Search Plus Your World: Goldmine or Fool’s Gold

With the unveiling of their new “Search, plus Your World” personalized search results, Google has played their cards and fired the first salvo in the battle for social data supremacy. According to The Official Google Blog, “Google Search has always been about finding the best results for you. Sometimes that means results from the public web, but sometimes it means your personal content or things shared with you by people you care about. These wonderful people and this rich personal content is currently missing…We’re transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships.” What’s that really mean?

Well, after pasting their post into the beta AskPPCBlog Google-ese Translator (patent pending), we found that things may not be as rosy as they seem. Our translation reads as follows: “Man, it feels good to be Google! We’ve dominated search for years, but those kids at Facebook have really shown us the value of social data! They just couldn’t figure out how to get it right. Now, thanks to Google+, we have all the data we need to sell more advertising…muahaaahaaahaaaaaaaa”.

Ominous laugh aside, Google moving into and perfecting social search may finally deliver the oft-mentioned, rarely fullfilled “game changer” that ultimately knocks Facebook off its pedestal. In the past 6 months, with its revision of Gmail and the furthering of Google+, the Big G has successfully become the go-to online platform from most at work and home. It cannot be avoided. Sure, you still log into your FB profile to spy on see what your friends are up to and tend to your virtual pets and crops, but a larger percentage of people are logging more time on Google, in its browser, or running in the background. For Sergey and the boys, this is a social data goldmine.

Still, I have to wonder whether the social data being used to perfect this “Search, plus Your World” era of paid search might not end up being “fool’s gold” for marketers. The data will tell us what our potential customers actually like, show interest in, and should, ultimately be interested in buying. Ask any marketer or business and they will tell you that this is an invaluable resource that will result in record sales. In a perfect world, they would be right.

This is a brave new social world, however. Social media has toppled governments, elected presidents, and helped launch many a product and/or career. With so many eyes affixed on the Twitters, Facebooks, and Google Plusses of the world, how will consumers react to being bombarded by ads for products they might have “liked”, “followed” or “+1’ed”? Does the guy who “liked” Ovaltine for nostalgia’s sake really want to buy their new and improved Ovaltine 2k12? Maybe, maybe not (50/50, right?) However, once those ads start showing, will users ever be able to stop them? Will the overwhelming likely public backlash sink companies before they can even get started?

Thanks to Google, we will soon find out.