Last week I wrote that the direction Google seemed to be taking with the integration of social search could potentially backfire. At the time it seemed as though the social elements were over-powering normal search results making it even harder to find what you need.
Should we have the option of choice? Do we want to see social results or unaffected results? If we choose social results how far do we want the social influence to affect them? Should we be forced to accept weighting based on the entire population of Google+ or only our closest “friends”?
It was opportune that Jon Mitchell and I touched on this subject when we did as it seems that Google already had plans.
Social or unaffected
The issue of choice was high on my list of concerns as, even when you are logged in with your Google account, you will not always want results that have been influenced by those in your social Circles. We should have the option to filter out the social aspect to our results and Google is now delivering this with "Search, plus Your World".
As is mentioned on the Official Google Blog: "With a single click, you can see a non-personalized view of search results" which is exactly what I said was required. Letting users set the state of this toggle by default is also recognition from the search provider that not everyone will want to use social search or even find it useful.
When I first called for Google to introduce social search back in August 2010 I stated that any search results "would obviously have to reflect the original privacy settings at the source". Again, Google has stepped up to the plate as personal results will be "clearly marked as Public, Limited or Only you."
Who should influence search?
The concept behind Google+ is that, from the outset, it recognises that we have different aspects to our lives hence the desire to divide our contacts into Circles be they family, friends, or based more by topic or specific interest. Google advise that profiles returned by search results will be circle aware as "people in your results are clearly marked with the Google+ circle they are in, or as suggested connections".As we would ask particular questions of a certain group of friends or relatives offline it would, therefore, follow that we would want to do the same on the web; we are not going to ask a Circle of SEO practitioners a question about knitting.
In addition to having the option to show non-personalised results I still believe it would be advantageous to filter our results on a more granular level. Not only would this be in keeping with the Circles ethos but also enable us to target or social searches notes effectively. Perhaps this will come in a future update.
It's not all or nothing
While Google are keen to ensure that Plus is populated by as many people as possible - thus creating a free, crowd-sourced recommendation engine - it was imperative that these options were not forced all those using Google search.
I would still expect for some public posts from Google+ to show in non-personalised results and even when logged out. Public posts on Plus are indexed as pages in their own right and this will be too good an opportunity to miss to help promote their social network and demonstrate the power an integrated system can provide.
Will you use personalised search?
Why not discuss this post on Google+.