Schmidt: Google+ Not Favored, Happy To Talk Twitter & Facebook Integration

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt says Google+ content is not being favored over Twitter and Facebook by Google’s search engine. Rather, those companies can be treated the same if they grant Google the right permissions to access their content.

I spoke with Schmidt today about the developing war-of-words between Twitter and Google, which broke out after the launch of Google’s new ”Search Plus Your World” format for its search results.

Included in the new format are suggestions for searchers to follow celebrities and other notable figures who have accounts on Google+, when these people are relevant to a particular search topic. Similar suggestions do not appear for the Twitter or Facebook accounts of such people.

Twitter, Google With Dueling Statements

Twitter quickly issued a statement after Google’s product formally launched, saying in part:

We’re concerned that as a result of Google’s changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone. We think that’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users.

Google’s then countered with its own statement, through a post on Google+ that says:

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 (http://goo.gl/chKwi), and since then we have observed their rel=nofollow instructions.

New Tidbit: Google Says Twitter Ended Deal

The link in that statement from Google leads to an article I wrote last year, As Deal With Twitter Expires, Google Realtime Search Goes Offline.

One new fact emerges from the statement. Google says that Twitter chose not to renew the deal between the companies. Until now, neither company has said who broke things off.

Of course, Twitter might respond that it was Google which chose not to renew, because it may have rejected terms that Twitter wanted. I’m hoping to follow-up more with Twitter on all this if time allows tomorrow (I’m at the CES show this week, so things are pretty hectic).

Nofollow Doesn’t Mean Not Included

As for all that rel=nofollow stuff, it’s 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.

Hey, I told you it was technical, didn’t I? The tag also may prevent any of the pages the links lead to from being included in Google itself. 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, nofollow doesn’t guarantee that pages will be dropped, only that they might if there are no other links Google finds pointing at a page. As Google’s own help page about nofollow says:

Essentially, using nofollow causes us to drop the target links from our overall graph of the web. However, the target pages may still appear in our index if other sites link to them without using nofollow, or if the URLs are submitted to Google in a Sitemap.

Potentially, Google is finding Twitter’s pages in other ways, perhaps even through a sitemap file that Twitter might be submitting to it, a sort of map of all Twitter’s pages.

FYI, Twitter has had issues with Google before, as How Twitter’s Technical Infrastructure Issues Are Impacting Google Search Results covers. But we’re months past that now.

Google Has 3 Billion Twitter Pages

What’s clear is that Google clearly is finding lots and lots of content from Twitter through its normal crawl of the web:

This search tells me that Google has collected over 3 billion pages from the Twitter.com site and other sites that use that root domain:

These pages are everything from account profiles to actual tweets. Google knows a lot about what happens on Twitter, even without a formal deal in place to send Google the “firehose” of all content Twitter has.

Schmidt Talks Twitter & Facebook

This leads to my talk with Schmidt. I caught him immediately after his on-stage interview at CES today. Despite being tired from both travel and coming off his interview, Schmidt took time to talk with me about today’s events.

The video highlights of our talk can be viewed below, and the article continues with a write-up of what was said.

YouTube Preview Image

Conversation Needed

“To start with, we would have a conversation with them,” Schmidt said, about settling any differences.

I replied that with the Google+ suggestions now hitting Google, there was no need to have any discussions or formal deals. Google’s regular crawling, allowed by both Twitter and Facebook, was a form of “automated conversation” giving Google material it could use.

“Anything we do with companies like that, it’s always better to have a conversion,” Schmidt said.

So were there talks with Facebook and Twitter about today’s rollout of Google+ suggestions?

“I’m not going to talk about specifics,” Schmidt said.

Google Not Favoring Google+

Did he think Google was favoring itself too much with the suggestions of Google Plus?

“No.”

Was Google willing to talk with Facebook and Twitter?

“Of course we would.”

Right after that, you’ll hear me sigh, when Schmidt says I’m trying to get him to say something different. I wasn’t, other than something specific. It been maddening that none of these companies for ages now — Google, Facebook or Twitter — will ever just come out and be explicit about what they want or what the barriers are.

Google Needs Permission

Schmidt then said:

“I do hope when you speak to Facebook, you ask them analogous questions about opening up their index and all that content that’s behind there,” ending with a smile.

We talked further about what my issues were. I stressed the concern of Google not pointing to anything other than Google+ for these new social suggestions, not what I had expected from the same search engine that points at content even from rivals through things like Google Finance.

“We had permission,” in that case, Schmidt said, suggesting that Google seemed to lack the permission needed to equally display social suggestions from Facebook and Twitter.

Dear Google: Include Us Please. Thanks, Twitter & Facebook

I countered that Google seemed to have all the permission it needed, in that they’re not blocked from crawling pages.

“That’s your opinion,” Schmidt said, then joked: “If you could arrange a letter from Facebook and Twitter to us, that would be helpful.”

I pushed back that both have effectively given those letters since their robots.txt files — a method of blocking search engines — weren’t telling Google to go away.

“That’s your interpretation of their policies,” Schmidt said.

Detour: What Google Knows Already About Social Connections

I tried one more time, saying that actually, it was my interpretation of how Google was viewing those sites, because I can tell with searches as shown above that Google is gathering content. I can also tell in other ways that Google knows who I’m connected to on some of these other social networks.

For example, this dashboard still works to show how Google has learned about your friend connections via social accounts you’ve linked to your Google profile.

Using that, I can see several people I’m connected to through Facebook, as shown below. And when content from those people appears in my old-style social search results that still work for me, I can even hover to see the Facebook connection:

I can even see that Google knows I’m directly connected to something like Diet Coke through Twitter:

I know all this, because among other articles I’ve written, I did a big look last year at how Facebook had a third-party PR firm accusing Google of somehow gathering material without permission. Instead, Google was gathering up information Facebook itself was releasing to the public web.

These are the articles, which explain more about how Google can know quite a bit about social connections even without formal deals:

Schmidt: “Happy To Talk”

Back to the interview, the last round went to Schmidt, who concluded:

“The core question is, ‘Would we be willing to [include Facebook and Twitter], and the answer is, ‘We’ll be happy to talk to them about it’.”

More Background

Here’s hoping that some talking really does happen. Why the Twitter deal fell apart remains a mystery, but I’d like to think both sides could reach a deal that would help each other. Here’s the background:

As for Facebook, so far it has stayed quiet in all this. But as I said, the fight between the two companies over what they need to strike a deal has been maddening. The background, below:

And background on today’s news:

Postscript: See also

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Features & Analysis | Google: Google+ | Top News | Twitter

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About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://twitter.com/teedubya Travis Wright

    Great scoop, Danny.  Amazing to get him to talk so candidly about this topic.  Today is a big day in the future of what we all do in this search industry, and now game has changed.  I’m pretty impressed with how they’ve integrated my G+ with “My World” but yeah, FB and Twitter is needed, and I doubt that it happens.  I hope that I’m wrong. 

    I just searched for Motley Crue, because I heard they were going to be in Vegas… I just saw all of my friends on G+ who like Motley Crue, who shared one of the videos on YouTube… the future of this is absolutely amazing.

  • Рза-Вда-Рти Чытыри

    About nofollow – with all those url shorteners it’s highly unlikly that google will find the same link on other sites.

  • Tracey Renzullo

    Excellent article! Thank you for your insights. They are always excellent.  We’ll all be watching this story unfold. 

  • http://www.socialcubix.com/services/mobile/android-application-development Android Game Developer

    Hmm I liked it as you described is really awesome.

  • http://twitter.com/rossdunn Ross Dunn

    Thanks for posting that update Danny.  Eric Schmidt is a useless interview though isn’t he? Has anyone ever gotten anything of use out of him? Anyway, the only reason I can see which could bear out why Twitter & Facebook (public) social content has not been added is that the content would have to be translated from what it was (a page indexed) into a series of posts/signals split into the Google Search Plus results. That said I am totally reaching here trying to see some logic behind Google’s seemingly ridiculous decision not to include that content.

    PS. I enjoyed the, err.. flattering image of Schmidt used. :-D

  • http://about.me/andrewgirdwood Andrew Girdwood

    A great write up and a really interesting issue. I certainly get the feeling there is a layer here that’s not being discussed more publicly.

    In part, I wonder if Google’s anti-monopoly defence is a factor. As I understand it Google can’t be seen to be using its success in search in order to support its ambitions in other areas. Okay! We’re already in a grey area with this one – but I wonder, for legal reasons, Google needs more than what their search success makes technically possible (ie,the robots.txt) with permissions and needs an if-we-didn’t-crawl alternative.

  • Anonymous

    Really good post – I agree with Andrew – this seems like a case of hitting the objections face on and upfront ready for anti monopoly type discussions. I would have believed it more if Google had said hey, we have proactively contacted Facebook and twitter for inclusion rather than saying ‘if you could arrange a letter’ – unless Danny is happy to moderate this whole issue? :)

  • Anonymous

    I don’t understand all this backlash. Social is the future, and sooner or later Google was gonna HAVE to integrate Google+ into Search, just as they have done with Gmail, Reader, aka any other Google service. It was only a matter of time. “Anti-competitive”? What’s the alternative? Do nothing and hope technology doesn’t evolve? Oh, and be crushed under the giant FacebookMicrosoftNokia triple alliance that’s being built? Google is completely in their right to take its destiny into its own hands.

    Plus, you can turn thr personalized results off with one click, for God’s sake. It’s not even hidden under Settings, it’s a huge toggle in the top right of every results page. Making a mountain out of a molehill. Classic sensationalism.

  • Anonymous

    Great work Danny, thank you for a post that gives a clear perspective of the arguments from both sides of the spectrum without a bias. I don’t think there can be a definitive answer to who is right or wrong at the at the current state that the situation is in. While Google has a point that Facebook won’t open their indexes up to them and that Twitter has put no follows on their pages, they are clearly using these relatively small issues as a form of self-validation for violating the core foundations of their integrity of a search engine built on principles of relevancy, by ranking a clearly less superior Google + over Facebook and Twitter pages. As Andrew mentioned, Google can’t use it’s success in search to advance their ambitions in other areas without become a target for allegations of monopolizing.

  • http://twitter.com/badams Barry Adams

    Google shoving Google+ in our face – without doing the same for other social networks – is a classic case of abuse of one’s market position. Especially in light of Google’s manipulation of +1 upvotes in its AdWords ads, encouraging clicks on ads that might not otherwise happen by leveraging misleading +1 upvotes as social proof.

    I applaud Danny for asking the tough questions, but Schmidt’s answers were case studies in passing the buck & avoiding the real issues.

  • http://soemarko.com/ soemarko

    So, how was the search result ranked? Does the actual information (assuming you searched because you wanted to know where and when and how to get the ticket) appear on top of the results or drop below the page fold (or even not on page 1)?

    I have a feeling that it’s the latter. Hence, I have my search+ disabled atm.

  • http://twitter.com/Tracy_Falke Tracy Falke

    OMG, I LOVE Eric Schmidt interviews. Well done Danny!  I just wish he’d made on of his remarkable statements.  The Twitter battle interests me most, as I find the content the more intelligent and faster than Facebook or G+.  IMHO, where Twitter goes – market share will follow. A Microsoft/Bing/FB/Twitter alliance could dent web search market share in a huge way. Question is: does Google care?  Especially when they have nearly 100% of the mobile search market share…

  • http://twitter.com/Tracy_Falke Tracy Falke

    I am certain there have been letters, discussions and much more. However, every web service has it’s price. Google are the most notorious and stingy of negotiators, so it is within their right to refuse to pay for Twitter’s firehose.  They still give preference to twitter and fb platforms in SERPs, so they’ll slide by with no problem on the monopoly discussion.  If they’re broken up, it’ll be in part  bc of their horrific new adwords rollover links. hahah.  

  • michael lawley

    Danny, surely the Facebook “smear campaign” provides a perfect illustration of why Schmidt is saying that it’s better (necessary) to have the conversation, rather than just relying on nofollow and robots.txt?

  • http://www.youtube.com/abrahamstech David Abraham

    Give me a total break. Everybody is forgetting about Facebook’s nasty attempts to shape anti-google sentiment last year. That was probably only the tip of the iceberg. Use your brains instead of just piling on.

  • http://www.kleemi.com Bruce Wayne

    ..Battle of the intermediaries…For me the framework of the discussion around the issues are upside down…All of the companies involved are making decisions about “Community” cerated content/data without taking into consideration the views of the “Community”.

    All of the decisions of Twiiter,FB, and Google are based on generating revenue from “Community” content that has been siloed …..So interesting to see part of the debate concerning rel=nofollow ….as it has been applied to “Community” content by companies that they have not created or own the content….Maybe one day members of the “Communities” can decided to use or not to use rel=nofollow ….I think it works this way outside  of the Silos…..

  • Anonymous

    How do you know they have not contact Facebook and Twitter directly. 

    It seem to me from Schmidt statement that they have been trying to get such letters and have failed in there attempts so have requested the author try to do it for them.

    I suspect the author will struggle to get that letter to. 

  • http://twitter.com/caseycarpenter caseycarpenter

    With the history and issues they had with using publicly available Yelp data its fairly easy to see why they want formal approvals upfront this time around. Its likely that both Facebook and Twitter dont want their content in G+ streams as it would allow easier movement off their networks. 

  • David Rekuc

    Maybe I’ve overlooked exactly how this works, but has this in any way effected Twitters CURRENT visibility on Google?  As far as I can see, Google offered a feature to those opted-in to Google+ and logged in.  To any user that hasn’t specifically asked for its Google products to communicate, Twitter has had no change in visibility.

    Why wasn’t there an uproar when G+ integrated with Youtube?  In both scenarios, I have to have a G+ account and be logged in, I don’t see the difference.  2 Google products interacting, but as soon as its search everyone screams anti-trust sentiments.

    If Google does broker a deal to integrate this new feature with Facebook & Twitter, how is that fair to other social sites?  Why doesn’t reddit get included, what about tumblr?  Where do you draw the line?

  • http://www.facebook.com/cristian.ditoiu Cristian Ditoiu

    excuse me gentlemens but last time i checked neither google, facebook or twitter were non-profit organizations.
    Google did what it had to be done to get more customers->more ads displayed->more money. where on . 10 dollars spent on facebook ads are 10 bucks lost for adsense and viceversa.

  • http://www.it-green.co.uk/hard%20drive%20recycling.html Data Destruction

    Google’s always been very open about what it does on line.  It’s the SEOer’s online that muddy the waters.  The issue in reality is that Google has to be extremely careful not to be seen as a monopoly, which happened in the EU back end of last year: Dec 2011: European antitrust regulators are set to issue a 400-page statement of objections accusing Google of Abuse of Dominance next month, the result of an investigation launched last year after complaints from rivals that Google manipulated ad pricing and barred advertisers from running ads on rival sites.
    All told, I don’t see what the real issue is here.  All three are platforms operating near independant of each other- where’s the issue? when Google used twitter for real time search, itwas extensively spammed.  Google+ won’t hurt my business as you need to be logged in to see it.  If they openedd up Google+, then all hell would break loose, it would be spammed to bits and the antitrust lobbies would of course then have a field day.  Google needs to keep thisgenie well and truly bottled up!

  • http://twitter.com/blossomnu Jenni B

    URL shorteners are ignored for that. It’s the original link that is looked at.

  • http://twitter.com/griffingranberg griffin granberg

    Great interview and update Danny!  I’m glad someone “talks shop” so to speak with Eric and valiant effort to cut thru the bs :)

  • http://twitter.com/blossomnu Jenni B

    Your results will still be personalised to some degree, even if you turn personalised search off.

  • http://twitter.com/gaseousbrain Milo McLaughlin

    Here’s why Twitter doesn’t want Google to have free access to tweets – because Google would make adwords dollars from real-time search results that are directly supplied by Twitter and Twitter would have no way to monetise their content.

  • Anonymous

    Crawling for content is never a valid solution considering the content provider can block a service from crawling their data.  An unexpected sudden block from a third-party site/application leaves a bad experience for a user once the user’s expectation is the data should be readily available through the application.  Google is right, a formal agreement needs to be put into place.

  • http://www.webmaxformance.com Igor Mateski

    From a less-SEO perspective, and more from an approach a business owner would have, I think that regardless of what Google and Facebook/Twitter hurl at each other, Google+ is a step that was expected, so Google can have a proprietary mechanism of gauging social entanglement and include it in generating tailor-made SERPs. The bottom line is that Google is for-proffit, relying on PPC as primary cash cow, so why not do what Facebook is already doing and yet nobody’s really complaining of FB using tailor-made PPC pitches. I took the time to write a rather pragmatic view on Google+, from a business owner’s perspective: http://www.webmaxformance.com/social-media/why-your-website-needs-a-google-plus-button.html

  • Anonymous

    You never draw the line.  You add them all as fast as you can, completely personalizing search!

  • Hari Prasanth

    Could you please explain me how ???

  • Anonymous

    lol basically exactly the same thing Microsoft did to Netscape.

  • http://twitter.com/rdc000 rdc000

    I would say that all of your images are a little distracting from your main point. I’m pretty sure that all of those red arrows point to information released by you or another individual to Google which not quite the same as Google indexing facebook en masse. In fact parsing that mess in able to work with this new “feature” would be placing an undue burden on Google in the interest of “fairness”. I don’t think asking for database level access if they want facebook identities to appear alongside Google+ ones, just give them a restricted set of fields. That field restriction would have to include users’ own privacy settings because you can’t have one company giving another access to individuals’ data without their consent right? Google should just set up an account and try to friend everyone and pump that feed right into their servers.

  • kibbles
  • kibbles

    so?

  • kibbles

    here’s a follow up, in which Danny is not using personalized search:

    http://searchengineland.com/examples-google-search-plus-drive-facebook-twitter-crazy-107554

  • kibbles

    for profit orgs must still play by certain rules. google Microsoft and bundling.

  • kibbles

    funny, that hasn’t stopped search engines like google from crawling billions and billions of pages into their indexes so far.

  • kibbles

    friend everyone. right.

    sorry, but crawling public data is what google is in the business of doing. see an interesting follow up …

    http://searchengineland.com/examples-google-search-plus-drive-facebook-twitter-crazy-107554

  • http://www.victusspiritus.com/ Mark Essel

    Appreciate the great coverage Danny. 

    We’ll win as consumers if the big 3 can find common ground (or a framework) for exchanging our social information while improving their core products.

  • http://www.youtube.com/abrahamstech David Abraham

    So? Okay I’ll play along: Sew,Stitch,Needlepoint.

  • http://www.youtube.com/abrahamstech David Abraham

    Exactly, I think half these tech bloggers should just join the US political race where brainless attacks are normal and acceptable…and logic is anathema.

  • Carlos G. Limardo

    They should have included Despora links or another more open social networks just to prove a point. The celebs page that Google does link to though the person running that page can choose to link to whatever social site they want to from there as a side note.

  • Anonymous

    It’s all about expectation.  When Twitter pulled out of the original agreement it was plastered all across tech news on how Google had a major setback for providing social content for it’s users.  A company has to protect itself against bad press, especially ones that can be avoided.

    Fool me once…

  • Anonymous

    Not the same at all. Microsoft owned the core of the computing experience. Google doesn’t own the internet or search choosing a different search provider is 9 clicks away B_I_N_G_._C_O_M [ENTER]

  • http://GrowMap.com Gail Gardner

    LOL…”Google+ content is not being favored”….”Google+ content is not being favored”….”Google+ content is not being favored”….just keep repeating that until the masses believe it is true.

  • http://www.imarksweb.net Vivian Chen

    Its better to keep them apart.

  • http://twitter.com/sarahweeksy Sarah Weeks

    Oh my word it’s so competitive! I hope that one day Facebook, Twitter, Google + will all work on a way to operate simulataneously so that we can more easily update all status’ at once. Maybe Google + would have been more successful if it was more syncable. Thanks for this post,
    Sarah

  • http://twitter.com/SpeakOneToOne Speak

     I hope that one day Facebook, Twitter, Google + will all work on a way to operate simulataneously so that we can more easily update all status’ at once. Maybe Google + would have been more successful if it was more syncable. Thanks for this post
    Sarah

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