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Google has added a new function called 'Search, plus Your World' that gives prominence to content from Google+ within search results.

To be precise, there are actually three new features – People and Pages, Personal Results and Profiles in Search.

The functions will become available over the next few days to users signed-in and searching in English on Google.com.

A blog post announcing the developments said that simply finding content is no longer enough. Google Fellow Amit Singhal explains:

You should also be able to find your own stuff on the web, the people you know and things they’ve shared with you, as well as the people you don’t know but might want to... all from one search box.”

So here’s what the new features do.

Personal Results

Google says that generic search results are less meaningful than content that is personally relevant to you, by which it means content and recommendations from your friends on Google+.

Unlike normal Google searches, the content displayed will be unique to each user as it is filtered on who you are connected to through your circles.

The example Google gives is when researching a holiday – content such as Google+ posts from friends talking about their recent trip, holiday photos, and links they have posted about a particular destination will show up on the results page.

Profiles in Search

This tool allows users to search for friends directly from the Google homepage and adds your friends to the suggested answers on autocomplete.

The blog post states that the results page will include ‘information from their Google+ profile and relevant web results’, which presumably includes links to Facebook and Twitter pages.

In addition to your friends' profiles, the autocomplete predictions will also include links to prominent Google+ members and, once a name is selected, an icon that allows you to add that user to your Google+ circles.

People and Pages

Based on the assumption that ‘behind most queries are communities’, this feature adds people who frequently discuss your search query on Google+ in the search results.

So, for example, if you search for 'music' the Google+ pages for Britney Spears and Alicia Keys will appear in a column on the right-hand side of the results page.

Added security

As Google is now potentially including private posts in search results, it has also beefed-up security. 

From now on all signed-in users will be protected by SSL encryption, the same level of security offered on Gmail accounts. A new toggle also allows users to remove social content from search results, a function that can be made permanent in the ‘Search Settings’.

So what does it mean?

Essentially this is an attempt by Google to make its social network more prominent and grow the user base, which is still flagging behind Twitter and Facebook.

Google+ currently has around 62m registered users, while Twitter has 100m active users and 500m of Facebook's 800m registered users log in everyday.

At first glance it appears to be a fairly aggressive way to promote Google+. Think about how many Google searches you do each day - do you really want to know what your friends think about each and every one?

But in time users will get used to seeing social search results, and the new functions are likely to enhance sign-ups for Google+ this year. 

David Moth

Published 10 January, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1684 more posts from this author

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David Petherick

David Petherick, Head of Digital Marketing at First Vehicle Leasing

This is big news for search, and has huge implicatiosn for engagement within Google+ - I'm just surprised it's taken this long to arrive.

I think the writing was already on the wall for something like this to occur when Google stopped paying Twitter to include live tweets in its 'realtime' search results in July 2011. [ http://searchengineland.com/as-deal-with-twitter-expires-google-realtime-search-goes-offline-84175 ]

Although Google+ business / brand pages can now be managed by a team, I can still see the need for more sophisticated listening and management tools for this channel. I can also foresee a lot of comment spam / flooding appearing in order to try to game search results, and it'll be interesting to see how Google+ deals with that.

At the same time, I think we'll all be now more selective of who is in our circles, and also perhaps polish up our Google Profile and patterns of adding content so as to be included in as many as possible.

over 4 years ago

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Lauren at Volusion

Small businesses who have worked hard to ramp up their social media channels, including Google+ could see big results from an announcement like this. Personalization is everything to users and this only further illustrates that point. Thanks for the insights!

Lauren at Volusion
www.volusion.com

over 4 years ago

John Courtney

John Courtney, CEO and Executive Chairman at Pay on Results SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media, Digital PR, PPC & CRO from Strategy Digital

The key points are these: "the results page will include ‘information from their Google+ profile and relevant web results’, which presumably includes links to Facebook and Twitter pages.
In addition to your friends' profiles, the autocomplete predictions will also include links to prominent Google+ members".

If the message hasn't go through yet, Google will do everything it can to get G+ to replace Facebook, just as Facebook replaced MySpace.

over 4 years ago

Andrew Nicholson

Andrew Nicholson, Founder at The Guku

There's clearly a conflict of interest here between Google's stated intent to provide relevent and unbiased search results, and their commercial goal of usurping Facebook.

The presumption that Facebook and Twitter updates will be included within search results may well be premature and needs clarification from Google.

over 4 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@Andrew, the reason I presumed Facebook and Twitter would show up is simply because it would be a hugely underhand move to filter out other social networks.
It would appear to go against everything Google claims to stand for if it started filtering out links to content that competes with its own product.

over 4 years ago

Andrew Nicholson

Andrew Nicholson, Founder at The Guku

Agreed. Which will make this an interesting canary in the "don't be evil" coal field.

Additional questions need to be asked about where Google draws the line? If they are including social results from Facebook and Twitter, then why not also Trip Advisor, Linkedin, Bebo, delicious etc. etc? It could be argued that the niche social sites offer more relevent results and thus the floodgates will be opened up to every social site, man and dog, all in the name of impartiality. I can forsee this damaging the UX at which point Google will be forced to filter out social competitors.

over 4 years ago

David Petherick

David Petherick, Head of Digital Marketing at First Vehicle Leasing

@Andrew I don't think there's a conflict of interest: if you are not logged in, you see no content from your social networks. If you are, you can choose to view results either with, or without such content, according to your elected preference. I am quite certain that 'without' will be the default - after all, Google is not stupid. It knows that the quality of its search results is its golden USP, and it has always evolved its search User Experience very carefully. Plus, it also has a lot of data it can learn from.

Google is a complex organisation with many goals, so I think it's too simplistic to say it wants to usurp Facebook. It certainly wants to get more facetime, and therefore revenue, from internet users, and it realises, perhaps a little late to the game, that social networking is now pivotal in that. It already worked out that mobile was pivotal, and took steps to address that when it bought and developed the Android OS.

However, what I think is largely overlooked is that what Google is actually doing with Google+ is, aside from obviously creating a social graph that it controls, introducing everyone who uses it to its entire suite of products, most important of which is Google Apps, which is more designed to 'usurp' Microsoft, rather than Facebook. Ultimately, Google wants to control your email, your documents, your presentations, your travel, your news, your photos, your friends, your online ID, your video, your TV, your phone calls... the fact is, once you have the camel's nose inside the tent, it's easier to get the rest of the camel inside.

over 4 years ago

Andrew Nicholson

Andrew Nicholson, Founder at The Guku

Oh dear @David. Looks like we've got a dead canary on our hands. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jan/11/google-search-changes-internet-twitter

over 4 years ago

Andrew Nicholson

Andrew Nicholson, Founder at The Guku

Sorry @David Petherick, but I have to disagree. I would actually go one step further, and suggest that this move goes beyond "Conflict of interest" and actually steps into the realms of antitrust and competitive advantage legality. In the UK and US there are strict criteria applied to companies preventing them from using dominance in one field to gain competitive advantage in another - this is particularly relevent in the UK where Google has such a stronghold.

Larry Page has explicitly stated his intent to usurp Facebook by tying in 25% of employee bonuses to the success of Google+. That's as strong an indication of Google's priorities as you're going to get. See http://www.businessinsider.com/larry-page-just-tied-employee-bonuses-to-the-success-of-the-googles-social-strategy-2011-4?op=1

The sucess of Google apps is intimately tied to Android mobile uptake, and the migration to mobile platforms in general. And this looks to be a battle that Google is well on the way to winning. Yes, this is a direct challenge to Microsoft - but frankly the camel broke into the tent, messed up the sleeping bag and stole the tent pegs on the way out a long time ago, so I don't see this as being Google's main priority.

over 4 years ago

David Petherick

David Petherick, Head of Digital Marketing at First Vehicle Leasing

@Andrew the Guardian story is not a Dead Canary, it's a Norwegian Blue parrot!

Twitter has successfully carried out what I think is called a 'news hijack' with that lovely headline including their name, and that old favourite 'antitrust' is always wheeled out when it's David vs. Goliath.

The lengthy quotes from Google's detractors are indeed juicy stuff - all great for selling newspapers - but everyone loves to have a pop at the big successful guy, and if you've filed a complaint against Google, you're always good for a venemous anti-Google soundbite.

I am sure you realise that journalists are lazy types, Andrew, so I suggest we might do well to reserve our judgements until we can actually see how this works in practice on our own screens. ;-)

over 4 years ago

Andrew Nicholson

Andrew Nicholson, Founder at The Guku

Lol. Norwegion Blue indeed David.

You're of course right to hold judgement until we get more out of Google. However, whilst I don't have much faith in journos, I do see the Guardian as being a reliable source. Even more than that - I listen to the likes of Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land - who has crafted a well written response available to read at http://searchengineland.com/search-engines-should-be-like-santa-107400.

Far from being a Google detractor he's one of their biggest fans - and even he's telling us that this is a serious cause for concern. Further to this, my heckles were raised well before reading the Guardian article (this was just fortuitious timing). For Google to be able to relay unbiased search results that provide results from alternative social networks Google will require full access to these networks. And let's be honest - that's never going to happen. That's what flagged this for me in the first instance - and to be honest, nothing I have read since changes my opinion.

As a huge Google fan myself I look forward to being proven wrong

over 4 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@David, I agree with most of what you say, except the 'journalists are lazy' part... :)

over 4 years ago

Andrew Nicholson

Andrew Nicholson, Founder at The Guku

Just found a quote from Amit Singhal (Google head of algorithms) stating

"Search Plus Your World doesn’t cover content on Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Flickr. Or any social network or place where content might be shared to a more limited audience. Currently, “Search Plus Your World” would be better described as “Search Plus Google+”

Why are these others missing?

“Facebook and Twitter and other services, basically, their terms of service don’t allow us to crawl them deeply and store things. Google+ is the only [network] that provides such a persistent service,” Singhal told me. “Of course, going forward, if others were willing to change, we’d look at designing things to see how it would work.”

Source - http://searchengineland.com/googles-results-get-more-personal-with-search-plus-your-world-107285

So it looks like he's suggesting that it's not that Google WON'T introduce other social networks into Search+ (Think I should trademark that?) but that they CAN'T. Either way, the end result is search results with a definate bias towards Google+

over 4 years ago

David Petherick

David Petherick, Head of Digital Marketing at First Vehicle Leasing

He he. I do apologise, Mr Moth!

Some journalists are lazy creatures, I should have said! I was thinking more of those hacks at the Grauniad, not your good self, naturally.

over 4 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@David, thanks for the clarification :)

@Andrew, that is a very aggressive stance by Google. Basically saying 'change the way you operate or lose out on search rankings'. Can't imagine Twitter or Facebook will like being dictated to in this way - it would put all the power in Google's hands if other social networks changed their coding just for 'Search+', and would effectively let Google know it can dictate terms on future changes.

over 4 years ago

Andrew Nicholson

Andrew Nicholson, Founder at The Guku

@David Moth - indeed. I see a very interesting couple of days ahead of us as the social sites respond to Google's aggressive stance

over 4 years ago

David Petherick

David Petherick, Head of Digital Marketing at First Vehicle Leasing

@Andrew thanks for adding that clarification with the quote from Amit Singhal - I pointed out on another recent thread here that it's all part of a big game: [ http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/8646-google-search-plus-your-world-the-experts-view ]

"Like most things Google does, this will evolve, and it's probable that to avoid anti-trust problems, such results will include other social media such as Twitter and Facebook. However, bear in mind Facebook has been resistant to such moves in the past, as it makes money from its own social graph connections, and Twitter failed to renew its agreement with Google to share its 'realtime search' results last year. These companies are all in a game."

Google is providing those logged in to its system with an open graph within Google+ - other social networks cannot open up their social graphs to Google search without a major change to their terms. So Google is raising an implicit challenge here - but one that Facebook and Twitter will find difficult to meet - if they open their data to external search, Google will get all the eyeballs and the revenue that at present FB and Twitter currently keep to themselves within their own networks. But if they keep their data closed and off limits - do they risk becoming restricted, walled gardens?

I can foresee that Google may in the end have to pay to include FB and Twitter results in its Search+, but it can probably afford it, and to some extent, it may not be able to afford not to pay, in order to avoid claims of anti-competitive behaviour. Fascinating stuff.

over 4 years ago

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nigel france

we cant connect to xbox live on our xbox all the cables are in there proper places and we have no idea wot to do next have you got any ideas please it keeps saying it cant find our network

over 4 years ago

Andrew Nicholson

Andrew Nicholson, Founder at The Guku

I'll let you take this one @David ;)

over 4 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

Thanks Andrew... @Nigel, I'm afraid I don't have an Xbox so I can't help. Try contacting Microsoft ;)

over 4 years ago

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dan abobo, mr at home

I like the tool for searching your friends directly from google homepage. However, if you haven't made google your homepage you can follow the link: http://a-zblogger.com/make-google-my-homepage/ to my post to learn how to do that for any browser you choose.

over 3 years ago

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