Jan 272012

Danny Sullivan has been the go-to guy for understanding the world of search for over 15 years. This week he published a really good story on Google Plus Your World. A group of engineers have launched a site called Focus on the User that shows exactly how the new Google service could be including other social media content listings besides only Google Plus, but is not.

Google Plus is of course Google’s entry into the social network battle, and the service recently announced over 90 million users. Just this month Google has started inserting social media content from Google Plus listings (when available) into the search engine response pages (SERPs) on Google. However, other major sources of social media content — Facebook, Twitter – are not included.

Danny does a great job of laying out why this is overly preferential, and doesn’t deliver the best search result. The engineers from Facebook, Twitter and MySpace behind  Focus on the User have developed a bookmarklet -called Don’t Be Evil, get it? – that you can add to your browser to pull more comprehensive social media listings into your personalized search results.

Danny makes a strong case this improves current search results. He provides lots of screenshots like this one. It’s important to note that the bookmarklet is using Google’s own algorithmic rankings for these revised SERPs.

Click to enlarge - Which response is more useful?

Danny does include the other side of the story. Sites like Facebook and Twitter do not license their content to be crawled, so why should Google include this content?

“Google, in particular its executive chairman Eric Schmidt, has argued that it doesn’t have all the data it needs to include other social services in the way it does for Google Plus. The failure to reach a deal with Facebook; the failure to renew a deal with Twitter, these have prevented the social signals it needs from being used, Google has said.”

What the Focus on the User group has done is clearly demonstrated that Google could have included other content if it wanted. And to my read Danny has made a convincing argument that Google SHOULD do this, because it delivers the highest quality search results back to the user.

If legal concerns are really what is holding Google back, they should challenge Facebook and Twitter to allow them to use the same inputs Focus on the User has accessed via the bookmarklet. If those companies refuse, then publicize that decision.

I’ll be installing the Focus on the User tool this weekend and doing my own comparisons. If anyone out there is already using this, please drop a comment with your impressions.

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