Last week, Google introduced Search Plus Your World, a method of searching that incorporates both privately shared information and public information on one search results page.
Wait, privately shared information appearing in search results? That sounds wrong, doesn’t it?
Search Plus Your World actually integrates information shared on Google+ and presents it in search results that would regularly appear on Google. You can only see information that other Google+ users made public or shared with you directly, so you won’t have complete access to all the information on Google+.
There are essentially two issues being discussed regarding Search Plus Your World, the first one being Google is clearly favoring its own social network’s postings in their search results. I agree with Danny Sullivan’s post that search engines should be like the Santa in the film Miracle on 34th Street: SERPs should display the most valuable results to searchers, even if it means the searchers are leaving Google and going to other places to find the information they desire. If I’m searching for a place to order Chinese food, I don’t want to search Google for “Chinese takeout” only to get results from Google+ members’ posts related to Chinese food. That doesn’t help with my search for tasty takeout, now does it?
The second issue is that this kind of information is not available for other social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook. There was actually a pretty heated (by Internet standards anyway) debate between Google and Twitter regarding the issues, which you can read more about here. Essentially, Twitter showed a Google search for @WWE, the Twitter handle for World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., and showed that the first few lines of results on the results page were for Google+ posts about WWE, with nothing related to Twitter. Twitter cried foul, stating the Search Plus Your World feature wouldn’t display the most relevant search results someone were looking for in this instance. Google replied by saying Twitter and Facebook opted out of having their information included in SERPs and Google is open to talking with Twitter and Facebook about having expanded access to data.
So what does this mean for your business? For starters, you need to have a Google+ page if you don’t already. If you have a Google account, it’s easy to set up and you can now have multiple admins per page and admins can manage multiple Google+ pages. Once you start your Google+ page, you’ll need to be using it consistently, about as much as you currently use other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. While this doesn’t mean you should abandon ship on Twitter and Facebook, it now means you need a three pronged approach to social media.
This also means that it will become easier for people to find your website when searching online. With now three big ways to find out about your business (four including LinkedIn) through social media, you’ll want to make sure people like what they see when they arrive at your website. Make sure any web design for small business you use on your site makes it easy for visitors to navigate your site. Use simple, clean (but never boring) design techniques, and make sure your website’s navigation is user friendly.
The future of Search Plus Your World is unclear right now, with formal complaints rolling into the FTC to examine the Google+ integration into search, but this could be the final push Google needed to make its social network big enough to compete with social media giants Facebook and Twitter. Even if Search Plus Your World encounters drastic changes or begins to incorporate Facebook or Twitter into SERPs in the future, your business will still benefit from an additional way to connect with clients and prospects on social media.