For Searches, It Really is About Who You Know
Much has been made about the Independence Day de-tethering of Twitter feeds from the search engine leviathan, Google. The event, which resulted in the also much-talked-about demise of Google Realtime Search, (which was dependent upon the now expired contractual relationship with Twitter), is but one of several indicators of an authentic metamorphosis taking place among search engines, in general, and Google especially. To drill down in this most recent phenomenon, the Google +1 button suggests that, for searches, who you know is more important than ever.
By now, a consensus is forming that Google has no designs on becoming the next Facebook. This doesn’t mean, though, that Google hasn’t learned the lessons about social networking and the implications of the hierarchical social authority status. The +1 button isn’t the only tool available for Google to factor into the mix of determining page ranking, but it does do something no other button does: it identifies a signature created by the user – and the user’s online social network.
There is, like any successful innovation we can name, (and for every winner, the scores of others that died inglorious, solitary deaths) a risk involved with the strategy. The risk isn’t small, but it’s not reckless, either. For Google to tap into the treasures it believes lie under the surface of online anonymity for millions of users, a user clicking on a +1 button must first be logged on to their Google account. The bet is covered, in part, by the fact that, at last count, 170,000,000 Gmail accounts will provide an ante for the bet. Add to that the intentional hyperbole built into the inaugural launch of Google+ and the unlimited invitation capability for the original Google+ account holders, invitations that were and are being disseminated among millions, many of whom don’t currently hold Google accounts, but will as a prerequisite to joining Google+. So far, it’s been a good bet, one in which they intend to capitalize.
For those logged on to their Google accounts, there comes the intelligence haul that defines social authority resulting from each time one of those users clicks on a +1 button. Once again, many other indicators are weighed to determine search results and authority, but it’s more than reasonable to believe that the weight given Google account users and those in their networks is viewed with greater esteem.
Other search engines do and will continue to shift the value of social authority upwards just as they will persist in inventing ways to assess and define authority. The Google +1 hook, and to a lesser degree, Google+ itself, it seems will have the most impact on the folding of the social network into the optimization of search engine outcomes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jesse Langley lives near Chicago. He divides his time among work, writing and family life. He has a keen interest in blogging and social media and advocates for online education.