Google launched a major new feature this week called Google Search Plus Your World and many people are incredibly upset about it. The feature presents search results from your contacts on Google’s social network, Google+, and the things they’ve shared. It’s clutter, critics say, it’s unfair, it’s a violation of a sacred contract between users and Google.
Be that as it may, the feature can also be pretty awesome. Below I’ve listed 5 examples of search queries that were fabulously improved by the availability of the new search results. What do they have in common? They surface timely and opinionated content, shared by people I know and trust. Search super-expert Danny Sullivan has shown with a long list of examples that some queries suffer at the hands of the new feature. I’d like to offer some counter-examples.
Sullivan offers evidence that a search for Britney Spears will never be the same and that only a few ambitious brands are highlighted in a search for the word cars.
I don’t know about you, but when I want to find Britney Spears, I know where to go. And I’ve never found myself grunting the word “cars” at a search engine, either.
But look for business or technical terms and if you’ve got friends like I do, the new Google search feature is great. The UI? I agree with ReadWriteWeb’s Jon Mitchell – I think it’s incredibly non-invasive.
Ok, here are some examples of the new search being a big win.
Last night for example I Googled for the phrase IBM Social Business, because I’ve still got it on my mind after writing about it this week. When I search for that phrase in the new social search, I find a months-old Plus post from analyst Jeremiah Owyang adressing the term social business in August. Specifically, he had just completed an extensively researched report on the topic. That was a very useful thing to find, among other social search results. I wish I would have seen that before I wrote the article I did.
I also found my own article there too in those search results, it was an easy way to search my own content. Blogging hacker Pete Warden says he’s already found the new search to be the best way to recall content he’s written himself. He thinks of it as Memory Augmentation and that could be said just as easily about the streams of content shared by your friends that you saw (in theory) but that you couldn’t previously recall.
One of the blog posts that showed up in that search was from giant PR firm Edelman. Reading that post stirred my interest and made me search for Edelman and Social Business.
That search brought back a full page of official content from Edelman.com, but in this case a social result was inserted at the top of Google’s list of results. What was that result? It was a critique of the larger trend of PR agencies inferior to Edelman trying to do trainings on social, written by one of the world’s leading social media marketing consultants, Jay Baer. Way to sneak that critique in at the top of an otherwise very offical page, Google!
If I search for Jay Baer’s name, by the way, I get a page full of social results in the form of links that other friends of mine have shared about the man himself. The world’s best-known nonprofit technology consultant Beth Kanter shared a Baer blog post on Google+ and says it’s terrific. If Beth vouches for someone, I can’t think of better validation. Amber Naslund, former VP Social Strategy for Radian6 and now startup co-founder at SideraWorks is goofing around with Jay on Google+. And Francine Hardaway, a tech investor and pundit, says she’s known Jay for 20 years. I feel like the social search results contributed a lot to a search for a person’s name. I had no idea that so many people I know knew and interacted online with Jay Baer.
Then I search for “reviews of SuccessFactors” the giant HR software upstart that SAP paid $3.4 billion dollars this Fall. If I search for Successfactors SAP on the main Google intereface, I get news stories from Venturebeat, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal. Those are big general interest business websites. But when I select Social, then I’m delivered news stories from enterprise technology specialists. Those are the people I’m connected with online, not people from the WSJ.
If you’ve got a well-stocked set of people you’re following on Google +, then there’s a lot this can do for you. Speaking to blogging hacker Pete Warden again, Warden says searching for technical topics works very well with Plus. That’s probably because he’s following a lot of technical people on the Plus social network.
A search for Scala and Play in Google proper, Warden points out, returns all kinds of information about these two web frameworks from official sources. “I just wanted to know if it [Play] was any good,” he says. The new social search returns the kind of opinion-based content that Warden is looking for.
Those are all great use-cases, if you ask me.
It seems clear to me that if you’ve got the right contacts and you think about it the right way, then you’ve really got something valuable in the new Google Search Plus Your World.