In the Real World, Who Cares about Search Plus?
In case you missed it because you're at CES, or getting ready for NRF, or heads down after the holidays, Google rolled out its deepest level of integration of Google+ -- content and social signals from Circles, +1's and reshares -- to core Google search results to date. The bottom line, as Danny Sullivan put it, is that it's the next level of personalized and universal search.
But questions immediately began about whether Google went too far, taking advantage of its search monopoly to force Google+ results onto people, in some cases overwhelming results from across the web so as to make results confusing and almost too narrow. The screen shots below show the difference between old and new Google search.
The spectator sport was around Twitter sniping at Google for basing social results on Google+ and ignoring Twitter, and Google sniping back. The tech blogosphere went crazy and raised the specter of anti-trust investigation. And the pom-poms came out with other social media bloggers.
Do Most of Us Care?
My immediate question when the news first broke was, based upon the fact that searchers have to be logged into a Google account AND have a Google+ profile to see these changes, how many people does this really affect? I tried to research any data that may show the percentage of total Google search performed where these two conditions are met and couldn't find any.
The closest information I could find was from SEOmoz last October that showed that less than 15% of its search referral traffic was affected by a change by Google where it is no longer passing keyword information for searchers that are logged in and therefore search via https://www.google.com. I'm not saying this is a proxy for the amount of logged-in searchers overall, but it suggests the number is pretty low.
It stands to reason that the vast majority of people that use Google see unpersonalized search results (with the exception of perhaps "web history" cookie information). Also, for Google+ personalized results to make an impact, those with G+ need to actually use it, and there are lots of reports that while 40-50 million have signed up, usage is choppy.
PR and Marketing Impact?
It is plainly obvious that Search plus Your World is another way that Google is enticing people to sign up for Google+. It remains to be seen whether it will be enough, or if people are too locked in to Facebook or Twitter.
The potential PR and marketing impact is noteworthy, and Forrester's Melissa Parrish enumerated it very well yesterday. For this reason, companies shouldn't dismiss it outright. To start with, search Google+ using both your brands and your target buyers' titles as keywords to see how prominent and active customers and prospective customers are using it. Also consider key influencers (media, analysts, bloggers).
If there is a good amount of quality discussions there, create a branded Google+ page and make it part of your content publishing strategy. This gives those talking about you the opportunity to connect, follow you, share your content and interact. It also feeds the Google+ data into Google Search Plus results for those using it.
I agree with Parrish that it's not time to take resources away from other social initiatives, so unless your community is active on Google+, for now it is OK to lean towards a wait-and-see approach.
What is your reaction to Google search changes? Too personalized? Enough to make you create a profile or turn you away?