Google+ and the social search wars

After the initial difficulties of getting onto the Google+ beta program, people have now switched their attention to focus on how likely the new social network is to dethrone Facebook from its position as the king of social media.

As I work for a search analytics company I’m particularly interested in how Facebook and the other social networks have created a whole new channel which is impacting how people search for and find information.

And I’m keen to see how Google+ will develop in this area of social search i.e. how Google is going to integrate its own social data (from Google+) with its search technology to help improve its search engine results. After all, Google is first and foremost a search company and I believe improving social search is one of its key objectives with Google+ – not just trying to topple Facebook from its perch.

Combining search and social is something the search and digital marketing industry has been talking about for a while now. Google already uses some social signals – such as links that are shared on social networks – to influence to some extent where it ranks web pages within its search results.

But Bing’s close integration with Facebook – the world’s biggest social network – allows it to do some interesting things, including experimenting with using Facebook data (such as Likes and interests) to create personalised search results.

So if you are looking at shopping results (and you are logged into Bing) then it will tell you which pages have been Liked by which friends. It will also use Facebook data about your interests to bring specific pages higher up.

Google cannot yet do this kind of thing as it isn’t able to directly access Facebook data in the way Bing does. But Google+ – if it catches on – will give Google the opportunity to tap into its own social data to rival the Bing/Facebook integration.

Success in this area obviously relies on creating sufficient critical mass of users for Google+ to both succeed as a social network and to provide the volume of data needed to power more sophisticated ‘socially influenced’ search results.

So far things seem to be going in the right direction for Google. Figures announced on July 14 revealed that Google+ has already reached 10 million members – with more than 1 billion items shared and received in one day and 2.3 billion clicks of the ‘+1 button’. While other unofficial reports point to Google+ now surpassing the 25 million user mark.

If Google+ succeeds then there’s going to be a fascinating battle between Bing (Microsoft)/Facebook and Google in the area of social search.

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Horst Joepen is responsible for general management and strategy at Searchmetrics, the leading vendor of integrated Search Analytics software. He has a broad background in Internet and software technology and is a successful software entrepreneur in online marketing, CRM and IT security markets. Among other ventures he founded Webwasher - a popular IT security product, Web- and Ad-targeting-filter. Dr. Joepen is author of numerous IT publications and frequent speaker on SEO tools and trends at international search marketing conferences and events.

  • Wajam

    Indeed, Google+ is giving Google a weapon in the social search war, but it’ll be interesting to see if they can build a critical mass of users.

    Another angle to watch out for is the use of services that aggregate information across competing platforms. Many people like the freedom to choose which service they want to use, and want to avoid being caught in the war.

    For example, people who use Google+ but want to search using Bing will need an add-on to accomplish this. Wajam is currently the only service that does this, but it’ll be interesting to see if other services crop up as users demand more cross-platform compatibility.

    In the end, competition is healthy for users. I’m sure we’ll see much innovation in the coming months from both the tech giants and scrappy startups as they race to solve social search.

    Alain Wong
    Community manager at Wajam
    Breaking news in social search