In the last few months we’ve seen a number of changes released by the search powerhouse Google. The updates are coming at a fast and furious pace. Today’s addition as well as one of their previous changes have been doing more than raise a few eyebrows. There is sure to be more talk about anti-trust issue.
Let’s start with the older change that took place in October of 2011. Without much fanfare Google started withholding keyword data for organic search. The way that they are doing it is if a searcher is logged into their Google account and performs a search on Google.com, this data (i.e keywords) is now not passed through so that site owners can see what that visitor search for before landing on their site. It now simply says [not set]. There has been much speculation if this was just a money making move to promote their premium analytics platform. But guess what there was another surprise for us today and this is what I believe the real reason they are withholding data: Enter “Search Plus.”
Search plus is an update to how Google’s search engine works, making it more social. Here are the basics.
- Personal Results, which enable you to find information just for you, such as Google+ photos and posts—both your own and those shared specifically with you, that only you will be able to see on your results page;
- Profiles in Search, both in autocomplete and results, which enable you to immediately find people you’re close to or might be interested in following; and,
- People and Pages, which help you find people profiles and Google+ pages related to a specific topic or area of interest, and enable you to follow them with just a few clicks. Because behind most every query is a community.
At first glance this may sound great, I can use Google to find all the info I want to find from the people I care about. It’s also obviously a shot at Facebook and Twitter. But, if you read into it a bit more, it may seem kind of scary and this is where the anti-trust suits will really focus.
Of course the social aspects are going to come from Google’s own Google+: Not Facebook, not Twitter. (Just as a disclaimer Google has tried for years to get access to Facebook and actually collaborated with Twitter, but Facebook wouldn’t allow it and Twitter didn’t renew their deal.) Does this give preferential treatment to Google products and sites? That seems pretty obvious.
To do this Google needed to created a way to secure search data so that people’s private data isn’t out there in the public.
“When it comes to security and privacy, we set a high bar for Search plus Your World. Since some of the information you’ll now find in search results, including Google+ posts and private photos, is already secured by SSL encryption on Google+, we have decided that the results page should also have the same level of security and privacy protection.“
If we put the two changes together: Google withholding data from marketers and site owners and the new “Search Plus” it might sound pretty scary to Google’s competition, but unfortunately the encryption and the preferential treatment is something they have to do if they want to compete in the social arena. What I don’t get though is with all the programming wizardry they have, why can’t they figure out how to pass the keyword data to website owners when someone clicks on a link even on an encrypted results page? Either way this creates walls between Google’s platform and the rest of the internet.
What do you think?