got a few thoughts of my own.

It seems like a good way to push business into Google Plus if they hadn’t already bitten. When I work with clients, my top priority is getting them the most bang for their buck. That means we rarely focus on up and coming networks UNLESS there is already a significantly active population of their target audience. If I was marketing to marketers, or young professional techies…Google Plus would be high on my list. If I’m marketing an online toy store or a local restaurant chain, it’s not even going to ding on our radar. It’s just not worth the investment for most small to mid size businesses until the consumers show up.

And the consumers just aren’t showing up. Sure, they flocked there in droves to give it a look, but then they headed back to Facebook to continue their social networking like always. If Google can’t convince the consumers to join, the next best option is to force business owners to come and set up shop in the hopes consumers will follow. Dangle the threat of lost ranking opportunities and you’ll get the business owners. After all, no matter how popular social media gets, search is always going to be core to the online customer acquisition process.

While this move isn’t enough to make me start telling people to get their Google Plus accounts up and running for their business just yet, it is enough to prompt a closer look at how the new integration will impact search results and how that impact might require us to change our strategies down the road.

I’m sure more news and commentary will pour forth this week as well. In the meantime, I’d also recommend Lee Odden’s post on the topic. He has some great commentary from both the user perspective and the marketer perspective over at Top Rank Blog.