July 17, 2011

Google Plus Search (Google+)

Google Plus Search, Google+Google’s new social network, Google Plus, is making a big splash – and it’s not even open to the public as of this writing.

Any product made by Google will of course emphasize search, but at first glance, you can tell that search does not overwhelm the user experience. There are no little familiar sponsored links. The only search bar says “Find People,” not “Find Anything.” Has Google changed its strategy beyond search?

Google Plus search is of course aimed primarily at finding people, the service is much more than that. You can find out rich data about people – professions, interests, employers, and bragging rights add context to a user profile and enable deep searches. You can easily imagine the uses of finding local business services through Google+ by finding people in your area that are plumbers or sell books, etc… We should probably think of Google Plus as not deviating from Google’s core value proposition of indexing the world’s information. Google Plus simply adds a new contextual layer to that information – we will now see a rich user profile from the provider of content on the web.

Google Search Shortcuts

1. To search for profiles outside of Google Plus, you need to add a string to a regular Google search. You can add “site:plus.google.com” to the beginning of your search query, and then add keywords. If you run Google’s browser, you can also make a shortcut. In your settings, on the Basics screen, click “Manage Search engines.” At the bottom of your list of search engines, add a new one. Call it something like Google plus in the first column, then type Profile in the second column. In the third column, type: {google:baseURL}search?q=%stbs=prfl:e”. Now you can search for profiles right in the Chrome URL bar simply by typing “Profile.” When you type Profile, and then press space, it should automatically say “Search Google Plus.”

2. To search within posts, make a new search engine. However, this time change the second column name to “Posts.” In the third column, type “{google:baseURL}search?q=site:plus.google.com inurl:posts/* %s”. When you type Posts and then click the space bar, it should search on posts with your chosen keywords.

3. Experiment with custom search engines with Google Plus. Use Google’s regular custom search engines, and for the indexed sites, use plus.google.com. You can try different variables to weight the results. The nice thing about custom search is that you can then embed the search on your website using a simple Javascript snippet. The end result is a custom search box for Google Plus, much like GPlusSearch.com.

4. Use an outside search app, there aren’t many as of this writing, but we’re keeping a list here.

Google Plus Search Box

If you start typing in the “Find People” box native to Google Plus, you will notice an immediate, quite radical difference. Search appears radically simplified. The Google Plus search box appears to index only the profile’s name in the native search box, not all of the textual keywords within a user’s profile. For instance, if you type “Mechanical Engineer” in the search box, it does not (at least so far) show every profile with Mechanical Engineer in their profile. What it does is simply show you the profile name that contain Mechanical Engineer.

In the future, you can imagine that this will improve – the search box really should quickly call up profiles based on a wealth of keywords and relationship. For example, Linkedin pulls up profiles based on keywords and relevance and connection to the user searching. This search feature will most likely evolve in the near future.

Searching within Circles

If you organize your connections into Circles, you can search for people within a circle, by first clicking on the Circles tab. Click on a circle, and then you will see the search box at the upper right hand corner of the dialog box. However, as of this writing, you cannot search for anything beyond names. You can imagine that this will be one of the most powerful features of Google Plus. Once you have organized lists of people, perhaps applicants for a job or professional connections, it seems likely that you will be able to limit search to just within the Circle in a future development. It’s a good reason to get your Circles started now – they will be a useful resource in the future.

Lack of Search

If the user does not immediately see the person they want to find, they must click “Find everyone matching ABC.” When the user clicks that, the service opens up a new screen which is actually a regular Google search with the addition of a profile string. This is an interesting play – rather than embed search deeply within Google Plus, they have decided to offer a very limited feature set within the social network, and then open up a new browser window with a regular Google search. Why not include a more robust search within G+? This may be a feature in development, and it may be a more subtle cause, to create a clear distinction between people search and regular Google search. In any case, at this writing, it might be said that Google Plus essentially does not have native, robust search, which is surprising based on the company that developed the social network.

Better search should be included in the very near future. We have to imagine deep search for posts and content will be available in an Ajax enabled quick search like in Google Instant. However, we do not know if all content will be indexed within Plus. For if all regular search capabilities can be found within Google Plus, we might ask, why would anyone ever go to Google? But this is perhaps the end game, for when we look at Google Plus, we may not be seeing the rise of a new social network, but rather the future Google.com.

Marie is a writer for Recruiter.com covering career advice, recruitment topics, and HR issues. She has an educational background in languages and literature as well as corporate experience in Human Resources.