I was delighted to learn of the news that’s awash across the RSS, G+ and Twitter streams today that Google has launched Search plus Your World, their long-awaited “socialisation” of search results that was the inevitable conclusion of Google+.
While not currently available in Australia (Search plus Your World is, like everything else, rolling out gradually) the buzz so far is that the service is an intelligent, usable blend between Personalised and Depersonalised search results. This means that a user has ultimate control over whether the results they see are intermingled with recommendations and content from their connections on Google+, or plain ol’ vanilla search results.
User-Centric Search Design
I love how this is all about the user — there’s literally no forced hand here, with users staying in control over what they see. In practical terms, this means that if you choose to default to the social version, and your contacts aren’t helping you out with good enough information, you can roll back to the standard Google to find what you want.
Moreover, you can bet that Google themselves will be listening to how we’re making that switch. And here’s where it gets interesting. I would expect to see that a users’ experience of personalised search to be of the same quality as the people in their network. Garbage in, garbage out.
This encourages users to think more about the people they’re inviting into their personal search stream, and it also changes the way users will think about +1s on content they like. For my part, if I see something — anything — that I find useful to me in my search, I might +1 it so that when someone in my Circles eventually searches for guttering repair dubbo (or whatever), they see the result that I’ve voted for.
We Become The Backlinks
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is another nail in the backlink coffin. Let’s recap on why backlinks are important. They’re votes, from one website to another, and those votes convey trust and authority. Backlinks become PageRank, which becomes ranking, which becomes the whole shady nasty world of backalley SEO.
By having users +1 content to each other, you’ve suddenly got real people doing the work of backlinks. It’s crowdsourced, it’s democratic and — here’s the kicker — it’s completely customisable by each and every user. If someone’s +1ing content that I don’t find useful, I remove them from my circles and they no longer pollute my Search results.
We’ve had the ability to do this to domains for a while now, but being able to tailor the source of search results… welp, if you ask me it puts all the power in the hands of the individual, which just might mean the end of manipulative search results.
Utopian, sure. But I’m seeing potential here.
This meshing of Search and Social explains Google+ in its proper context, and goes some way to helping us understand just what Google wants it to be. Being able to share and experience search results based on recommendations that I, rather than just an algorithm, choose has a huge potential to change Search for the good, forever.