Google Plus gets personal and adds a twist to how it displays search matches. When you enter a search, Google returns not just a normal listing of web results. It pools together public results and your personal results. The listing becomes a combination of matches based on private or shared content, Google Plus public content, and results from the rest of the web.
Private content refers to content shared with friends and family on Google Plus or what it calls “circles.”
This personalized view is only possible if you’re on Google Plus and signed in.
Personalized results include:
- Results based on content shared by you and your social connections
- Results based on your preferences or activities
- Results based on Google Plus public content
Plain and simple: content in your WORLD appears as matches along with content from outside your WORLD.
What’s Google Plus, BTW?
Google Plus, abbreviated as Google+, is Google’s version of social networking with features similar to those enjoyed by Facebook users. Share a photo of you with your new bike. Share a video with you wearing a silly party hat.
What’s the Purpose?
Google wants to crack the social networking sphere occupied by Facebook and Twitter. Social media sites get a big slice of the pie in terms of number of users because people are social animals in nature. It’s natural for us to want to express ourselves or share a discovery. Being able to say “Hey, I’m the first one to share this great idea to my social group” is so fulfilling, and yes, ego-boosting.
Why It’s Supposed To Work
The personal view is supposed to make things easier and more convenient for users. Results are closer to home and more relevant in a sense. They are tailored to one’s preferences, activities, and behavior. However, judging from how people received it the first week it went live, Google Search Plus Your World, is not selling like hotcakes.
Aside from the issue about the fact that the name is a mouthful, the new system has been met with backlash due to privacy concerns. Users have this unsettling feeling about seeing content shared with their friends appearing in what is seemingly a listing of normal search results. Who else gets to see this? That’s the question. In truth, your personal results, like your normal web results, are only visible to you. But content you’ve shared with others in the past may come up as results or suggestions in their own searches.
No matter how we like to connect with others, we still have reservations about sharing our all to the general public or people we don’t know well. We don’t want to expose ourselves too much. Maybe it borders on paranoia, but it’s perfectly understandable.
Sometimes, we share ideas with our social connections on impulse. Things you’d rather forget, items you pick for your selective amnesia, can reappear as results to people you’ve shared them with before. Those can be uncomfortable, things you’ve shared about Rose when Rose has split.
There’s also the concern over the possibility of a friend sharing your content to the public.
But if it’s any consolation, only people you share with can see results based on private content.
Sorry, You’re Not Relevant
There’s a purpose behind each search. The relevance of the returned results is based on how close a match they are to the user’s query. Google Plus takes this to a personal level.
If you search for John, JFK won’t be the most relevant result. John, your Google Plus connection, will likely top the results.
In this example, as I type the name “John,” John Reese and John Paul Aguiar come up as top suggestions because I did a search for the first before, and the latter is in my circle.
If you search for “noodle recipes,” you won’t likely get content from an excellent Asian food website as your top result if Ben your friend commented on a bowl of noodles he had yesterday.
A relevant result, in the truest sense, is what the user wants when he or she searches for information on the web. Your intention is to read good noodle recipes. The result is relevant based on the fact that you’re connected to Ben, but irrelevant when the user intent is concerned.
A singer, no matter how relevant he is to the search “popular pop singers,” is pushed down the results page if he is not on Google+.
Google tends to prioritize its own content. At times, it can get in the way of your objective to arrive at a good or decent answer.
In this example, the most relevant result should be Formula One’s official website. Instead, publicly shared and loose Google+ contents are the top results.
It’s a Google World
Google’s job is to fetch matching results for searches. It’s the most widely-used search engine in the world, relatively highly-favored. But recently, it has been accused of playing favorites, with critics crying, “Non-Google+ results don’t deserve the backseat.”
Fixes are on the way, I hope. Personalized results are not new to Google, but this particular type of transformation is still in its infancy. Baby steps, they say. Let’s wait for some improvements.
Matter of Choice
It’s a matter of choice. If you don’t want to get dirty, don’t take a dip in the mud. You can choose not to show personal results. You can easily switch from “personal view” to “normal view” in a second. The sets of results can be viewed separately with the toggle feature.
You can easily switch from personalized results to normal web results by clicking on the icons on the right. In this example, the icon for personalized results is highlighted. You can see that I have 10 personal results for the search. I can opt out of this personal view by clicking on the globe icon, which displays only normal web results.
What’s the Verdict?
Google Search Plus Your World is not without controversy and issues. There are people who don’t like it. But there are also people who, in resignation or nonchalance, say “If you don’t like it, don’t use it.”