These days it’s hard to keep up with new gimmicks presented by Google. You could spend hours or days just coming to terms with them. Most of these new services and features are in some way connected to social media. Google’s social media strategy seems to be trial and error.
We have seen many failed Google attempts to enter the social media arena in the past. Just remember
- Google Answers
- Google Bookmarks
- Google Knol
- Google Notebook
- Google Video
These most obvious failures are accompanied by several barely existent features and tools. It’s a new kind of feature creep. Google keeps on adding new services making it too complex for most users to stay on top of them. Even we in the SEO industry can’t become experts on all Google services at once. You have to focus on a few working services and ways of using them.
- Google Search
- Google Analytics
- Google Reader
are most probably the ones you already use. In recent weeks Google has introduced at least three new major social media services to the game
- Google Profiles (updated)
- Google SideWiki
- Google Wave
- Google Social Search
The only one that really matters in my opinion is Google Social Search but even here I doubt that it will be a widely used service as long as it’s implemented the way it is now. You can ignore Google SideWiki and Google Wave though. There was a ridiculous amount of attention wasted on both in the SEO industry and beyond. At the end of the day both services don’t add much value and will probably be used by a minuscule minority, guess who, the SEOs I guess.
Google Social Search is presented as an experiment and indeed I needed a few hours to find out what it is about. In simple terms: It’s just another layer of personalization of search results.
Google determines who your friends are and then inserts their favorites into your search results.
I have no idea why they had to introduce another new service for these features. We already have the Google SearchWiki (not the SideWiki!). Also it’s basically an extension to Google Profiles.
Confused? I am, you are probably as well and guess who is even more, the average user. Even we, the early adopters and power users grapple with these new services. John Doe doesn’t have a clue and thus care a bit.
Google Profiles has in a way been around for years. I remember setting a basic one up when I needed it for Google bookmarks 2 or 3 years ago. They ramped it up and now it’s some kind of ClaimID competition. Lisa Barone already ranted about it half a year ago. Well known search blogger Barry Schwartz has a neat profile there. What more can I say? It seems it has some use combined with Google Social Search, read on to find out about that.
Google Sidewiki is seen by some as a misguided attempt to create a parallel Internet under the corporate control of Google. Most people see it as a way to spray paint other’s websites. I see it as another niche product for a tiny target audience. Only Google Toolbar users who don’t care for privacy will use it and people interested in SEO. Where Google SearchWiki (remember the buttons on your search results?) still has some use for the average guy I don’t see much of it for SideWiki. There are of course other services to annote websites. StumbleUpon, Diigo and WOT do that in a much better ways.
Google Wave has been introduced as a Twitter competitor in the realtime arena but it’s more of a chat client based groupware. It might have some use in companies but it’s complicated and cluttered like hell, I needed an hour to make it work at all with the help of some SEO experts who had tested it before me. It’s a fancy gimmick and huge time waster. To me it’s dead on arrival. Twitter succeeded because it was simple and easy to use. Google Wave is the exact opposite. Even renowned tech veterans like Robert Scoble hate it.
Google Social Search is a promising idea but the current flawed implementation renders it almost useless. It basically takes your existing Google services and collects your connections to other users to personalize your search results. So for instance you’ll see your Google Reader subscriptions in your search results. Plus a little disturbingly you will see stuff by your GMail contacts there. This way en employer you have in your GMail address book can see what sites you like.
Asides of that you can add more services via your Google Profile (check out mine). Google Profiles also support FriendFeed importing. You are also meant to see the tweets of your Twitter friends but I don’t yet. Google Social Search might turn big but it’s still nascent and confusing. I added several services to my Google profile to no avail. I can’t see my friends’ tweets or bookmarks.
Don’t panic. The new hyped Google services will most likely be forgotten in a few months or you’ll have enough time to join and use those that will make some business sense. I’m just angry about all the time wasted on these new “services”. They are attention grabbers that don’t give back much of the value yet.
Google’s trial and error is something most people can ignore. A year from now we’ll see what’s left of those trials, mostly errors I guess. Then you can reconsider using these services. Sometimes it’s better to adopt late. especially in case you value time and money.