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What Google wants search to be

What made Google successful for the last decade is, more than anything, it’s superior search results. As much as we may gripe about poor search quality, link spam and crazy SEO tricks, there’s no doubt that anyone who remembers AltaVista, Excite, DogPile or Northern Light—the top search engines pre-Google—knows that Google is much better.

But…

Google knows they’re not good enough.

This is from Larry Page’s letter to investors:

“We have an old-time Googler called Ben Smith, who is a good friend of mine. It turns out that he isn’t the only Ben Smith in the world! Today, it’s tough for Google to find the right Ben for me.”

And he’s right.

Obviously, Google thinks it’s found the answer to this problem with Google+:

“Many people share only their public profiles, not their posts, photos, or connections. And privacy considerations certainly limit the information that can be shared between platforms—even if the third parties hosting it were willing to work with Google, which hasn’t always been the case.

Google+ helps solve this problem for us because it enables Google to understand people and their connections. So when I search for Ben Smith, I get the real Ben Smith (for me), right there in my search box, complete with his picture. Previously, the search box would just have had the series of letters I had typed, with no real understanding that I was looking for a unique person. This is a huge and important change, and there’s a ton more work to do.  But this kind of next-generation search in which Google understands real-world entities—things, not strings—will help improve our results in exciting new ways. It’s about building genuine knowledge into our search engine.”

I’m not so sure. In fact, I’m on record as not much of a fan of Google+ (though, I admit, you have to use Google+, whether you want to or not).

Regardless of whether Google+ is the long-term answer or just a step along the way it’s clear Google’s determined to be a big part of our life for a long time to come. And it’s also clear that your business is going to need to play by their rules for the immediate future. As Google makes abundantly clear: Social and search are officially joined at the hip. And neither are going anywhere anytime soon.


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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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