We have been hearing from last few years search is going to be social; all search engines in coming years are going to put more value to social signals from the searcher’s social graphs then the links obtained by sites from different places in the result pages. Google and Bing have already started to do so.
There is no denying Google has been a leader in the search space for almost a decade and all attempts from startups to big corporates have been either complete failure or feeble successes.
This time Google have entered the social arena with their newest and by far the best attempt at social with Google+ to disrupt the current beat of champions namely Facebook and Twitter. The battleground is set across multiple devices and platforms. Google already has a big market share in mobile OS through Android.
Microsoft and Facebook closeness might be fruitful for the latter to take advantage of users on upcoming Windows 8 mobile OS. Apple has already announced its plan to integrate Twitter on iOS 5. Google+ is definitely going to leverage its Android platform. Google might also start releasing versions of Google Chrome similar to Rockmelt which would have Google+ integrated all around the browser. But another very strong platform, on which Google has almost complete monopoly and nobody is talking about, is Google Search.
Google has started showing author images with articles on its search pages. The image of author is being fetched from Google Profile page. Image accompanying the search result is a definite boost to CTR. Every site, blog and portal; big or small will have no choice but to implement it. In very short time the SERPs (search result pages) will start looking like social pages with author images, +1 buttons and other social stuff.
But what strikes me most is how Google is forcing me or other webmasters to have a Google Profile Page. I cannot claim my ownership of the content I am producing without creating a Google Profile. I repeat, according to Google I am not an owner of MY OWN content until I create an account with Google.
This is something very similar to what Baidu has been doing in China, promoting its own sites through its search. Most of the time neutral results are only shown after first or second page in Baidu’s search result pages.
Search is the biggest online advertising platform. Its neutrality and fairness toward search results is one of the biggest yardsticks in winning the trust of web searchers. Search engines are expected to show results based on the content of the sites and not based on whether the webmasters are active on social networks owned by the respective search engines.
Why is it necessary to claim ownership of my own content through Google Profiles network? Why I can’t do it through my existing Twitter, Facebook or other network’s profiles page, which are already public?
Google is late to the social party. Their last attempts; Buzz and Wave have been failures. Facebook and Twitter have already been established as market leaders. Google understands this very well, that the features or usability might create initial buzz but to get into the mainstream they need to acquire users at rates much faster than what Facebook and Twitter have been doing in last few years.
Somebody on Twitter rightly pointed out – “I am not going to move to Google+ until my wife and all my friends decide to do so.” Google+ needs to acquire social graph of the masses.
Google is done with politely inviting people. Now you are forced to join the social network otherwise your competitor is going to kick you in search results. And to protect yourself not only you will be joining Google+, you will have to share your content with your friends across Google+, which means you have to invite your friends to the new social network as well.
Social network essentially are build on two building blocks – Social Graphs and good content. Whichever social network can unearth the two blocks in better way will be the winner in the long run. People share interesting content on their favorite social networks. Look at your social timelines; the reason you spend so much time on social network is because your timeline is full of interesting content. Google will be forcing webmaster to first share their content themselves on Google+ and then request, plead or motivate their readers and friends to share it on Google+ more than other social networks.
Here is one suggestion to Google – don’t restrict or force users to Google Profile. Let them build their profiles wherever they want. Instead ask people to follow open standards protocol (www.ogp.me) and tag their content properly so that their profile and pictures can be included with the search results.
Let people have the final say in deciding to use Google Profile, Facebook, Twitter, Gravatar or Disqus.
Let the web be free.
[Image credit : MyInsideGamer]