If you’ve performed a search on Google over the past couple weeks, you probably noticed that things are a little different. The search engine is trying again to incorporate social search into their regular result listings. For Google Plus users, this means that they have the option to see recent posts by their friends based on what they are searching for.
Is this a positive step for the search industry? It depends on who you ask. There are times when this feature will be super useful, such as when searchers are looking for current news, popular features, or other things where posts and links shared by others in their social group could be relevant. In a way, this serves the same purpose as asking for help on a forum; while you don’t know what is accurate and what isn’t, you get a lot of different ideas, links and opinions all in one place.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for specific information, you probably don’t need to see the link to something mostly unrelated that your neighbor shared last week. These social results can muddle the search results page, and make it harder to find relevant, factual content. For SEOs, the problem is that even after working to get your pages to the tops pages of Google’s SERPs, personal results could obscure your link under several less-relevant results.
The other problem is that internet marketers are going to swarm to Google+ in an attempt to get better search rankings for themselves and for their clients. This is bad all around. Not all internet marketers are as ethical as they should be when it comes to marketing articles for SEO purposes. They might use trending keywords in the articles just for the sake of drawing traffic, regardless of what the actual article is about. This means that irrelevant search results are going to become more common. It also means, unfortunately, that Google Plus has a good chance of becoming a SPAM cesspool. There are already problems with spam marketers on G+; this new social search feature is going to encourage even more of them.
For people who use this new feature the way it was meant, this could be a great tool. If you’re sharing relevant content, you’ll see more interest and better traffic. If you’re interested in what the people you have circled are saying about a topic, Google’s personal results social search provides an easy way to do that, right along with their standard search results. The idea itself is good, even if there are some problems with it.
Turning off this feature is easy. A switch to the right of the search results allows you to toggle between showing or hiding the personal results from your Google Plus stream.
Do you think that Google’s personal search results will help or harm the search industry?