Last week, Google launched Search Plus Your World, which is the most ambitious step yet by a search engine to integrate social media into their search results.
This is a huge leap forward for social media, which has generally been a separate way to acquire and interact with your customer base. However, if Search Plus catches on like Google is hoping, social media will no longer be optional, but required for a strong presence on Google (and other search engines, if they roll out something similar).
Read on to learn more about Search Plus and how it may impact your business going forward.
How does Google Search Pluswork, exactly?
Search Plus is the marriage of Google’s search results and their social networking site Google+. Specially, it is Google’s attempt to use the information people post on their social site to influence the results that appear for a search query.
I recommend watching this video from Google to learn how Search Plus fits in:
Search Plus is another addition to Google’s never ending pursuit of more relevant search results. In this case, it means making the search results more personalized. No longer will users be limited to websites that Google believes to be the most relevant. Now their connections can influence the results they see.
For example, let’s say a user searches for a hotel in Los Angeles. Through Search Plus, Google could display a relevant post by one of the users Google+ connections. What if that post said where their friend stayed, how great it was, and which site they used to book it? Imagine how powerful of a sales tool that could be.
Will Search Plus catch on?
Google tries a bunch of new things, some of which stick, some of which don’t. Rob Torres, from Google, mentioned at the Expedia Affiliate Conference in Las Vegas that Google+ is a huge part where they see search going in the future.
For Search Plus to catch on, it’s going to depend on the success of Google+, which means having more signups and higher levels of user engagement. How’s it doing so far? Google reported 62 million sign-ups to Google+ as of December 27, with an expected 85.2 million by February 1st. While that’s impressive for a site that launched just over six months ago, it’s a far cry from Facebook’s 800 million active users. As for user engagement, the average time spent on each site was just below two seconds on Google+ versus roughly seven minutes on Facebook. Clearly, Google+ has a long way to go in catching Facebook, but what better way to raise awareness for it than by integrating it directly into their search?
It needs to be mentioned that Google+ doesn’t exactly need to catch Facebook in order to have enough data to make Search Plus relevant, but it needs more users and activity then it has today. However, it’s undeniable that social media’s influence on search has grown over time and it will continue to do so. If it isn’t Google’s Search Plus that revolutionizes the mix of the social and search space, it will be something else with a similar goal.
What does this mean for Facebook and Twitter? Should I still use those?
Yes, absolutely! The amount of users and opportunities for engagement on Facebook and Twitter are simply too great to ignore. Keep your focus on those for the time being. Also worth noting, Facebook already shares information with Bing, which influences their search results.
As for how these two sites fit in to Search Plus, Facebook and Twitter do not give Google the necessary permissions to integrate their content. This means Google is essentially using the launch of Search Plus as an opportunity to go “all in” with Google+.
What does this mean for your business?
In the short-term, the impact of Search Plus on your business will be minimal, but in the long-term, if it catches on, it has the potential to significantly change how users search for information on Google.
In the meantime, I recommend creating a Google+ account if you haven’t already. Get familiar and experiment with it. Start adding friends (especially those with lots of connections, travel bloggers, etc) into your circles. Try building a worthwhile presence, create buzz, and give others a reason to talk about your business in a positive way. After all, it’s better to be proactive instead of reactive.
However, I would keep the majority of your social focus on Facebook and Twitter for the time being.
While social’s impact on search it’s exactly new, it’s impact on search is officially here. With Google’s Search Plus and Bing’s relationship with Facebook, it’s clear that adding a social influence into search is the direction the search engines want to go it. Therefore, the better you build your social presence today; the better off (and more visible) your site will be on the search engines in the future.
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