Google Search Plus Your World Is A Hit, Despite Outcries In The Blogosphere
It's been just two weeks since Google launched "Search Plus Your World" (SPYW) to the Internet. The result? People love it. Rather, it appears that users love it. The blogosphere is up in arms over the whole deal.
Google's SPYW is really an integration of normal Google search and Google +. This venture is an attempt to make search results more "social." However, the big "G" can really only display search results from its own social network because companies like Twitter and Facebook won't play nicely with Google. Other social media companies won't share data with Google in a way that Google wants. In some cases, they won't share user data at all.
Thus, the end-user is left with search results that look like they favor Google's own products. This has drawn sharp criticism from some bloggers who see Google as a giant in the industry that is becoming biased - taking the focus away from the user and putting it on itself.
Let's not forget that Google doesn't have any kind of responsibility to anyone but itself and its stockholders. John Battelle, Mat Honan, and Tom Blue have all written criticisms about SPYW. These criticisms focus on how Google's relevancy is slipping. Blue even goes so far as to hint that Google is being anti-competitive and that "G" should expect a backlash from businesses that rely on Google's search engine.
From a marketing standpoint, the sane voice in this industry is link expert Eric Ward who has consistently warned businesses to build links as though Google didn't exist. That makes perfect sense. All of those bloggers whining about Google favoring its own products need to remember that there was a time when Google didn't exist. What did people do then? They linked to each other and relied on direct click traffic. Even today, you could rely on social traffic. Here's the rub:
You have to provide content that people actually want to link to.
In a world without Google, there's no system to game. OK, you could try to game Bing or some other search engine, but you won't have Google to kick around anymore. What then? At some point, you have to rely on providing real value to the end user.
Users Love SPYW
Google reports that normal users (i.e. not SEO experts or Internet marketers) love the new Search Plus Your World. When Danny Sullivan over at Searchengineland.com interviewed Amit Singhal, Singhal told Sullivan that:
"The user feedback we have been getting has been almost the other side of the reaction we’ve seen in the blogosphere. The users who have seen this in the wild are liking it, and our initial data analysis is showing the same."
That's good news for users and marketers alike. It may not seem like it, but Internet marketers can take advantage of the fact that users love SPYW. How? It's all about social media integration, baby. There used to be a time when all you needed was a first page ranking in Google. Those days are starting to fade with personalized search results. Google is trending toward local, vertical, and personalized.
The way that this benefits marketers is simple. Google is going to help you reduce wasted space on your mailing list, wasted advertising dollars, and wasted resources developing leads that go nowhere. SPYW acts as a huge filter. All you have to do is offer something of value and get people so jazzed up about your product that they want to "+1" your content, add you to their circle, and blog about you. If you're thinking that all of this reeks of traditional offline advertising, you're right. Social media marketing and "social search" is just like "referral marketing." In fact, it is referral marketing. It's just that it's happening on the Internet, and not in the "real world."
So, if you were good at referral marketing, you should do well with Google's SPYW over time. If you were terrible at getting referred business, you might not have a business model that works well with Google's new platform. It would probably be best to cut your losses now and rethink your marketing plan.
Don't Break The Rules Just To "Win"
One final thought: If you're thinking that you can just buy your "+1s" or otherwise game this new system, think again. First, buying "+1s" is just a dumb idea. Who cares if you have 10,000 "+1s" if you have absolutely no interaction with your audience? If you had to pay someone to "+1" your site, or pages within your site, or your Google+ profile, then you don't have user interaction. You have the appearance of success and fame without actually having either.
There's another good reason to obey the rules when it comes to Google+ - you don't want to get on Google's bad side. People who break the rules on Google+ can lose access to all Google services. Even though the story is about an under-aged person setting up a Google account, it sets a precedent. Google wants to protect its new product. Game the system at the expense of everything you have that's tied to Google.