The impact that Google Plus will eventually have on the search marketing industry is arguably greater than its influence on social media. It will ultimately be used to track user behavior at every level and serve up ads based on that behavior to a degree marketers have never seen.
While Google Plus offers favorable benefits for users, there are equally powerful opportunities for agencies and brands. The robust integration of search and social that is built into Google Plus means that there is an added value for brands to establish relationships with individuals. As those relationships build, users will include brands in their social circles. When brands are added to users’ social circles, they will automatically jump to the top of the queue for that group of users’ relevant topic searches.
Google has been the Internet search leader for more than a decade. In that timeframe, it has made numerous attempts at becoming a social media power. Unfortunately for Google, its history in the social space — Orkut, Dodgeball, Jaiku, Google Wave and Google Buzz — has left the impression that when it comes to social media, Google is more Friendster than Facebook.
Many brands and agencies talk a big game about the value of integrating search and social, but Google is taking the first step in delivering a solution. Think about this common scenario: a consumer hears about a product from a friend and his interest is piqued. He wants to find out more about the product, so he performs a simple online search. What happens if a competitor’s brand shows up higher on search? Is there a propensity for the consumer to be diverted to the competitor’s brand? Perhaps. But what brand would want to take that chance?
When Google launched Google Plus, it incorporated what it calls “Search Plus Your World.” The outcome is that search is personalized. Google Plus’ social data is incorporated into users’ Google search results. When Google Plus users perform a search, postings from their Google circles, relevant to that search, appear at the top. For example, if a given user searches for “accounting services” and one of his circle connections has posted or commented about a topic relevant to “accounting services,” that user’s reference appears at the top of the search output. The search is relevant to the user based on his circle’s contributions.
If Google is smart, it will turn Google Plus into more than just a social network. It will augment search and social in a way that establishes a social network/search monster that would radically change — for the better — the search marketing landscape.
The integration of search and social within Google Plus signals a change from “generic search” to “discovery.” People are seeking greater control with regard to how brands become part of their lives. Social/search integration means people will discover the most relevant information and have greater control over how they manage their social interactions. It’s a welcome advancement from the current model of simply placing one’s search into the hands of Google’s algorithm and the whims of search-engine optimization.
Google’s future undoubtedly rests with a robust and popular social network. Whether that is Google Plus or some future iteration, few would argue that Google can continue to grow without tying users’ data directly to its own social network. That ability to blend social with search, in an integrated and seamless manner, is what will eventually make Google Plus a formidable force for marketers.
Steve Goldner is senior director of social media at MediaWhiz, a digital strategy and media agency. Adam Riff, general manager of search at MediaWhiz, also contributed to this article.