Thursday, March 22, 2012

Google Search Plus Your World: The Peer to Peer Evolution Continues

Google now sprinkles Google+ results into general search results, in an initiative they’ve dubbed “Google Plus Your World.” Webmasters and SEO experts have been arguing heatedly about why Google is doing this (most point to potential revenue enhancement and the possibility of world domination through the marginalization of Facebook) and what this will mean for the SEO game (treat Google+ postings and pluses as links) and how this will influence PPC (fewer bits of prime organic real estate leading to increased AdWords bidding wars for the top positions – see “potential revenue enhancement” above).
This article examines Google Search Plus Your World from a different point of view. What is driving the integration of social and search? How does it work? And what’s the impact on our perception of Google’s relevance and usefulness?

The Supremacy of Peer to Peer Search
The history of search has been the continual de-centralization of the search algorithm. The founders of Yahoo, Jerry Yang and Dave Filo, started it by creating “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web,” a directory of cool and useful sites. The sites that made it onto Yahoo! were chosen by Jerry and Dave, and initially users had no say in the selection or order. In other words, totally centralized control of search.
Google shifted search results prioritization through a peer-based system of voting by links. Sergei and Larry didn’t go through the web and choose the best sites for every search, nor did they hire an army of web reviewers to do it for them. Instead, they instituted the PageRank metric that essentially turns each search result into a popularity contest, with the most popular web pages having the most votes via their outbound links.
But the algorithm was still supreme, and operated independently of any insight into the searcher’s unique needs, situation, or personality. The next phase of search wasn’t via a search engine at all. Instead, it came about via Facebook and Twitter, two places where you could ask a question of your entire social network and get almost instant relevant answers from people you know and who know you.
True, the answers didn’t come back as quickly as Google’s (1,300,000 results in 0.39 seconds). But they were often much higher quality. One reason for the increased quality was trust – we expect our friends to look out for our best interests. But the other was quite simple: instead of entering “search queries” of just a few words, you could embed context and conditions into your search.

Search Queries vs. Real Questions

For example: a search for “raw food cookbook” on Google yields several amazon and Barnes & Noble listings, some product photos of book covers, and a couple of websites dedicated to raw food diets. But what we really wanted to find was, “a raw food cookbook that doesn’t require tons of new equipment like spiral vegetable slicers and dehydrators and juicers, and that uses whole foods and doesn’t rely on tons of oil and salt for flavor. And which works if I don’t eat gluten or soy.”

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