Google+ Brand Pages Begin Showing Up in Primary Search Results
In a move that could raise some charges of anti-competitive behavior, Google has begun integrating Google+ brand page information in primary search results.
The inclusion, noted by researcher BrightEdge, appears only for some brands at the moment. BrightEdge, which has tracked Google+ brand pages since they went live on Nov. 7, just noticed the Google+ integration on Dec. 20.(ThoughSearch Engine Land discovered it last month.) In particular, the company identified the following Google+ brand page results in a search for AT&T:
As Brad Mattick, vp-marketing for BrightEdge notes, the addition of G+ brand pages in this case allows the marketer to wedge in a promotional message. In this particular case, a call for a sweepstakes gets a much bigger audience via Google natural search results than it would have otherwise.
Though AT&T appeared to be one of the first brands to get such treatment, a search for Toyota showed two Google+ entries (from late November).
Other brands, including T-Mobile and Macy’s, also displayed G+ results in their searches. A Google rep offered the following statement about the search results: “Content from the +Page, such as recent posts, will appear as annotations attached to its associated web page under the sitelinks in search results if that site is eligible for Direct Connect. It uses the same bi-directional link and algorithmic criteria as Direct Connect.”
For Mattick, integrating G+ brand page information into search results is an obvious enticement for brands to join and be active on Google+. Mattick says he believes blurring the lines between G+ and search results parallels Microsoft’s inclusion of the Internet Explorer browser in its Windows OS in the 1990s. The U.S. Department of Justice accused Microsoft of using its Windows near-monopoly to beat Netscape in the browser segment.
However, Google’s share of the search market — 65.6% in October according to comScore — is lower than Microsoft’s 78.5% share of the desktop OS market at the time of the IE bundling.
Nevertheless, the move may attract some unwanted attention for Google. The search giant’s push comes as Sens. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) have called on the Federal Trade Commission to look into Google’s search business practices.