Why Social Search will be Google’s Greatest Downfall

by Marcus Sheridan

This is one of those articles that most folks in the world of search marketing and social media likely won’t agree with. They’ll call me foolish, or naïve, or just plain dumb—but it’s on my mind so let me just come right out and say it:

I think social search stinks.

I think Google +, because of its integration with search, is going to be the beginning of the end for what is Google’s search engine domination.

Yeah, that’s right, the one-party system that we currently have in the world of search engines (Sorry Yahoo and Bing, but you guys clearly ain’t cutting it and thus don’t count) will soon open its doors to a new world that isn’t owned, operated, and dominated by “The Big G”.

You may be wondering what the heck I’m talking about here, but my thoughts are actually very simple. Here’s the deal:

I like my friends. I really do. But I don’t like seeing them in my Google search results.

If I want to know how they feel, I’ll ask them.

If I want to know what they think, I’ll ask them.

Maybe I’ll got to Twitter, or Facebook, or G+ and ask an open question.

But when I go to Google (or any search engine) and slap a few words in that little search box of theirs, I want the best, most relevant results this world has to offer me.

I don’t want to read the same opinions of the same people over and over again.

I want random.

I want a mix.

I want to hear what some guy in the middle of Tim-Buk-Tu said because he’s the brightest mind in the world on that subject, even though I’ve never heard of the dude in my life.

And before you say, “But Marcus ya big dummy, you can take social search out of Google’s search results,” let me just say I already know that.

But it’s not my point.

If I want to be social, I’ll go social.

If I want to search, then allow me to search—and allow me to do it privately.

And do you know what? I’m not alone. Yep, there are other weirdos in this world just like me that don’t want their search results littered with stuff some guy they’ve never really met in real life decided to +1.

It’s also because of these weirdos that other search engines are popping up that are the anti-Google, not only on a “social” level, but they also understand what the world “privacy” means.

Take for example Duck Duck Go. I was introduced to this site when I was speaking with Jay Baer and Eric Boggs on the Social Pros Podcast, but let me tell you, these folks at Duck Duck Go are on to something. Just take a look at their “about” page, it sums up what they’re all about perfectly:


Relevant results, less clutter, and more privacy...Hmmm, not a bad idea!

For example, let’s say you do a search at Duck-Duck-Go on the phrase “Content Marketing.” By so doing, you get a quick definition at the top of the page, then results– and lots of them. In fact, the first page of results goes on and on and on.

Just good, old fashioned content

No faces.

No clutter.

No freaky privacy issues 99% of the world doesn’t even know about.

Just good old fashioned content and relevant results.

Me likey.

Is the style of Duck Duck Go for everyone? No, certainly not, but make no mistake about it—the social trend is not everyone’s cup of tea. Nor is Google’s concern for your privacy.

What’s this all mean?

I’m not quite sure, but I certainly do feel the future of search will at some point be a legitimate two-party system(or more), it’s really only a matter of time. And it may come a lot sooner that you and I think.

Your Turn

What’s your take on Google’s new social search features? Do you think this, along with their privacy policies, will open the door to other search engines or do you feel we’re going to be looking at a one-party search engine system for a long, long time?

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{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

Shayna May 22, 2012 at 7:51 am

“I don’t want to read the same opinions of the same people over and over again.”

Fantastic point. I remember reading some study somewhere (unfortunately don’t remember where) indicating that the advent of the internet and later the blogosphere, rather than making viewpoints about news more diverse, actually started to make them condense as people basically regurgitate what others have written rather than doing their own critical thinking or research and analysis of the subject.


Gregory Ciotti May 26, 2012 at 4:42 pm

This is probably not what you’re referring to, but there is a TED talk that addresses this kind of angle from an ‘online bubble’ standpoint.

Find it on the TED blog: http://blog.ted.com/2011/05/02/beware-online-filter-bubbles-eli-pariser-on-ted-com/

I think it’s a great presentation that shows how the web is shifting towards doing this invisible “filtering” of the web to our personal tastes, which destroys serendipity (in my opinion).


Marcus Sheridan May 27, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Serendipity–a great word Gregory– and yes, if we’re not careful, it’s going to go out the door and we’ll all be fenced in if we’re not careful.

So glad you stopped by man and I appreciate your support,



Eric Pratum May 22, 2012 at 7:57 am

I appreciate your stance and reasoning, but have to say that I don’t think it’s indicative of the average searcher, who is more likely to click on a search result under which it says that their best friend shared the link, tweeted it, liked it, plussed it, etc, because they know that the search engines don’t always provide the right results, so a combination of the brains of the search engines with a little bit of a personal push increases the clickthrough on those results.

Think of it like this. You go to Seattle for the first time and want to get a burrito while you’re driving to a meeting. You remember passing a burrito place two blocks ago called Burrito Bonanza, but you figure that you’ll come across one further down the road, so why turn around? If I called you at that moment, found out you’re looking for a burrito, and said that you have to go to Burrito Bonanza because it’s awesome, there’s a good chance you’d turn around…after all, you’re only two blocks away, so the friction added to your day by turning back is really minimal. That’s sort of like the integration of social search. My referral means something as long as it’s not intrusive and doesn’t increase the effort you have to put forth to get to your desired goal. Plus, if it makes the result even better, there’s a good chance you’ll go for the social referral next time.

That being said, the current integration of G+ into standard search (and even worse image search) is, to use a Sales Lion phrase ;) , just plain dumb. Bing is doing some interesting things with testing out standard search, social search, and then a mix of the 2 all on the one results page, but to be honest, I’m not a fan of that, and their market share is pretty low, so I can’t say that I know if that’s being effective.

Either way, now you’re not only dealing with social search, but also things like the Knowledge Graph, so your click/link bait strategies have to keep evolving :-P


Bhaskar Sarma May 22, 2012 at 8:29 am

It’s getting so bad that I have taken to searching Google from a different browser without being signed in. I preferred the old dumb search where algorithms didn’t spike the results with what my friends were searching.

I still have a bad taste in my mouth with how they steamrolled the new interface in Gmail without giving a choice to users, and now these shenanigans are getting out of hand.

I have heard good things about Duck Duck Go, I am going to give them a go now


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:56 pm

You’re not alone Bhaskar, that’s for sure!

Thanks for stopping by,



John Falchetto May 22, 2012 at 8:51 am

Click on the little wrench on the top right corner of Chrome.
Choose incognito mode
Voila! You now see results like you would if you were not Marcus :)

Perfect way to see true rankings in Google.


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:54 pm

But what I would like to know John is what percentage of the world has ever even clicked on that little wrench ;-)


Simon May 22, 2012 at 9:11 am

I here what your saying and in some instances I may agree with you but on the other hand the main statement of the article I heavily disagree. Google’s main search algorithm is not only superior but always will be. By superior I’m not really talking about social search which yes may be annoying but the fact it searches more www servers than anyone else and the actual code behind it is phenomenal. Let me point out I grew up as a big techie and software guy so this means a lot me.

Social search with not be its downfall as it is too big and they have a heck of a lot of fun. Search YouTube (owned by Google) for videos on the Googleplex. Any company that has that much fun is aces in my book.

They have tried things in the social realm that have failed miserably in the past and never barely hurt them as a company. Google WAVE, Buzz for example.

Things like Google Earth Google sea (coming soon) YouTube, Google voice. Awesome!

Plus I love using igoogle instead of the classic search lets you customize Google to your preferences.

So social search annoying Yes, Downfall No way!



Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:53 pm

I didn’t say they were going away Simon, just that currently they have total domination. But as more people get more tired of the “social” kick that Google is on, the more will want to try more relevant engines to their needs.

But who knows, I could be dead wrong. :-)

Thanks for stopping by,



Christopher Rose May 22, 2012 at 9:13 am

I’ve been saying the same thing as you; we want the best results in search, not some tailored version that Google mistakenly thinks is somehow more relevant.

I have actually taken to using Wikipedia and even Bing, which is quite good really, as my primary search tools, although I’ve not stopped using Google entirely.

I think their downfall may happen when/if Facebook decide to retaliate against Google’s intrusion into the social space with their largely irrelevant Google+ by introducing their own search engine.

They’ve obviously got the funds to develop a good search engine algorithm and it would give them an opportunity to boost the generally very low click through rates on Facebook itself and so make even higher profits.

Another contender to take on Google must also be Amazon…


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Forward thinking stuff there Christopher– Facebook as a pure search engine.Hmmm, now that is interesting.

And it may help their stock go back up too ;-)

Thanks so much for stopping by,



Alex Bramwell May 22, 2012 at 9:14 am

Spot on. The social search aspect of Google is absurd!


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:42 pm

I with ya Alex! :-)


Ryan Hanley May 22, 2012 at 9:19 am


This is an incredibly interesting debate…

As a searcher, I actually want BOTH. I want Duck Duck Go results (Which in searching some of my own stuff yielding some interesting results) and I want Social Results.

It helps me to know that you +1′d an article on content marketing by Jay Baer… It helps me to weed out articles that I might have otherwise wasting my time on because I trust your opinion on whats Quality, Worthwhile Content and what is not.

I feel that is very relevant and helpful.

On the other side of the coin, I think we are similar in that we both like to seek out answers and accumulate information and perspective. From that standpoint I want Duck Duck Go results I want “Non-Social-Biased” results that will allow me to find fresh new voices and opinions.

So I would agree with you that Social Search will allow other players in the game but I do think that Social Search is important… It just de-legitimizes Google as the Only Option in search.

Thanks buddy… Could go farther with this as it’s a really a much bigger topic.

Ryan H.


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Hey bro, I think you’re dead-on in many ways—which is exactly why I think this is the beginning of a second party of non social search engine(s).

But either way, something tells me you and I will be having more of this conversation here and on your blog in the future RH :-)



Adarsh Thampy May 22, 2012 at 9:30 am


While I agree with your sentiment of not wanting the same opinion iterated over and over again, I think social may play a significant role in local searches or even commercial searches.

Come to think of it. You need to buy a LED Tv. There are hundreds of brands and thousands of models to choose from. The choice is somewhat infinite. Wouldn’t it be better if you could see some of your friends recommendation? It would for me.

In general informational kind of searches, I doubt I would want to see my friends opinion. I’d rather use the incognito window method as John has already suggested.

Let’s face it. Google is not going to give up on the social game. I doubt whether it could cause their downfall though.

The only thing that’s going to bring down Google is not the next Google. It’s a completely new way of searching information. Like what Guy Kawasaki says in his “The Art of Start”. Companies that jump the curve will make it.


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:38 pm

That’s the thing Adarsh. I think social search clearly has it’s place– just not on my laptop and the laptop of millions of others.

Look at the comments here. They’re pretty divided, and I think social search is going to divide the Google support base, leading to many others choosing a search engine that fits their needs better.

But then again, I could me a total idiot and be missing this one by a mile. ;-)

Good seeing you bud,



Sean McGinnis May 22, 2012 at 9:31 am


I agree with the point you are making, but only in reference to the way social search works today. The way it works today is awfully sucky. But that’s not the way it will work tomorrow.

Today social search is in its infancy. Just because you and I are connected does NOT mean we are interested in similar things – but that’s the inference. Google is floating things in front of us just because we are connected to each other.

To imagine where we are going think of this analogy. Imagine Pandora. Imagine we are both subscribers to Pandora and that we happen to like a to of the same types of music. Because of the work Pandora has done to deconstruct music and to understand it at it’s core, there is a better chance that because you’ve suddenly liked some new artist or song that I might also be interested in that artist or song – based on our other similar interests.

That’s where we are headed in social search. It’s going to take a long time to get there, and we’ll have to be very comfortable sharing a lot of data with search engines, but it is possible. Social search should not be based on the connection we have with other people but based on similarities (or differences) we have with those people. It’s all about context, meaning and relationships between and among data points, but just the simple fact that a “connection” relationship exists between us.


Rebecca Livermore May 22, 2012 at 10:02 am

Sean, the being comfortable sharing a lot of data with search engines is probably where I get the most hung up. I’m just not quite there with being comfortable with that.


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:35 pm

The way it works today is awfully sucky. But that’s not the way it will work tomorrow.

Dang you McGinnis, did I ever tell you that you were a smart guy? :-)

Love your prediction man and it will certainly be interesting to watch it all unfold.

Hope you’re well bud,



Michael Stetina May 22, 2012 at 9:50 am

Hi Marcus – I completely agree. Adding social aspects to a search necessarily leaves less room for purely organic search results. If I want to buy an LCD TV, I want the best search results available, not just those my circle of friends recommends.


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Great point Michael. Average friends content pushes out GREAT non-friend content.

Eek. Doesn’t sound too good to me!

Thanks for your thoughts Michael,



Mike Glover May 22, 2012 at 10:01 am


As an Internet Marketer, I have to say that I fully agree with you and contrary to your statement above, I think you will find most true Internet Marketing “purists” will feel the same way.

Most of my searches are business related and as cool as my friends are, most of them know little to nothing about what I do. Their opinion, likes or shares in the world of SEO, SEM and Webdesign mean little to me. I, much like you, want the best results possible. Even if that means they are from some “Joe Schmoe” in Boise Idaho. If Joe has the best take on the subject, then that’s what I want.

Thanks for sharing!


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Makes a ton of sense now that you put it that way Mike, which is why I’m really glad a search marketer like yourself chimed in here.

Now if we could only get Google to listen! ;-)

Thanks so much,



Cristina Ansbjerg May 22, 2012 at 10:27 am

Finally someone said it!

I don’t want to find my friends in my search results because when I want to know what they think about something or what they’re up to, I go and ask them directly. Or I visit their social profiles and I get what I want in less than a minute.

When I search for something on Google, I want to go beyond my friends and people I know. I want Google to be my door to the world. Not the door to my living room.

Great post, Marcus.


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:22 pm

Looks like you and I are certainly on the same page here Cristina!

And Love the “Door to my world not the door to my living room” quote. Awesome!




Susan Payton May 22, 2012 at 11:04 am

Agreed! We tend to hang out with other people like us (for you and I, that’s marketers), so getting results skewed by those very people doesn’t help us connect with the wider world.


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Yep, that’s exactly it Susan, I think we’ve already got enough head-nodders in this world as it is.

We need leaders– and this is certainly what great content tied with search leads to!




Geoff May 22, 2012 at 11:05 am

Hey Marcus,

I’m definitely in your camp about privacy and friends input in results. It’s annoying and could certainly lead to the big G’s downfall. However, I think they’ll get the hint and reverse course when they start to lose market share.

One tiny thing they can do that would have a big impact is to simply change the default setting on search to “not” show friends results by default and make a user have to pick that option. That would be enough to make me happier.

BTW- Duck Duck Go does rock!


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:20 pm

Yes, I do see what you’re saying Geoff, but do you really think Google will ever reverse course once they’ve made this leap? For me, that’s tough to imagine. Either way, they need to do a better job educating the public about the user ability to adjust settings.

Thanks so much for stopping by Geoff,



Mark May 22, 2012 at 11:22 am

I don’t know if Google will take a hit or not, but I’m definitely going to be checking out DuckDuckGo. I’m like you; I just want my search results.

Now if only I could get rid of all those ’411-yellowpage-directory’ listings on the first page too!


Lynn May 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Yes, the listings drive me crazy- it’s hard to find the real meat in google search. These mills have always been around, they’re just prettier than they used to be. Google survives because of them and they because of google. And that, for me, is the fundamental issue – a search engine driven by advertising dollars, not user experience. We need ‘advanced search’ options that give us choices about what kind of results we want, whether it’s social, directories or just straight up answers.

As to the comments about Facebook or Amazon building the next big-box search engine, IMHO they will simply deliver the same thing google is delivering. We are freedom-seeking beings: we want the freedom to choose. Tailoring results based on what an algorithm decides we’re looking for is just not going to cut it.


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Deep stuff Lynn, really digging your take here— it’s an issue of $$ vs Experience.

Let’s hope experience manages to find a home at the forefront,

Thanks so much for stopping by.



Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Amen to that Mark!! ;-)


Rob Skidmore May 22, 2012 at 11:37 am


I am relatively new in the internet marketing/SEO industry and I am following a lot of people on social networks (Rand Fishkin, Brian Clark) with whom I don’t have a personal relationship. If I want to know what the thought leaders in my industry are saying on a certain topic – regardless of whether it is right or not – I can just Google it. (like your content marketing example).

Without this I would have to go to each of their individual sites (Copyblogger, SEOmoz, ReadWriteWeb) and search all of them individually.

The social search might be annoying for some of you well connected people but for me it is a great learning tool.

That being said I am very glad that there is an option to turn it off.

There are certain topics that I love using social search for and other that I would rather not.


Tammi Kibler May 22, 2012 at 11:58 am

“Without this I would have to go to each of their individual sites (Copyblogger, SEOmoz, ReadWriteWeb) and search all of them individually. ”

Since the Penguin update, I am finding site specific queries the best solution for finding valuable information in certain searches as the Google search results are terrible. I hate the time it takes, but it seems the only way to ensure I’m reading quality articles.


Rob Skidmore May 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Thanks Tammi

I guess I just haven’t really noticed a change. Ill have to pay closer attention.


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:16 pm

I hear ya Tammi, which is exactly why much of this just isn’t making sense to me. Hmmm….

Thanks for your thoughts!



Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:18 pm

I get what you’re saying Rob, I do. No question, there are many people just like you.

But then again, I think there are many like me.

Which is exactly where the two-party search system comes into play.

But I guess we’ll see ;-)

Thanks for your thoughts Rob,



Jens P. Berget May 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Hey Marcus,

Your views are very interesting. I’m actually not sure what I think of social search, but I know that I have been logging out of google in order to get different results. So I do get your point. And I do get tired of seeing the same 5 – 10 faces over and over again :)

I need to test DuckDuckGo, even though the name is kind of weird – but that’s exactly what Google and Yahoo used to be too :)


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:15 pm

Yeah, weird name, but in case you didn’t know Jens, it’s a famous kid’s game here in the US– Duck, Duck, Goose–So if you know the game, it makes a little more sense.

Thanks for dropping by brother,



Andrea T.H.W. May 22, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Ha, ha, ha, Marcus that’s really a summary of all facts about the fall of Google. Obviously I agree with you, and I’m already using DuckDuckGo. They just need to finetune their algorythm a bit and they’re done. I think that social search is for social people and relevant searches are another thing, and you can’t have relevant results when you’re selling places and ads because obviously the more money you get from someone the more chances are that he goes on the first page. And the same goes if he is a shareholder of your search engine. An interesting research would be to check how many top dogs there are in the first page of Google, if someone is still able to see the results between ads and paid positions.

You know Marcus that on the net there are real things and a lot of legends and not everyone is interested in real unbiased results as there are thousands of people out there who would buy everything because their friends have it or because it’s cool and trendy but the reason of existence of search engines is to provide sound results and it will come a day when people would gladly pay a bit of money for a reliable service unplastered by ads and dubious business tactics like ranking your own services always at the top of pages or selling everything about your users, anonymized or not.

It will take just a bit of time and Google will be a thing of the past, at least as we know it today. But can it go back? I don’t think so.

I think that if we want an internet free from Google domination and everchanging SEO rules it’s our own responsibility to inform surfers about different services much more reliable and ethic. DuckDuckGo can do its business without selling users’ souls to everyone, why Google can’t do the same?

Ah yes, money! Every dictator sooner or later falls down because it always arrives a time when people get fed up and act, it’s just a matter of time. Also if you always hit small websites their owners will find alternative ways to get traffic and I guess the web is made up of small businesses just like in the real world.

So social and searches are like water and oil, you can force them to stay together but they simply don’t mix. Imho.


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Andrea, dude, I don’t know how you come up with such incredible comments, but you do.

This was deep, thoughtful, and VERY forward-thinking.

Much appreciated sir,



Andrea T.H.W. May 22, 2012 at 11:45 pm

My pleasure and thanks. :)


Kathleen Booth May 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm

This is something I”ve given a lot of thought to lately and I could not agree more with your points. I think social search is going to make us all just a little bit dummer. If the results we see are things our friends are reading, sharing, or looking at, they will tend to reinforce our pre-existing beliefs (people tend to be friends with others who are like minded). To learn anything new, we need to be challenged, so consider opposing viewpoints, and to synthesize raw data into opinions of our own. Social search is making it harder and harder to do this. I would even go so far as to say it is one of the WORST inventions I’ve ever come across! Thanks for posting (and I can’t wait to play with Go Duck, Go!


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Now that’s my kind of opinion Kathleen! Seriously, I wasn’t sure how some folks would react to my thoughts about social search but it seems as though you and me were cut from the exact same cloth. :-)

And have fun with Duck Duck Go!



Sharon Brown May 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I had never heard of Duck Duck Go until now, so I checked it out — and I must say, how refreshing! I thought maybe I was the only one who was getting a bit annoyed with Google and how it brings up search results. I always see my friends faces posted on a particular search, but the thing is — the information on those links are simply not even relevant to what I’m looking for. And I “thought” Google wanted us to get relevant SER’s.

It’s hard for me to imagine the Google King dying, but they could certainly get some serious competition happening.

Thank you for this eye opener — and the introduction to Duck Duck Go!


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:07 pm

It is refreshing, isn’t it Sharon? When I used it, I was like, “Dang, this is so nice…and easy…and nice…and easy…”

Well keep having fun with Duck Duck Go Sharon and thanks so much for your comment :-)



Matthew Stock May 22, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Not sure if this will lead to Google’s downfall, but I do agree it could turn people off. I’d say about 90% of the time I prefer my searches to be private. Call me shady…but the grass is GREENER where it’s shadier!

If I do want my friends’ opinion on something I’ll either call or on occasion post something on Facebook (such as what’s a good hotel to stay at in Denver). But again that’s the minority…10%.

I know one thing. I wouldn’t have found you my man on Facebook as none of my friends know you…let alone what the heck content marketing is.

The stock market must be thinking along similar lines. Facebook’s stock is down around 20% since their IPO. If conventional wisdom was that Facebook would trounce Google, the stock market ain’t buying it.


Kathy Meyer May 22, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Social search really invading one’s life and we can’t be able to avoid it most especially if you are into it. That’s reality.


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:04 pm

Word brother, love your thoughts here Matt. You found me because of good content. And your customers, at least online ones, find your mainly through and because of good content.

And how many of your friends are adding +1s to waterproofing companies anyway? The whole thing seems incredibly flawed on many levels to me.

Great seeing you my man, as always.



Bradlee TheDawg May 22, 2012 at 9:56 pm

The smart thing for Google to do would be to make it a setting users can turn on or off. The root problem is that they’re compiling the information to begin with – which is why I don’t do anything with G+. It does prove what I’ve been saying since the G+ launch, which is that G+ will impact everyone with a website’s SEO strategy.


Marcus Sheridan May 22, 2012 at 11:02 pm

You can turn it off Bradlee, but it’s just not something Google talks a lot about and of course most folks just go with the “standard” stuff.

Either way, yeah, it’s affecting many, many things in this world of search.

Thanks for the thoughts,



Patrick Butcher May 23, 2012 at 2:33 am

I really don’t see the reasons why they have to integrate their features altogether aside from 1-upping Facebook perhaps? I don’t know, I just don’t agree with the idea, maybe it’ll grow on me in the future but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.


Jan May 23, 2012 at 4:22 am

Here in the UK, it is a one party search engine – the Big G provides over 90% of the search volume with .co.uk and .com combined.
SPYW hasn’t landed here yet, and you can keep it over the pond as far as I am concerned. The personalisation we have already is too much, I shouldn’t need to log out and open a private browser to get almost clean results. I find myself using duck duck go more and more.
I really don’t care what others think when I search – friends or not.
Will social be Google’s downfall? I don’t think so, it will be a long time coming if it is. Google has become so ingrained in our lives and many people I speak to don’t understand personalisation and don’t care anyway.


Tom May 23, 2012 at 7:01 am

The “over-socializing” of the web is not the way to go in my opinion.Google+ was probably created as a “counterweight” to Facebook.When I go to Google to look up something, I want the most relevant results, not someone else´s opinions.This is exactly what happens when the search results are integrated with Google+, Facebook and other social sites.


Christina Pappas May 23, 2012 at 10:07 am

I am SO with you on this one! I want to see organically produced results based on what I – as in me, myself and I – are looking for, not what my friends found, liked and recommended. I want to make my own decisions on what I consume and I shouldn’t be limited in my view of what’s available. I hated the idea of this when i first heard about it because I dont see why a) my results should be different than yours when we search the same exact query string and b) how the heck brands are supposed to compete in search when we are still trying to conquer social.

We use gmail at my new company so I am always logged in. Unfortunately this means that Google always knows where I am and who I am. So I try not to use them that much – at least when I am at work anyways.


Carol Lynn May 23, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I don’t necessarily think social search will be the downfall of Google – but I do think it’ll be the downfall of the world. Seriously, we are getting pulled tighter and tighter into our bubbles and when all we see is the circular result of what everyone in our bubble likes/thinks/does, then how will we ever learn anything new?

I’ll be brutally honest – I don’t care what my friends think. I’ve never bought a car because someone raved about theirs or tried a restaurant because someone insisted I had to or die. In fact – get this! – I’ve even gone to restaurants that my friends have hated and told me never to go to.

I’m not friends with my friends because of their opinions and that’s something Google doesn’t get. They assume that because social exists, we must all want to be it. But there is a difference between social and social proof. If I read 500 great reviews about a product but my best friend hated it, I’ll tell you I’m probably siding with the 500 people. I think opinions and reviews and things of that nature are quite valuable. But the repeated opinions of the same set of people I already know is not.

I value my own opinion; if I have to suffer a bit because of it (ie: eating at a crummy restaurant) then I will. I also value the opinions of a very small subset of people in my life and I don’t need to have them pop up in my search results before I seek their input.

Much like others here, I will also search on a different browser and even not on Google just so I get different results. I don’t mind getting less-than-stellar results. I do mind being herded into a bubble.


Marcus Sheridan May 27, 2012 at 11:50 pm

“Herded into a bubble—-Awesome way of putting it Carol, and your comment here was exceptional.

Thanks so much for stopping by!



Davina K. Brewer May 23, 2012 at 4:35 pm

You know, Sean makes a good point on how ‘social’ search will change for the better; big data could improve things, we’ll see. Like most others, I don’t like seeing the same stuff via the same folks; I try Bing and Yahoo, or try alternate keywords, whatever I can do to ‘trick’ the Big G into giving me something different.

My connections on FB are totally different (mostly) from those elsewhere, so their searches and likes may not be particularly relevant to a work search – or vice versa w/ the G+ crowd. Seriously, can’t remember the last time I searched FB for something, except maybe looking for a brand page.

Then there’s what I do vs. what others know of me. I get asked about Disney and wine and Apple stuff all the time; I’m iPhone tech support for more than a few people – only I’ve never owned one. It’s the offline side of life — h/t to everyone’s favorite alien Howie @SkyPulseMedia on that point — that makes it relevant, makes me influential if you will – and none of that would come up in a search.

As far as privacy, we’ve become a little complacent, giving a lot of data away in exchange.. on the trust it’s safe. IDK I like knowing there are options, and I guess for now, will have to leave the porn searching for when I’m on a friend’s computer. ;-) FWIW.


Marcus Sheridan May 27, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Hahaha, you are something else Ms. Brewer ;-)

It’s an interesting subject indeed, with certainly many facets to discuss.

Thanks so much for dropping by, hope your Memorial Day weekend is a great one!



margie clayman (@margieclayman) May 23, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Oh, I am SO glad I’m not the only one. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

Here’s a dirty little secret about Google Plus I don’t see too many people talking about. When you sign up for G+, you can opt to turn off your search history. That means (allegedly) that Google can’t track how you’re searching or what you’re searching for. Guess what that means? Companies that use Google Analytics to try to figure out how their website is working get a lot of keyword results that show up as “private.”

Why aren’t more people upset about this lost knowledge?

That’s just one aspect of this whole trend that I find disturbing. I could go on. But um, you wrote the post :)


Marcus Sheridan May 27, 2012 at 11:45 pm

Hey Margie, always great seeing your smile pass through these parts. :-)

Yeah, there’s some pretty disturbing stuff happening in the digital realm right now…and even odder is most people couldn’t care less.

Odd indeed.



Shirley Samaniego May 24, 2012 at 1:41 am

I can’t imagine that Google is dying, in fact they are making it better. Although Google has made updates that everyone was affected, but still it has great features which is more favorable to us and to our business.


Matt Heinricy May 24, 2012 at 11:42 am

Thanks for the honest counter points. I really hadn’t thought that in depth about the concept but can see where you are coming from… kind of counter productive in terms of social engagement (or causes lazy engagement). Unfortunately Google has a lot of power and what they say, for now, pretty much goes.



Marcus Sheridan May 27, 2012 at 11:43 pm

That’s exactly it Matt…they’ve got a TON of power, and too much power can lead to some serious social bubbles…which ain’t good in my opinion.

But I guess we’ll see :)



Tho Huynh May 25, 2012 at 6:14 am

Google social search will kill creativities. Listening to experts’ advices is good, but not everything. I hate listening to a same person again and again too.


Dannie May 25, 2012 at 9:58 am

Marcus, I feel you. social search really stinks!


Jeff May 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I disagree, I’m all for incorporating quality, relevant social information in with Google search results.

Just like I enjoy reading content on this site AND I enjoy seeing the comments about the content from like-minded people – both are relevant and arguably, the social feedback is even more important in some cases.

When you mention that Google departs from something they control, not exactly!

Google’s Intellectual property and differentiator is search and that’s no different in the social space as it is in the wide open web.

They don’t own the content that comes in in their content search just as they don’t own the social content that comes in the new search.

Frankly, it’s the social guys I worry about.

What’s the barrier to entry into social? Google’s crown jewels are its search algorithms – what is Facebook’s?

Google is doing exactly what it should do…(as much as it pains me to say that!) by applying what it does best, what people want them to do – make sense of the mass amount of content (of which social is an increasing source)



Marcus Sheridan May 27, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Powerful take on this Jeff and I’m really glad you chimed in to give it. I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see, but I’m sure we’d agree this is just one of many “search and social” conversations we’ll be having in the years to come.




Sue Barrett May 25, 2012 at 7:12 pm

I really relate to this post. I think social media is doing great things, but I also think it’s disrupting search. It would make more sense if Google made social search an optional feature, rather than a standard feature that you had to opt-out of.

Thanks for bringing up DuckDuckGo. Interestingly, I noticed that their search results contain content that is more up-to-date than Google’s. I’ve heard of it but have not used it… until now.


Marcus Sheridan May 27, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Great stuff Sue. I’ve had a ton of people tell me about how impressed they’ve been with DuckDuckGo once they read this article and then stopped by to see what it was all about. We live in interesting times, and I hope that Google will realize that “social” isn’t the end-all for many of us, and quality will trump social in certain occasions.

Thanks so much for stopping by,



jeneatte May 26, 2012 at 8:23 am

Well, hearing opinion of the same people is fine for me, its not really a big deal. It depends on the relationship you’re dealing with. The father, out of concern for his child, he will repeat over and over again to nurture his innocent child. It’s good to hear varieties of opinion; you will learn a lot. But for some people, if they hear a lot and still the same, there’s nothing happening, there’s a probable problem there.

And I think google is really different from real person so different approach too :)


Mitch Mitchell May 27, 2012 at 11:20 pm

Marcus, I must admit I go back and forth on this one. One day I absolutely love it because I have so much content out there I tend to think that people will see my face all over and come visit me on one of my blogs or websites. Then the next day I search for something, see my face, and end up trying to remember how I got to that particular site and whether I want to be used as advertisement in driving someone to a site that I might not have agreed with and yet still commented on.

In general, I think the forced sharing is kind of scary. I was thinking about this yesterday when I went to add the phone number of a friend to my smartphone and her name came up before I finished because she has a Google+ account and I have a HTC phone, which is owned by Google and thus runs Google software and is connected to everything Google. Frankly that was a bit unnerving. So, I think I’m mainly leaning in your direction in thinking.

Wow, this is two in a row in agreement with you! lol


Sarah Kolb May 30, 2012 at 10:40 am

Wow — I hadn’t heard of this alternative to social searching, but I’m definitely going to check it out! I agree, I don’t search Google to see what my friends are doing, I go there for information. I go to Facebook to see what my friends are doing. There are times when this is a valuable filter — but offhand, I can only think of the times it’s been an obstacle to what I’m really trying to do.

I liken this to the geo-search thing. Extremely helpful when you’re looking for a local sushi joint. Less helpful when you’re planning a wedding 6 hours away from where you live. I finally manually changed my “location” to my wedding venue just so I could get some better results.

(Now if only we could figure out a hack for Netflix steaming video so we could browse what ELSE is out there outside of the categories they shove users into…)


Marcus Sheridan May 30, 2012 at 3:37 pm

GREAT points and examples Sarah. I’m surprised all of these companies don’t make it so much easier for quick opt-outs and general opt-out education.

Thanks so much for stopping by,



Cythia H. May 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm

“I like my friends. I really do. But I don’t like seeing them in my Google search results.” I couldn’t agree with you more Marcus! I’m on the fence as to what their future will be like, but I won’t necessarily be sad to see Google Plus disappear….


Philos June 2, 2012 at 9:41 am

I also remember awhile ago when I used DuckDuckGo to check some stuff and I liked the results – no faces, less time more results – and less distraction.

If G-search means results from people who I have interacted with (and their content) in the past instead of the best content on what I am looking for, that will make me sad.

I believe someone is working on one great search engine for people who want better results and better privacy. It could be DuckDuckGo or some startup not yet popular amongst internet users


Marcus Sheridan June 4, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Yeah, we talk about Google’s domination a lot Philos, but I can’t imagine a second party not entering the fray in a major way within the next couple of years.




Anton June 4, 2012 at 11:45 am

Never heard about Duck-Duck-Go before. I’d take it a try, thank you.


Marcus Sheridan June 4, 2012 at 1:01 pm

You’ll like it Anton, give it a try. Very cool.


John Nagle, Silicon Valley, CA June 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Social inputs to search are too easy to spam. Social spamming is cheaper than old-style link farming, where spammers had to buy hosting services. Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ will host spam for free. Social spamming really took off in October 2010, when Google merged Places results into web search. Now there’s a whole industry with a supply chain to support social spamming. See our paper, “Social is bad for search, and search is bad for social”.

With Google’s Penguin update, links are less valuable. This makes sense. Most links to commercial sites are the result of marketing activity, and should be ignored. The problem is that Google doesn’t have anything as good as links to use instead.
Google results in cluttered areas are now somewhat random, as lesser factors like age of the site and domain name match to the query assume more importance.

Google’s anchor was PageRank, based on links. Without that, they’ve lost their anchor.


Faia Cage August 6, 2012 at 1:51 am

Because of the new features of Google, Google search is really reeks already.


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