Like a dog making progressively greater demands for our attention, Google is determined to get us engaged with its Google+ social platform one way or another; and with this week’s announcement that it is integrating personal content into Web searches, I’d say the search giant has escalated from chewing on our collective shoes to backing its hindquarters into our lap with a sheepish, “I’m not evil” expression on its face.
Okay, okay, Google, we’ll play with you. After all, Google+ is by all accounts a nifty platform for sharing content, collaborating, and just shooting the breeze in video hangouts and the like. And it will certainly be convenient, for some users at least, to see personal content they have shared privately in their search results, rather than having to go digging through separate sites like Gmail and YouTube, and to have names of their friends pop up as suggested queries in the search box.
Of course, in typical fashion Google is introducing the personal search integration as an opt-out rather than opt-in feature. But thankfully, unlike a real dog you can turn off it if (like me) you just want the old-fashioned, impersonal Web trawl.
Although it’s still not totally clear how much traffic Google+ is attracting, there have been some promising numbers: using the surname-based estimate system created by Paul Allen, towards the end of December the Ancestry.com folks speculated that Google+ has 62 million registered users, while comScore said Google+ attracted 67 million unique visitors in the month of November alone.
Needless to say, none of this data tells us anything about the degree of engagement among these users, including for example the number of visits per month, the duration of the visits, the frequency of content-sharing of different types, and so on. But Google’s decision to put people in more frequent contact with their Google+ content via search will probably help juice those engagement metrics, whatever they may be.