Social Search

Google is getting a lot of blowback for its efforts to integrate Google+ results into search.

Several people have asked me my opinion, so here goes.

1. I’ve made a habit of always logging out of Google services before searching. Not that I really care if they have a connection between an actual profile and my searched (after all, they have my IP address anyhow). I just think its none of their business, and as such I’m not going to make it easier for them. Based on what I’ve seen so far of the G+ modifications, I’m going to continue doing just that. The quality of the search results with G+ content included is poor. Google is either going to need to tweak this feature substantially in order to make it usable – or more likely they’ll quietly make it disappear in a few months.

2. A number of people have written about the dangers of excessive filtering – if everything that we see online have been selected for us based on our preferences, how do we ever hear about opposing points of view? Or anything new at all for that matter? I personally feel that the G+ mod is an example of this. One of my friends sent me a search that he did for “jeremy”, and fully half of the front page of results had to do with either my G+ profile, my website, or postings that I’ve made on G+. The issue is that if search results only pertain to your circle, then you’re being isolated from other information.

3. Of course, once he sent me a snapshot of his search results, I immediately did the same search – and was given a completely different set of results. If you and I both search for the same thing, and we see completely different things, how can we compare or share results? Its bad enough that Google already does this sort of thing based on locale (don’t get me started on this one – locale is useful if you’re looking for a restaurant, and stupid if you’re looking for anything else).

4. People don’t usually search for things that they already know. If they do, they’re looking for new info on the topic, not things that they’ve almost certainly already seen.

5. The vast majority of postings on any social site (G+ included) are one-off comments that are specific to a conversational context, or a particular time or place. I’m being generous and ignoring the fact that most posts aren’t even relevant there. Seriously – if I do a search and all I see is out of context posts from people in my circles (few of whom I actually know in real life anyway), how will I be able to find what I’m actually looking for? The signal to noise ratio just reached the babble point.

6. This is really, really bad for the SEO and web marketing crowd. Search just became completely unpredictable. Or maybe Google isn’t stupid – if you want to be found, perhaps paid search just became completely indispensable.

Anyhow, my take on this is that: a) this degrades search quality, b) people are going to avoid using it if possible, and c) its likely to go away soon.