Google+: A social networking site or the future of search engine marketing?

So Google has launched its first foray into social networking with the launch of Google+. Or has it?

This may be somewhat of a conspiracy theory, but a few of us here at FreshNetworks were questioning whether Google+ is about social networking at all, or if it’s about something else…namely, changing the future of search engine marketing (SEM).

Think about point number 2 of Google’s “10 things” manifesto:

‘It’s best to do one thing really, really well. We do search. With one of the world‘s largest research groups focused exclusively on solving search problems, we know what we do well, and how we could do it better.’

So perhaps Google+ is about improving their ‘one thing’ which,  in the words of Google’s co-founder Larry Page, is to make search engines “understand exactly what you mean and give back exactly what you want.”

Think about this. Now, when you’re logged in to Google+ and you search for something in Google, the results you get are often different than if you weren’t logged in to Google+. If someone from your ‘Circles’ (connections) has shared a link the relates to your search term then the content they have shared comes up higher in the results, sometimes even at the top of the pile.

Potentially, in the future, this could mean that the more popular pages from within your Circles could outrank those pages that are better optimised in the traditional sense of the word. This is probably why companies, like Plussem, have started targeting Google’s +1 feature and you can now pay companies to “+1″ your website.

What’s more, think about the ‘Sparks’ function in Google. When you search for content within Sparks it returns results that are relevant to an interest you’ve selected. Moving forward, this feed could also return content that people in your Circles have liked at a higher page result. Or it could be used in the way that Google is currently used where the top content is sponsored content, enticing brands and businesses to get involved.

Obviously Google has yet to release where it’s going with Google+. Perhaps Google+  is not about moving SEM forward, or claiming back more of the search engine market from other rivals as some people think.  And if Google want to get brands involved  with Google+, which all the signs suggest they do, then it will be much more than just about search marketing.

So it’s still too early to tell what Google’s plans are but it looks as though Google+ could potentially impact social and search in a big way.