After Google rolled out Google+, there is much speculation about what Google is up to. Everyone seems to speculate that Google is entering the social web to increase its influence grabbing some piece of the pie from Facebook.
Well, looks like it is not just that.
Google+ is crucial for Google’s survival in the search space as well. We will find out in a moment.
What made Google so big?
When Google started out, Altavista was the major player in the web search space. Google changed the game by its relevancy algorithm. People loved Google because whatever that you throw at it, Google came up with better search results.
The Key component in Google’s success is it’s page rank algorithm. In simple terms, the number of back links to a page determines whether or not the page appears in Google’s search results. The source (authority ) and the relevance of the link counts too. CNN.com‘s link adds far more weight than link from an unknown website.
This way, Google “uses the collective intelligence of the web” to give very relevant results to it’s users. The moment it fails giving relevant search results, people will start going elsewhere. Therefore, Google keeps doing everything possible to deliver the best search results.
Google is tracking the number of clicks in its search results. (CTR – Click Through Ratio: the number of clicks vs number of views for a particular search result.) If only a very small fraction of the users clicks the first search result, there is something wrong. Google knows for each keyword, which of the links are clicked and how soon. That gives a fair measure of how good the search results are.
The relevancy factor
In search, relevancy is the key and the most important factor of relevancy is the user him/herself.
Someone searching for ‘budget cars’ from India will have totally different needs than from someone from USA. Very few from USA would have even heard about Tata Nano.
True, Google can (and does) make out the user’s region from the IP address. That is the only ‘user relevancy’ Google has.
When I search for ‘budget cars’, Google only knows that ‘someone’ from Bangalore is searching for ‘budget cars’.
Whereas, Facebook knows that I am a 34 year old male, married, entrepreneur, had liked Toyota web pages, has interest in ‘long drives’, is in.
The ‘people index’
Google’s data center has the web’s 1 trillion pages indexed and ready to be searched.
On the other hand, Facebook has indexed more than 500 million people.
If someone puts these pieces together and makes a search engine, that can deliver far better, relevant search results.
Imagine this: someone searches for mobile phone. search results are displayed.
- 70% of 20 to 25 year old female users clicked a “Nokia N1234″ model
30% of them ‘like’d it too
- 80% 20 to 25year male users clicked a “Motorola M1234″ model
50% of them liked it
- 60% of 30 to 35 year old male users clicked a new website comparing the Nokia & Motorola models
35% of them liked it
When next time, Jeff, a 25 year old male searches for ‘mobile phone’ which result do you think should be displayed first?
Remember, the search engine can keep track of both the ‘clicks’ and the ‘like’s. ‘Like’ is a conscious ‘vote’ whereas ‘click’ is the user ‘selecting’ the result based on what is displayed in the search results. If, tracking just the Click Through Ratio can yield better results, imagine what the ‘like’s and ‘share’s can do.
Each of your parameters (age, gender, place, interests) puts you in a circle. Any given person is an intersection of several such circles. The search engine keeps track of the choices of the circles.
As you keep interacting with the web by searching, sharing and liking web pages, you contribute to an index – votes segregated in to circles. This time, it is the people’s index.
Imagine what that can do to search ?
- a 45 year old fashion designer searching for ‘how to make a blog’ gets tumblr as the first result
whereas 30 year old software engineer gets wordpress
45 year old Vice president of XYZ corp. gets typepad
- when a research student, member of the vegan group who believes in Jain philosophy searches for ‘dinner recipes’, he gets Dal Dhokadi
where as a professional cook with interest in ‘italian cooking’ gets Zucchini Lasagna
- when a college student with interests in traveling searches for camera, she gets link to a popular Canon point-and-shoot camera
a professional photographer searching for camera, gets a link to a page comparing the latest professional camera performances
Building a web index is easy. Send bots to crawl through the webpages and they will do the job.
Indexing people? not that easy. Need lots of candies and cakes!
If Facebook partners with one of the search engines, that can turn the course of web search.
Google is worried. It has to be.