The Plus (and minus) of Google’s “Search Plus Your World”

the contribution of Google’s “Search Plus Your World”, which brings you results from the public internet as well as info that you have shared or has been shared with you privately on Google+.

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Google will also submit information relevant to your search from “suggested” Google+ profiles and pages.  If you select one of the suggested results, you will also have the option to add that person or thing to your Google+ Circles.  The results are also labeled based on their level of publicity.  If, however, the idea of personal info and images from your social network contacts showing up in your searches makes you uncomfortable (or just plain annoyed, since there have been complaints from users that many results on the personal side of things end up being irrelevant to their original search), you can turn the feature off using the toggle at the top of your search result page.

The Pros:

This new form of search result has potential for local businesses.  Since Google now seems to be favoring references made in anything regarding its own social network (Google+ and Picasa, for example), having your friends sharing information about your business will mean you will show up higher in a local search when the personal results have been allowed.  This also means that unique and creative copy may become just as important as SEO for your webpage.

The Cons:

There have been many questions raised about the potential privacy issues that may result from this kind of presentation.  Marc Rotenberg, executive director of EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center), says “Although data from a user’s Google+ contacts is not displayed publicly, Google’s changes make the personal data of users more accessible.”  Google has rebutted this by saying their personalized search results are encrypted, but the question of privacy is still frequently challenged.  There is also the issue being raised that Google’s “personalized results” are biased toward its own programs, as mentioned above.  That means that results from Facebook and Twitter are left out in the cold, while Google-affiliated results get pride of place.  The concern being voiced is that Google may be ranking more-relevant results lower than less-relevant results simply to pump their own programs.

Our Conclusion:

Search Plus Your World has the potential to be an interesting new tool in the ever-expanding world of Social Media Marketing.  However, it behooves everyone using Google+ and its affiliate programs to read Google’s privacy policy very carefully, and take personalized search results with a grain of salt when performing non-recreational searches.

Karen Leonard
May 1, 2012

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