Is Social Search The Future Or Is Google Barking Up The Wrong Tree?
Google has placed a lot of money on the table to make Google+ the social media website of the future. However, things aren't going well for the search giant in this area. It's not a mystery that social search isn't a big hit. Research studies by Pew show that sites like Facebook and Twitter don't drive substantial traffic to news websites and that users, in general, don't like personalized search. In fact, the only people who seem to like personalize search are the folks at Google.
While the Internet search giant tries to continue its foray into social media, there's an elephant standing in the room. Some industries are great for social. If you're a local coffee shop owner, you can stir up quite a buzz about a new blend you've got coming out. You can attract new customers, and you can keep loyals informed with your latest offerings. You might even use social media to advertise special events and functions.
What if you're a company that sells tampons, hemorrhoids cream, or bankruptcy and debt settlement services? Do you really think customers will want to "+1" your articles, product pages, and add you to their circles? That's just dumb, and Google should know better. It is a search engine company and its search engine is like a giant yellow pages - a directory - of information. What Google doesn't realize is that they're not in competition with Facebook.
People will use Google when they want to find solutions to problems. People use social media to chat and socialize. When you combine those two functions, you get "crowdsourcing." Arguably, this method of index search is less than objective, and causes a whole mess of problems. The first of which is something that Google is experiencing right now with user feedback: people don't want to see their friends' posts and opinions when searching for objective answers.
While friends are good for advice, a search engine is "cold" and never lies. At least, that's the way it used to be. Search engines do one thing and one thing only: they serve up answers to questions. When you answer a search query, you're looking for something. Maybe the "problem" you have is that you don't know where Moe's Tavern is. Index search will help you with that.
Maybe you want to read about Justin Bieber's new single. You can use search for that too, but more likely than not, you'll end up using social media to get the scoop. That's where social media shines.
Does Google Want Traffic Or Not?
A recent study by Ad Age showed that social media isn't all that great at driving traffic or increasing engagement with some of the biggest brand names in the world:
"If you subtract new likes, which only requires a click and in the minds of the researchers are akin to TV ratings, and isolate for more engaged forms of interaction, you’re left within an even smaller number: 0.45%. That means less than half a percent of people who identify themselves as like a brand actually bother to create any content around it."
It makes sense if you think about it. How much can you really say about Coca-Cola. If you drink it, and it tastes good to you, that's about it. Really, what more are you going to post about unless you're obsessed with it and are on the edge of becoming a self-appointed evangelist?
Ad Age also found that:
"Looking at 10 passion brands — including Nike, Old Spice, Harley-Davidson, Porsche, Ford Mustang, Jack Daniels and Tiffany & Co. — the researchers found an average engagement of 0.66% The average engagement for the 10 brands with the largest fan bases was 0.36%… Only one brand of the entire 200 in the analysis got an engagement level of 2%"
A Case For Objective Index Search
Google is engaged in a never-ending battle to control web spam. If it tries to integrate social signals into its algorithm even more so than it already has, it could find itself battling a foe that is even greater and more powerful than the link spammer. Right now, spammers need to create a website, put up content, and make the site at least look legitimate before buying backlinks and shooting to the first page for that long-tailed keyword. If Google goes "all in" with social signals, you could very easily see spammers buying workers on Mechanical Turk to "+1" pages to increase reach and do it for mere pennies.
You could see "Internet marketers" buying fiverr gigs to help build up a Facebook or Twitter account out of thin air just tmanipulatete search rankings. There's no pretense of substance there. It'll be an all out spam war. Is this what Google really wants? Is this what you want?