Back in June when the online community was talking about Google+ and what it would mean to the world of search engine management, my take on the situation was, that Google couldn’t afford another failure, especially after the flop that was Google Buzz, (and you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking, Google what?)- They had to make it work.
I have previously predicted that despite Google’s supposed “fair” methods of working out which order pages appear in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), Google would have to start prioritising signals from Google+, forcing people within the marketing and online communities to embrace the social network whether they liked it or not.
Low and behold, in early January 2012, Google announced the “Search Your World” update, which prioritises search results based on content that you and your network of Google Plus connections have “+1’d”. This is yet another step to empowering the already super popular (please read – well funded, large marketing budget) brands while pushing down the smaller brands and one-man-band type websites, placing yet another hurdle to overcome when looking to achieve success in the online world. I liken this move by the search giant to the death of the local village high street, caused by the rise of giant supermarkets such as Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s.
When Google Plus was launched, they did a very good job of creating an air of exclusivity about it, only allowing a certain number of people to join at a time. This left people clambering for an invite and see what all the fuss was about. Within weeks of the release of Plus+, Google was boasting join-ups in excess of 64 million.
What Google haven’t been so forthcoming with is numbers of returning visitors and active users after sign up. I know that after the initial excitement (followed by extreme disappointment) many of the people who signed up, myself included, have never returned to their profile, choosing to continue with their Facebook and Twitter profiles which are already heavily populated with their friends, photos and other key information. So it comes so no surprise to me that Google launched their “Search Plus Update”.
However this still leaves me wondering how successful Google Plus+ will actually be? Like me, SEO and marketing professionals will suddenly start taking an unnatural interest in Plus+ again, fearing the impact on their careers. But will this bear any weight on the average, search algorithm oblivious Google user who frankly doesn’t know or care what their friends think and simply wants to surf the net. If people want to share content with their friends, surely they will continue to publish links on the Facebook walls and Twitter feeds?
It is only natural that the other major social network players are nervous – no doubt their backsides are going like a rabbit’s nose attempting to guess at Google’s next strategic move. So when I read in The Guardian that developers from Myspace, Twitter and Facebook have joined forces to create a browser add-on called ‘Don’t be evil’ not only were my suspicions confirmed, but I also found myself in agreement with their cause. It would be interesting to see the number of people who install this browser add-on, but again this will most likely depend in the number of people who actually understand anything about the whole search situation, or even care. For people who are none the wiser they probably won’t even notice their SERPs are being weighed up by this, in the same way they don’t understand the hundreds of other intricacies that feed into why search engines present you with the results they do. Therefore I suspect that Google are banking on getting away with making such changes with minimal protest.
So where does that leave people within the translation services sector? So many freelance linguists rely heavily on Google search results and online profile for the generation of revenue and work, in a highly competitive market. When the online marketplace rules are being changed so frequently, in order to manipulate the results, I have to stress that it is so important that individuals begin to pay more attention to announcements from Google and ask – what does this mean for my business? To finish with the analogy of the high street I used earlier, website owners need to treat their websites like their own shop floor, and constantly adapt it depending on customer feedback, new technology, and to negotiate the state of flux search engines operate in. This is not a passing trend, and many millions of people are already three or four steps behind.