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Don't look now but Google+ may not be dead on arrival after all.

Quietly, it has attracted some 150m active monthly users and Google's social network scored higher than Facebook in the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index E-Business Report.

On the brand side of things, Google continues to push forward in trying to build an attractive ecosystem. The latest example of that: a new set of Page Management APIs are coming soon.

Google's strategy with Google+ is no secret: the search giant wants to make its social network the 'social glue' for all of its properties, the largest of which, of course, is its search engine.

To that end, Google is experimenting with a Share link that appears next to results in its SERPs. As reported by Search Engine Land's Greg Finn, the link, when clicked, prompts users to share the link in question directly on Google+, with the option to add a comment at the same time. "Surprisingly, users can share pages that they haven’t yet clicked through," he notes.

Following the discovery of this experiment by an astute UK Google user, Google has confirmed that it is indeed experimenting with social sharing in the SERPS. According to Google product manager Sean Liu, the purpose of the feature is to "[make] it easier for you to share a great website with your friends."

But there's likely far more to it than that, of course. There has long been speculation that social signals could be the next frontier for search engines and by giving Google+ users the ability to share links from any search results page, Google has the opportunity, in theory, to collect a lot of information that could conceivably be incorporated into its algorithm at some point.

Expect Google to remain mum on this, at least for the time being, but make no doubt about it: Google's latest experiment brings the search giant one step closer to being able to apply data from its social network to search in a big way.

Patricio Robles

Published 19 July, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (9)

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Rob Poitras

"Surprisingly, users can share pages that they haven’t yet clicked through" Why is google doing this?
Its the similar to how people could +1 URLs from the search results page. Why would they +1 an item if they haven't even seen the site yet?

This move seems to motivate site marketers to game the system by having their network do more of this to game google.

about 4 years ago

Wendy Chamier

Wendy Chamier, Website and Internet Marketing Consultant at Sesame Internet Marketing

Seems far to simple to spam ... needs to be a bit more intelligent than that surely

about 4 years ago

Daniel Phillips

Daniel Phillips, E-Commerce Manager at HJ Hall

Liking or +1ing a listing in the SERPs is ridiculous. I haven't heard a good argument for it yet.

Are you:
- liking the result shown in relation to the search you've done
- liking the site in general
- liking that specific page (which would assume you've been to it previously)
- or are you just trying to promote your site to others?

about 4 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

Wendy makes a great point. I can appreciate what Google is trying to do but I'm not sure how they can implement it without having the setup getting abused by spammers.

about 4 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Afternoon all,

Do you think Google is really worried about the spam impact, at this stage?

I would think not. Yes I know their supposed raise d'être is about quality and recent updates are intended to 'punish' spam in general - content, links etc.

However, they have a huge self-interest in getting everyone addicted to G+ so that they move attention away from Facebook & Twitter. The only real leverage G has is with SERPs. As long as search still dominates traffic and revenue, G will continue to dominate digital marketing thinking (sadly).

So wouldn't you expect the mighty G to do everything in its power to get people shovelling up G+ like digital crack? Get as many brands as possible getting people to +1 pages, share to their circles etc. Encouraging searchers to take actions they might not really have been that bothered about taking. Get it to the point where we use G+ instinctively like we do Facebook and Twitter.

Then work out how to drive quality and 'punish' spam. The same they did with links and keywords.

If there is one thing you can learn from G's strategy, is that it wants market share first, then figure out the long-term quality and monetisation later. That is why they are the most dominant search engine globally.

It might not be appealing to marketers, or particularly soulful, but you have to take your hat off to how simple the concept is.

Thanks
james

about 4 years ago

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Yannis Anastasakis

I think you are spot on there James. I can see Google easily sorting out spammers from non-spammers on G+ - especially since it will have all the data it needs to trend people's (accounts') behaviour and distribute its (questionable) "justice" on who is a spammer and who isn't. I have a feeling that this is a very solid and well-defined step in their strategy already...

The "authors" thing they did for articles/blogs (where you get to see the author's picture) as well as the fact that they are so heavily leaning on social behaviour, were both indications to me that they are practically already there; not only sites, but users are can be allocated a value in their algorithms.

No. I can't see this being a problem for them. If you spam, you are ignored. If you aren't behaving socially in other ways yet you promote links, you are ignored. Should be very easy for them.

What I can see being a bit of a problem for Google if they indeed start slapping their own social network on results, is that this kind of thing has to be raising the eyebrows of people that are concerned about anti-competitive behaviour. One could possibly argue that "plus-ing" a site on search results is simply an evolution of the smiley or sad faces that were the feedback mechanism for Google's search engine many years ago.
Promoting only their own social network through which users can share... it is never going to fly without some serious questions being asked.

On second thought "motivating" people to use Google's own social network and consequently turning Google+ it into a global powerhouse may be enough for them to decide to go for it and simply bear the blow of any consequences some years later..

I have to say.. The more I try to learn about SEO, the more I am disheartened about the online world. And the more I think of Google, the more I have images of specialists slaving away "socialising" online, just to get a fair shot at having their clients seen on the organic results. Pretty Orwellian an image of the future - don't you think?

about 4 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Yannis,

Thanks for adding to the discussion.

Don' be disheartened about online. Just be pragmatic about the motivations of behemoths like Google. They are out to make money pure and simple and they got here by getting us all addicted to their search engine. Brilliant strategy but rather soulless cashing in now.

The fact is that SEO in the wider sense can be an incredible thing. There are lots of smart marketers helping Clients build online communities using social media, link building, content, targeting, analysis etc where the focus is on the end user and providing value. Helping people learn from actual results instead of from what Google says is what differentiates a proper SEO from a glory hunter.

Basically you need to find what works for you but strive to do it ethically and with positive morals. There is nothing wrong with gaming the likes of Google provided you understand the implications and the site owner is fully aware of the pros and cons. The fact is that even 'ethical' sites that have followed good practice have been slapped down and punished (see this post by Wil Reynolds of SEER - http://www.seerinteractive.com/blog/7-lessons-i-learned-while-being-banned-in-google-for-12-hours).

Key lesson is this - don't take what Google, or other companies, say at face value. Learn for yourself and spread the risk - if you don't have all your traffic coming from one source, the risk to your traffic is spread, which is a sensible approach.

Thanks
james

about 4 years ago

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Stephan Jaeckel

Since Google is testing all this I guess +1 given now will not have a lot of impact later on. And I have also serious doubts that Google wishes to implement it the way we do see it right now.

Looking at Google's attempts of displaying the site-structure / grouped site content or potetially even a certain content-navigation of a site in its search results I rather recon that Google aims at massively expanding the time people do spend on its search-results pages.

Until today we have search result links opening in the same browser window and that makes searchers "loose" their search results. So spending more time on Google evaluating a site in search results will help them avoid this as well as clicking on a page which does not give them what they want / are looking for (from a user/Google poit of view).

With aggregating page-search results into site-search results Google will have much more a reason to complement the result with a +1 and since its all database I am sure they have ways of filtering clicks that do come in "too fast" or evaluate a +1 internally different if it was made after 1 or 10 clicks in the Google search results navigations. Even differing between a "go to page & +1 it" and a "go to page" button is possible.

In any way I do not think we should believe for a second that this function will just be a new part of the search results as they look right now.

And yes, adwords results shall then change along that in looks and finctions sooner or later, too. But then I might be all wrong as well.

about 4 years ago

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about 4 years ago

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