Why You Should Care About Twitter vs. Google+

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Google+ Enters PageRank Algorithm

Perhaps you saw the epic war of words last week between Twitter and Google. The conflict revolves around Google’s inclusion of Plus activity into its search algorithm. Called “Search Plus Your World,” this addition of the Google+ data has far ranging implications for online marketers. It dramatically increases the value of Google+ activity in comparison to its primary competitors Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and, of course, Facebook.

Consider how prominent this change is. In the above screen capture, personalized results are featured right above the top search result for “crux.” Also one of my Google+ posts is featured as the third result.

Search Plus impacts both traditional search marketing and social media. First of all, Google still dominates search with roughly 66 percent of all web based inquiries going through its site.

Comscore

Search drives an incredible amount of traffic to Google’s site. According to Alexa, Google is the number one trafficked site in the world, followed by number two Facebook, and third, Google’s YouTube property. This dominance in overall web traffic allows Google to run its very profitable advertising business.

From a web marketer’s perspective, these tops sites are must have referrers, thus the heavy focus on advertising. But of the ad properties, Google’s Ad Words is considered a much stronger play than Facebook’s social ads, which most Fortune 500 brands view as a weak play.

Secondly, while adding personalized results to Google search has been an ongoing evolution over the past few years, this move puts Google+ in a preeminent position over its social network brethren. No other major social network is indexed to offer larger social web context.

Right or wrong, this puts Google+ on a pedestal in the larger social web ecosystem, causing it to literally influence 2/3 of all searches occurring on the social web, while the others have no influence. This shift has sparked widespread discourse amongst tech bloggers. In some cases, tech pundits have wondered out loud if Search Plus represents an extinction event for other social networks.

The Great Debate

Just hours after Google announced the move Twitter stated that Search Plus was bad for the public. Further, Twitter said that finding relevant information will be hard thanks to the exclusion of tweets from Google search results. However, Google responded by revealing that Twitter chose to close its network to search last summer.

PastedGraphic 2

Regardless of the he said, she said, the move does overinflate the importance of Google+ in the context of its place in the larger social web. But, Google says it will change if Twitter or Facebook allow their sites to be crawled for indexing.

In an interview featured on Search Engine Land, Google algorithm wiz Amit Singhal said, “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.”

Beyond Twitter, the Search Plus move sparked outcry within the larger tech pundit space. Some have dubbed it, “Too much, too soon,” disliking the sudden force-feeding of Google+ to the marketplace.

This is a common declaration amongst pundits since Google began integrating Google+ across all of its properties. At the same tim, others are all for the rising social network. Meanwhile, people feel drained on time, and are gravitating towards the one or two social networks they like best.

Impact

While pundits may not like Google for its moves, the company has thrust its social network into the top five in the world, and is likely to surpass MySpace by the end of the first quarter. Google has done what it had to in order to make Plus a success.

The inevitable integration into search simply adds incredible value to Google+ that most web marketers will not be able to resist. Google+ may not drive the most direct traffic to your site compared to other social networks, but through the Search Plus algorithm it has far a greater impact on search than Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

This makes Google+ the easiest way to influence your company, brand or product’s search results of all the various types of social media. Suddenly, a handful of plus ones means more than scores of retweets. This imbalanced impact on search is reminiscent of then second tier social network Squidoo’s lock on page rank in the mid 2000s.

Most professional web marketers won’t be able to resist impacting their search results through Search Plus. As a result, brands will push Google+ and drive more traffic to the social network, which in turn will strengthen the network’s overall traffic. Search Plus creates a self fulfilling engine of activity for Google+.

Search Plus will likely force Twitter (and possibly even Facebook) to index its users’ public posts. They will have to open up to stay relevant.

Additional social network data would provide more context for search and other uses of public social data than Google+, which in spite of its growth is barely a second tier social network based on traffic. And that would be good because Google+ is not representative of the larger social web population, instead representing a very tech savvy, male oriented demographic. In the interim, Search Plus is a game changer for communicators who can see its impact on the larger ecosystem.

What do you think of Search Plus?

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  • William Reichard

    Search Plus makes me feel like a fool for ever thinking Google would Not Be Evil. When I put my MBA hat on, I completely understand the move–they are obligated to make the most money they can. But when I put my user hat on, I see how I’m now being thrust right back into a web that’s stacked.

    This is bound to open the door for competitors. For one thing, it’s fairly obviously a monopolistic practice. The EU in particular will start looking at everything Google’s doing. In that sense–more competition–I’m glad to see it. I’m already making conscious efforts to use other engines again. We’ll probably also see some alliances being made and some partnerships being deepened (Facebook and Skype seem ripe).

    Search vs. ads has been a paradox for Google since they reinvented advertising. This is it coming to a head. In the long run, my bet is Google is violating its own DNA and will start to decline because of it, but perhaps its better genes will make it.

    All that said, no doubt, as you say, everyone who needs to make money will now have to be on Google Plus in a big way for the foreseeable future. I tend to think people prefer choices of the heart (e.g., Apple) vs. no other choice (Microsoft), but in terms of just making money today, you have to hand it to Google (literally).

    You always get me thinking, Geoff. Thanks!

  • William Reichard

    Search Plus makes me feel like a fool for ever thinking Google would Not Be Evil. When I put my MBA hat on, I completely understand the move–they are obligated to make the most money they can. But when I put my user hat on, I see how I’m now being thrust right back into a web that’s stacked.

    This is bound to open the door for competitors. For one thing, it’s fairly obviously a monopolistic practice. The EU in particular will start looking at everything Google’s doing. In that sense–more competition–I’m glad to see it. I’m already making conscious efforts to use other engines again. We’ll probably also see some alliances being made and some partnerships being deepened (Facebook and Skype seem ripe).

    Search vs. ads has been a paradox for Google since they reinvented advertising. This is it coming to a head. In the long run, my bet is Google is violating its own DNA and will start to decline because of it, but perhaps its better genes will make it.

    All that said, no doubt, as you say, everyone who needs to make money will now have to be on Google Plus in a big way for the foreseeable future. I tend to think people prefer choices of the heart (e.g., Apple) vs. no other choice (Microsoft), but in terms of just making money today, you have to hand it to Google (literally).

    You always get me thinking, Geoff. Thanks!

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

      I think Google sees social incorporation as a must have for its future, not just having a socnet, but for relevant search.  So they have doubled down, so to speak.  I am sure Google is betting the house on this.

      I am working on the double comment thing. Sorry, Disqus is not playing nice!

  • William Reichard

    Sorry for the double posting…can’t figure out how to delete the duplicate…

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

      No worries. Working on it now.

  • http://dr1665.com/ Brian Driggs

    I’m still very much on the fence about this. I can see Twitter’s point, but I can see Google’s too. It also seems a good way to drive more meaningful, strategic connections on g+ and other social networks. Curate a strong personal network, reap big rewards when you search. 

    I do have concerns about Google doing what’s best for Google over what’s best for society in this case (it will be harder to find breaking news through Google search, now), but my biggest complaint at this point is the physical implementation. Why put Plus results at the top of the list when the right half of the screen is all but blank? Why not a 2-column approach, with the usual, strong Google search results on the left, and Plus results (or a call to action to sign up) on the right? 

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

      Yeah, I am sure Google sees this as a must for its future.  They have banked and integrated everything on this working.  Plus results are metza metza at this point. I hope they are sincere on letting another socnet into the mix, and if so, I hope Twitter gets wise.

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  • Joe Abusamra

    “…people feel drained…” — yes! But I agree it can’t be ignored for the reasons you state, and Google is is not breaking any laws (at least thiose on the books..:)).

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

      They are doing what they have to to make G+ become relevant.

  • http://youtu.be/zkRthPzFtzM researchpaperwriter.net

    That’s so weird but cool

  • http://twitter.com/davisac1 Amanda C. Davis

    When I do a Google search, half the point is to find sites based on the consensus of the whole Internet, not my self-selected social circle. If I want to know what my friends think is the most useful site for a given search string, I’ll straight-up ask them.

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

      Yet most people trust their peers.

  • Mike Zavarello (@brightmatrix)

    This is an excellent and thought-provoking essay, Geoff. I’ve been looking at Google+ from an individual’s eyes for most of the past few months, but these changes in search have got me thinking a lot more from the corporate/marketing angle. I wonder how many institutions will pull resources from Twitter, Facebook, et al. to focus on their Google+ pages and the SERP rewards they may reap?

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

      It certainly has to become part of any SEO or SEM strategy, that’s for sure.

  • http://www.upforit.com/ adult chat

    I didn’t hear about the war between Twitter and Google, so thanks for the post, it was interesting!!!

  • http://twitter.com/JGoldsborough JGoldsborough

    Agree with WR. Very smart post. You do always make us think. One question and a couple points:

    1) +1′s don’t force me to think about using G+, right? I see how the conversation within the social network is now impacting search, so I get how that could drive me/my brand to consider increasing the amount of participation within G+. But +1′s live outside G+ too (e.g. blogs) and I don’t need to participate in the socnet to create search relevancy through that plugin, IMO. Does that make sense? Just wanting to clarify and make sure I’m not missing anything.

    2) I think we have a battle here between the fact that people feel drained on time and the relevancy of this development to a brand’s search strategy. Facebook may not be indexed, but it will have 1 billion users by year’s end if not sooner. So the social indexing going on there is something brands can’t ignore either. My guess is that Facebook and Twitter open themselves up to indexing in 2012, which probably helps Google in the long run anwyay. Because people really do want the most complete search results possible. As a consultant, the question is how much do you push your clients to G+ when they may just now be starting to understand the benefits of Facebook or Twitter? By the time you get them to understand G+, FB and Twitter may already have opened up.

    3) I have not been a fanboy of G+. I see too many brands that don’t use what they have — FB, Twitter, blog — the right way. This is the first post that has made me consider rethinking my position. But I am still hesitant. Yesterday, I would have advised a client that they don’t need to dedicate any time to G+ other than setting up a brand page for search. Today, I might say, let’s take 5% of the time you dedicate to SM and reallocate for a bit of G+ test and learn. But I won’t be writing a book on the topic anytime soon :). Good stuff, GL. Cheers!

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

      Justin:  I think your migration toward getting +1s, links, and commentary embedded into Google is right on.  I don’t care who is shown with my content in search, so long as my content is sourced.  So I just want my pages to land in the top ten. Now, one way to do that is to be a conversationalist and have your links commented on in your own stream, but I think both you and I subscribe to more an anti-hero networked approach to getting things done.

      Thanks for the compliment!

  • http://pop-pr.blogspot.com Jeremy Pepper

    I can’t wait for the FTC to finish with Google – that’s all I think about Google Pus.

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  • http://www.catchfriday.com/ Tina Pierce

    me too.. I didn’t know that there’s tension between twitter and google+. Thanks for sharing this information.

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