Posted March 18, 2009 2:52 pm by with 14 comments

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Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield issued a report yesterday about the MySpace/Google ad deal concluding that “Google doesn’t care about social networking. But perhaps it should, since social-networking platforms are gradually making search less relevant,” according to AdWeek.

Sounds pretty harsh, no? It’s well-established that ads on social networks don’t perform as well as other types ads. We’ve always liked to think that it’s because social network users aren’t there for advertising or product info. Not so, says Greenfield: “Rather, . . . Google’s algorithm isn’t well-suited to social-networking sites — and that’s something Google isn’t necessarily concerned with.”

And there’s a good reason for that. And no, it has nothing to do with clicks from social networks being less valuable than clicks from elsewhere on the net. It’s jealousy:

The reason the company [Google] doesn’t care, said Greenfield, is that the basic functionality of social platforms like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter is “diminishing the importance of search.” He points to users’ growing inclination to search for specific information by tapping into friends’ and colleague’s knowledge through platforms like Twitter’s own search product, as well Facebook’s status update tool.

Okay, let’s get this straight. So because people are using the Internet to talk to their friends and browse what their friends are doing right at this moment (in 140 characters or less in some cases), they don’t need Google anymore (How did he know I used to spend my free time Googling “What is Kim Habermann doing right now?”).

Therefore, petulant toddler that it is, Google isn’t doing all it can to work on its one and only algorithm that serves search results and ad results to make it cater to these social networks.


Let’s look at this seriously now. Never mind the fact that Google has been saying for more than a year that they’re not doing social search because it “doesn’t show much promise.” Some searches on social networks aren’t going to win clicks. Some social search involves looking for product reviews from people you trust, finding old friends, making plans.

There are still going to be searches on social networks that do yield paid clicks for Google, but in general, even if you’re already on MySpace, why use their search product to conduct those searches? It’s not that hard to hop over from your social site to Google proper to type in your query.

So do searches on social networks simply not make as much money? Probably. And is it Google’s fault? Probably—if they hadn’t gone and created such a powerful brand, people would probably be content to use search anywhere for anything.

What do you think: does Google care about social? Should it?

  • Of course it does! The thing is, that it wants to interact with the social space on its own terms. A good example is all of the recent rumors and evidence that they will be integrating social indicators via their new Friend Connect widgets and through OpenSocial.

    Including a wider range of results that encompasses more non-Google social pages in their algorithm just isn’t what they are interested in. They want to include social media with out looking to obvious. This is because they have a dual responsibility to their advertisers and users. To the advertiser they need to appear to not be sending traffic to other ad venues, and to the users they need to provide socially relevant content. Because of this quandary they will always do or act one way, while they do something completely opposite.

    Joe Hall’s last blog post..IM Spring Break is Going to Make You Pee Your Pants!

  • David C

    Google does not have to care about social networking. As for the reasoning that users rely on connections more than searching that seems like a flawed argument. I still use search for my searches and Facebook’s search is a customized Google search so Google is still being used.

  • The most helpful aspect of social search is being able to get a human (one that you know and trust) to recommend a site rather than a robot. Yes, Google does crawl the Internet better than any one person can, but people can understand each other – and robots don’t always get what us humans are trying to say. Sometimes even long tail searches don’t lead to the resource or information you’re looking for. It’s no wonder Google is jealous. But instead of being bitten by the green bug, Google should care about how to extend their brand into social networks, because that will translate into how Google will be relevant for the future web.

    Asma’s last blog post..Migrating budgets from traditional to digital media

  • Jordan McCollum

    I said it two weeks ago, and I’ll say it again here: just as some searches are better with human response, some searches aren’t ever going to be better on MySpace/FB/Twitter.

    I’m not going to rely on my friends to find out what time the sun will set on March 13, 2010 in Chicago, or the origin of the phrase “Weel done, Cutty-sark,” or if there’s a state-wide minimum speed limit in New York or where in North Carolina you can view the Metropolitan Opera’s live broadcasts (all things I’ve Googled in the last week). It’s pretty much always going to be faster and more accurate to Google those things.

  • I’d like to see a study conducted on the trust levels people have in different online channels. For example, do people trust Google search results more or less than social search?

    Eric Schwartzman’s last blog post..Facebook Pages as Stepping Stones to Online Newsrooms

  • I agree with Jordan,

    The type of information I look up on Google, (song lyrics, movie times, company info) I wouldn’t search for in my social network. In fact, it would irritate me if Google brought up some gushy fanpage instead of the real answer I’m looking for.

    Megan’s last blog post..Youtube mash-ups by Kuitiman

  • Google does indeed care about the social aspect of gleaning information on the web today, but they’re highly unlikely to admit it openly. With the evolution of social media people are beginning to turn more to their human counterparts to learn about products and services in virtually any industry – and Google just doesn’t fit the bill at this point because the results have no human element.

    Google’s recent incorporation of the “Promote” and “Exclude” buttons within SERPs is an indication that they see the value of adding a social element to their search results, they’re just unwilling to make it seem as if they’re running to catch up with some of today’s emerging social platforms. Whether Google search or a social search serves your needs best at this point depends on what kind of information you’re after.

    Alysson’s last blog post..Use Twitter As A Tool – Don’t Be One

  • Google is plays a big role in searches and query and i think it should not be threatened by social and other social media and networks. there lies the difference between google and social network.. Thanks for sharing this post. Looking forward to reading other great post.

    Holly Powell’s last blog post..Agents of Value Jaycliff Arcilla

  • People utilize a search engine with the intent to research, I’m not sure that they utilize social media for the same reason. I don’t go to Facebook to research my next Apple purchase… I do a search and read various sites and come to my own conclusion. Do I trust my friends’ opinions? Sometimes – but not all.

    Social networks are for ‘socializing’. Search Engines are for ‘searching’. We always want to mix up mediums based on how big they are instead of what their purpose is.

    Douglas Karr’s last blog post..Using jQuery to Juice Up an Ordinary Web Page

  • Google is Anti-Social. Think about it the core of google is bunch of alogirthms. They don’t believe in human intervention. They fight human intervention (I’m talk about the spam).
    If google is going to give its search engine social aspect -They are going to change everything

  • @Kenneth Google is NOT anti-social. The entire pagerank algorithm at the core of Google’s search engine is totally based on authority and relationships through backlinks. It may be the best social application in the world.

    Douglas Karr’s last blog post..Using jQuery to Juice Up an Ordinary Web Page

  • Malcolm

    Douglas Karr … and the rest


    Fact is that neither human nor robots will ever be able to paint a real picture in any case. It’s just like … where do I spend my next holiday? One friend suggests book hotel A the other says NO WAY! So what is best. Everyone is the best and everyone is No 1 with the best customer care … bla bla bla…

    Humans put their emotions into and robots their favors… PERIOD!

    Google, Yahoo, MSN … take them all together… ahh – it’s a waste just to talk about all these criminals.


  • @Malcolm I totally disagree with you. I’ve made incredible purchasing decisions utilizing the Internet over the last decade and each year it gets easier and easier. Blogs, ratings and review sites, and other social mediums have provided incredible insight. It’s also a democratizing force – small companies are able to explode overnight with good service and great products. Large companies are no longer able to hide behind focus-grouped product names, slick logos and fancy tag lines.

    Search has changed the world, and… try as I may to dislike them… I’m a huge fan of Google, their pagerank algorithm, and how much easier its made my life.

    You can go back to using the Yellow Pages or a Super Bowl Ad, I’ll take the Internet anyday!

    Douglas Karr’s last blog post..links for 2009-03-19

  • Search engines, like anything in life, have their own particular place in it. Although Google does a good job of providing basic information, and sometimes unrelated, that you are searching for we should also keep in mind that there are still a lot of good subject specific search engines that may be more suited to a particular need.

    How do you find em?

    Google of course…!