Following on from recent news on brand pages for businesses from Google, one of the most interesting aspects of the announcement was the introduction of a new ‘feature’ in the SERPs.
Google Direct Connect.
Some of the more cynical amongst you will have identified the latter as something of a trojan horse buried under the good news of business pages finally launching for users who have been waiting for what seems like forever.
This integration is no surprise. We can expect Google+ to make its way into every aspect of the search giants existence, but for me, direct connect poses something of a double edged sword for brands. As adoption increases, we can expect to see brand pages popping up more and more, and gaining further exposure in all aspects of Google properties – and direct connect is simply the tip of the iceberg.
If you decide to ignore it as a marketing platform, you can expect that your competition using it to gain competitive advantage. Whether that be an extra boost in the social media signal that Google are using as part of their algo, or simply increased exposure in your brand presence on either the search engine results themselves, or a third party product that Google controls.
If you decide to embrace it as another part of your social media platform, you can expect traffic, exposure, and all the fruits of your labour in the short term. But what about the long term? Assuming things work out for them, and people jump on board, how long before Google decide that your Google+ brand page ranks above your own website? How long before you no longer need the subtle ‘+’ before your brand name? How long before Google actually owns your brand presence on the web? How long before we are being forced to create content directly on Google’s platform to compete?
Right now, site owners are faced with an impossible situation. Damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.
Just not sold yet
You’ll forgive me for my lack of trust. It’s not like we haven’t seen the classic bait and switch from Mountain View before. NextTag and Yelp both suffering from the information Google scrapes from then to augment their own product (Google Places).
Or when they decided to strip keyword data from organic searches – forcing users to use paid search to gain search insight. Or when they decided to gain massive adoption of Google Maps from users, then announced they were charging for usage. Or when they stroked the egos of SEO professionals with one hand, but pushed their own product with the other. Or when they pushed Android as an open platform with one hand, and closed their fist around the product direction with the other.
You don’t have to dig too far into the recesses of their businesses practises to find other examples of untrustworthy practices and it doesn’t take a genius to join the dots up to see where they could potentially take this form of integration in the search results.
I’m I the only one just a little worried?