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Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Evaluating Google+ “Search Plus Your World”

Google recently launched “Search Plus Your World”, a system of using data from your Google+ account to provide personalised search results, with Google placing more emphasis on who you are when you are when conducting searches. However the key question is whether or not the results generated from this are more effective than those generated via a standard search.

Many doubt that it will be highly effective as it only uses information from an individuals Google+ profile as opposed to integrating Facebook and Twitter that are updated far more frequently and would therefore be likely to return better search results.

A key feature of “Search Plus Your World” is the addition of 'People and Places on Google+', which offers relevant people and pages based on your search and Google+ account. As with the search results generated through “Search Plus Your World”, the people and pages suggested do not include Twitter and Facebook that are in most cases updated far more frequently. For example searching for Football via “Search Plus Your World” offers Rio Ferdinand in 'People and Places on Google+', however he has not updated this page since November 2011. However Ferdinand uses twitter daily and therefore would be much more relevant and beneficial to users as a search result.

To determine the effectiveness of the “Search Plus Your World” feature, I have selected several search terms and conducted searches through “Search Plus Your World” whilst signed into Google+ and without signing in.

Marketing: I began by conducting a search for the term 'Marketing', the first difference I noticed was that when signed into Google+ the images returned in the search results were from my Google+ account. However these were not highly relevant to the search term and were slightly unnecessary, the images returned when signed out were much more relevant to the search term entered. Whilst signed into Google+ “Search Plus Your World” did return some highly relevant and useful search results by including posts made by friends on Google+ regarding the topic, as friends with similar interests had posted about marketing, these results were more relevant.

Also the people and places offered whilst signed in where extremely different to those found when not signed in, with those found whilst signed in appearing to be more relevant and more closely linked to my Google+ profile. For example when signed out one person in 'People and Places on Google+' was a digital analyst who had “studied the effects of emerging media” on areas such as business and marketing. Whereas when signed into Google+ more relevant people were offered including a marketing consultant and a specialist in social media

Spain: Following this I searched for Spain, which demonstrated how effective the “Search Plus Your World” function can be as posts and links to articles and videos on Google+ appeared amongst the search results as opposed to simply appearing above them. Therefore the most helpful and popular sites such as Wikipedia and the dedicated page to Spain on the Lonely Planet website appeared first and results generated through Google+ followed. This was effective as the search evaluated the relevance of Google+ posts compared to existing search results and this was reinforced by searching for other places including London and England.

London Underground: This search also demonstrated how useful the integration of Google+ into the search can be, not signing in and conducting the search returned several pages with extremely similar results. The majority of results offered information on train times, maps and travel information, which are necessary yet the search returned few results with current news and opinions on the topic.

However whilst signed into Google+, the search results returned included links to articles and posts regarding the topic made by friends on Google+ as well as the previously mentioned sites. The feature was extremely effective and beneficial here as it displayed information regarding the general topic and included posts and articles created by Google+ friends that were also relevant to my interests.

Weather: Searching about the weather however revealed some of the problems of “Search Plus Your World”, when signed into Google+. It returned posts from friends regarding the weather made via Google+, however the issue was that these posts were made weeks and months previously and appeared as the first search results, above current news regarding the weather. Therefore by using information from my Google+ account, the search generated placed news from months ago above current information.

After conducting these various searches I feel that “Search Plus Your World” can be extremely useful but also unhelpful when signed into your Google+ account. It would appear that this is largely dependent on the searches made and the content available from your Google+ account as it seems that “Search Plus Your World” can interpret unhelpful data as relevant to your search.

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