Google turns to social network to trump Bing

The Web giant starts populating search results with posts shared publicly by Google+ connections as a way to combat Microsoft's partnership with Facebook.

Jay Greene Former Staff Writer
Jay Greene, a CNET senior writer, works from Seattle and focuses on investigations and analysis. He's a former Seattle bureau chief for BusinessWeek and author of the book "Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons" (Penguin/Portfolio).
Jay Greene
2 min read

Google will start to populate individual users' search results with posts that have been shared publicly by their connections on Google+, the company said Friday.

The new feature, which works only when users are signed in to their Google accounts, aims to tailor results to individual tastes. The idea is if a user posts a note on Google+ about a link--be it to a restaurant's Web site, a news story, or a retail store's site--their Google+ connections are going to be more likely to want to see that site as well.

In a blog post, Sagar Kamdar, Google product manager, offered an example of a contact in one of his Google+ Circles posting a note about a Chinese restaurant in New York City. When Kamdar searches for the restaurant, a note appears below the restaurant link saying his connection shared a post about the establishment.

A Google search result for "Uncle Zhou Queens, a Chinese restaurant in New York, features a note below the result that a Google+ connection has shared information about the restaurant. Google

"Now not only do I get some great reviews on the Web, I get a review from a friend about a restaurant, with recommendations about what dishes to order," Kamdar wrote.

It's something of a catch-up move for the company that has long pioneered searching the Web. In May, Microsoft's Bing rolled out a similar feature that elevates results that have received a "like" from a friend on Facebook. Bing's implementation requires users to be logged in to Facebook. And if a Facebook friend clicks on the thumbs-up "like" icon for a shop, for example, the shop will show up in that user's Bing search results with an image of the friend below the link and a note that he or she "likes this."

For both Google and Microsoft, the idea is to mimic the real world, where people often rely on friends for advice before making decisions about products, restaurants, hotels, and more. And unlike random reviews from unknown and untrusted sources left on sites such as OpenTable, Google+ and Facebook provide more relevant feedback.

Google, of course, has a huge advantage over Microsoft with its continuing domination of search. In the United States, it held 65.1 percent share of the search market in July, compared with a 14.4 percent share for Bing and a 16.1 percent slice for Yahoo, which uses Bing's search technology.

But even though Google+ has gained some traction since launching as a "project" on June 28, it still has only about 25 million users. That's paltry compared with Facebook's 750 million. Google, however, recognizes the importance of so-called social search. It's a key reason why the company launched Google+.

"This is just the latest step in helping you find the most relevant information possible, personalized to your interests and the people you care about," Kamdar wrote.