Can Google+ make search go viral?

Google want, more than anything else, to maintain their dominant position as the search engine of choice for it’s billions of users. To do this they have recognised for some years the need to introduce more social data into the signals used by the algorithm to deliver the best possible search results.

They had been trying to source some of that data from Twitter and Facebook, but due to growing tensions between Google and Facebook, the data from the latter went across to Microsoft instead. Google obviously needed to create their own version of this data. So what do they need?

1. A button people can click – enter Google +1.

2. A personal profile that the vast majority of people will want which will be valuable enough to them for them not to abuse it – enter Google+.

3. A circle of friends, colleagues and contacts that are all using the personal profiling system – enter Google+ Circles.

Google +1 Button

Google +1 button was initially introduced back in April. It is similar to Facebook’s Like button and LinkedIn’s share button in that users can click to vote for web pages/posts they like.

It wins over the Facebook Like button in several ways. For business-to-business users the Facebook Like button breaks down because the last thing I want is for my Facebook friends to think I’m some sad bloke because I think this article on some advanced digital marketing technique is worth a read.

The Google +1 button also wins because it appears right in the search results presenting Google search results which contain and are prioritised based on recommendations from one’s friends, colleagues and people you follow.

When the Google +1 button was initially launched, I was skeptical and wrote a blog post asking how on earth Google would get over the hurdle of nobody having a Google profile or any friends.

Google+ deals with that in one fell swoop.

Google+

By Google+ delivering a compelling set of features centred around your Google profile, Google have probably ensured that once the full rollout occurs, many millions of people will set up their free Google+ profiles.

As at the time of writing, Google+ has been rolled out to about 20 million users in a private beta programme.

One of the standout features that most people immediately enjoy in Google+ is that it allows you to organise the people you know into Circles makes it easy to share information with just the people you want to. That key feature is built in from the ground up. The easy to use interface for organising your Circles makes this feature a real winner both online and in the mobile apps.

Early adopters are asking obvious questions like what happens if people in one Circle share my private post with another Circle? And what happens if I remove a person from a Circle? Can they still see things I’ve shared in the past? But in a way these are real-life problems and if you are worried about things going public, don’t share them via Google+. At least they have not made some of the privacy mistakes that besieged Buzz and Facebook.

The other killer app is the video conferencing app Hangout, which is a great draw and I predict will be very popular for co-workers working on projects remotely.

So for Google to realise their Social Search aspirations the question has to be asked will this be enough for them to get a critical mass of users to sign up to a Google+ account when it is fully rolled out?

Well they have an estimated 250 million Gmail users who should be easy to migrate, a growing Google apps user base and the early feedback on the mobile apps is positive. So one can see how they could easily get to 300-400 million users actively using their Google+ accounts.

For me the Google+ experience (whilst still only in beta) is a more business-like experience and that’s where I predict it will score over Facebook.

But in some ways more important than that is the opportunity for it to effect the search results. Now that is compelling. Soon we could have pages going viral in the search results. How compelling would that be?

I am encouraging all of my customers and followers to install Google +1 buttons and educate their users to click them. In the long run, this will be the best news for all.

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After 20+ years working in Digital and On-line marketing, Simon Wallace-Jones runs Oxford Digital Marketing, which helps customers to win more business via the Web by systematising the use of online marketing. Simon believes these skills should becoming part of a core set of business skills and is actively passing on the knowledge and experience he has gained through pioneering Web-based marketing with some of the worlds leading brands.

  • Lots of really interesting points here Simon! I do think that they will get a share of the market and it will be an awful lot of people – but I’m waiting to see how far it will saturate! There’s going to need to be a tipping point (like Facebook reached a few years ago) where people want to be on it because so much is on there they’re missing out if they’re not – and not just in the ‘geeks & associates’ community! I’m not currently convinced they will get there

    Part of the problem are some of the ‘little things’ – like not being able to ask to join a hangout, or find out what hangouts are going on; like the issues over what happens if you remove someone from a circle (apparently, not a great deal changes!) and quite importantly – the fact that it doesn’t look and act much like Facebook, so it can scare some people off.

    If they want to get people to spend time on there and stay on there, they do need to work out some way of making it even more sticky – I can’t yet see how I owuld want to spend much time on there, as there doesn’t seem to be all that much going on.

    The impact on search is going to be really interesting – both from an SEO perspective and from a research perspective. The researchers will find it more and more difficult to get useful information out of Google, as the results get pushed more towards what you and your friends have done/+1’d in the past. For SEO it could make things more relevant to the searcher and be beneficial – or make it more difficult for you to reach people that little bit further away from you.

    For me it’s a wait and see – but they have some convincing to do to make me believe it’s a really good thing!