Google's Matt Cutts makes the following point in his blog post about the coverage of Search Plus Your World, a change Google just made to its social search methodology to make search results more customized to the user by placing more emphasis on personal results, related profiles and people and pages: "Search plus Your World does surface public content from the open web, not just content from Google+," Cutts said.
"Search plus Your World builds on the social search that we launched in 2009, and can surface public content from sites across from the web, such as Quora, FriendFeed, LiveJournal, Twitter, and WordPress."
The original blog post rolling out the feature certainly emphasized the contacts in Google+. However, it has been little secret that Google has been incorporating results from its social network into search.
Twitter Reacts and Then Google
However, Twitter reacted negatively to the announcement, with its general counsel calling it a "bad day for the internet" via Twitter.
Google responded quickly with its own post, saying that "we are a bit surprised by Twitter's comments about Search plus Your World, because they chose not to renew their agreement with us last summer and since then we have observed their rel=nofollow instructions.
Danny Sullivan’s Explanation
Search expert Danny Sullivan explained the reference to rel=nofollow in his own take on the back and forth in a post in Marketing Land.
As any SEO marketer knows nofollow is a technical reference to a way that links can be tagged so that Google will not register them for the purpose of calculating PageRank scores. The tag also may prevent the pages the links lead to from being included in Google itself, he added.
"My take is that Google, by mentioning this in its post, is trying to suggest that Twitter is hurting itself by blocking its own pages using nofollow."
However, he continued nofollow doesn’t necessarily mean that pages will be dropped, only that they might if there are no other links Google finds pointing at a page.
More to the point Sullivan said, it appears as though Google is culling Twitter’s pages for data through its normal crawl of the web. He estimates that Google has collected over 3 billion pages from the Twitter.com site and other sites that use that root domain.
The incident offers SEO marketers a glimpse at where social search may be heading—each platform is hoping to the uber platform for users so they are walling off as much as possible their content. However, these barriers are not as effective as some might think.
This unwillingness on the part of these companies to share a public commons when it comes to the intersection of search and social is corrosive to the connective tissue of our shared culture, John Battelle writes in his blog. "But as with all things Internet, we’ll just identify the damage and route around it."