Google introduced huge new features today that bring some clarity to many of the changes they’ve made over the past several months, including the creation of their own social media network and the implementation of SSL search. Their latest search engine incarnation is called Search Plus Your World and it’s rolling out on Google.com over the next few days.
The new features bring personal results, largely from the Google+ network, into the SERPs at the click of a button. People, Pages, and Profiles are also fully integrated in search results. A look at a few of the new features:
Personal Results from Google+ Fully Integrated in SERPs
Users can click a new personalization icon at the top of the search results page, which pulls relevant posts and pictures from their Circle of friends into their search results. This is already happening to some degree, as people have noticed Google+ posts sometimes outrank even the original content to which it refers. The new icon, however, drills down further to limit these personalized results to those from within the user’s network, including content shared privately with the signed in user.
Notably, these are results from their Google+ network, not Facebook or Twitter. If ever the two other major social media players might have felt Google, as the search giant, had an edge in promoting their social platform, this pretty well seals the deal.
Amit Singhal told Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land this morning, "Facebook and Twitter and other services, basically, their terms of service don’t allow us to crawl them deeply and store things. Google+ is the only [network] that provides such a persistent service. Of course, going forward, if others were willing to change, we’d look at designing things to see how it would work."
Google+ Profiles in Search
In another thinly veiled jab at their competitors in the social arena, Google wrote in their blog post about the release:
Every day, there are hundreds of millions of searches for people. Sometimes, it’s hard to find the person you’re looking for. Once you do find him or her, there’s no quick way for you to actually interact. Starting today, you’ll have meaningful ways to connect with people instantly, right from the search results.
Typing in the first few letters of a person’s name allows Google to autocomplete and bring up their own search results page, which includes their Google+ profile page and "other relevant web results." Once you’ve found the person you’re looking for, you can see every single web result Google attributes to them, leaving out all others with the same name.
This feature alone has the potential for great convenience for the average user, as well as massive abuse. A result about a person could be highly relevant and "do all the right things" as far as SEO is concerned, but malign the person it’s about. It will be interesting to see how Google handles complaints about content generated by others when it’s now available curated on a single page.
Google may also suggest to users others they may wish to search by autocompleting with popular Google+ profiles, which they can add to Circles with a single click from the results page. In particular, this feature builds on the author profile markup that Google introduced towards the end of last year.
People & Pages Suggestions in AdWords Territory
Google started embedding Google+ brand pages into primary search results in mid-December. At that time, Brightedge VP Brad Mattick said he believed that "blurring the lines between G+ and search results parallels Microsoft’s inclusion of the Internet Explorer browser in its Windows OS in the 1990s."
The integration of People & Pages results on the right side of the SERPs is an interesting idea, as these listings of suggested users to Circle seem to take the place of PPC ads normally displayed in this area. This will also be an interesting area to watch, as it’s not clear at this time whether users will see ads, or how often, using this type of personalized search.
Unprecedented SERPs Security - Just Like Gmail
Google explains the switch to SSL search for signed-in users, the cause of much angst in the search community:
Since some of the information you’ll now find in search results, including Google+ posts and private photos, is already secured by SSL encryption on Google+, we have decided that the results page should also have the same level of security and privacy protection. That's part of why we were the first major search engine to turn on search via SSL by default for signed-in users last year. This means when you’re signed in to Google, your search results—including your private content—are protected by the same high standards of encryption as your messages in Gmail.
While this sounds like a wonderful feature for users, it could also mean that secure personalized search results and history are subject to the same draconian search and seizure methods the government now employs under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to access personal email accounts. As we discussed last year, government officials may seize electronic data including email accounts under this legislation with no probable cause a crime has been committed, no search warrant, and without notifying the user.
Google received 4,601 requests from July to December 2010 to hand over user data as a result of search warrants, subpoenas, and requests under the ECPA. They complied with 94%, according to their Transparency Report website.
Google put out a video explaining the new features of Search Plus Your World, which is currently available only at Google.com and in English.
What do you think of Google’s new vision for search, is it the next logical step or are they treading further into antitrust territory and total domination of the web? Let us know in the comments!
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