Since the beginning, Google’s website has been sparse. There was none of the noise present on its competitors of the time. Thus it has stayed ever since.
Even the arrival of Facebook, which has changed the way people find some types of content online and bypass Google only resulted in the launch of separate social products.
This made sense - for email, go to Gmail; video, go to YouTube and social, go to Google Plus. Given the importance of Google Search to the business this seems sensible and I do not believe this stretched the brand too far. The audience fitted, the stretch was whether Google could actually show they understood social. In the end, they were too slow to innovate and offered little above and beyond what already existed elsewhere. Google’s social platforms whilst still there seem to be on life support for now.
So why the focus on the homepage of Google? Well it has taken 20 years, but change might actually be coming. Last week Google announced its Google feed
(which has been inside Google Now for four years now) is going to be integrated first into the Google app on Android/iOS and then eventually on to the web itself. 🐖✈️
It is not focused on social (that’s Facebook) or recency (that’s Twitter) but relevance. So if Google thinks you should see a blog post from 8 months ago because of something you just did then that is what you will see.
This is a huge move for Google, albeit they are being cautious with the roll out. Now they are giving you a reason to go to the Google app or even google.com. I do not remember the last time I went to either other than to see a doodle they did - I use Google via the address bar in the browser. Unfortunately, I cannot find any research which shows how many people search via the browser address bar vs going to google.com.
Will people start actively going to either the app or google.com? Will it become the starting point and something you focus on when you open Chrome on both the desktop and mobile? Or will it fail to gain traction and eventually be shuttered?
For Google, this opens a potential new revenue stream. For now the feed has no adverts but if it does gain traction, it may be able to take advertising directly away from Facebook. A double whammy for Google.
On the other hand, another technology company tried to do this and has yet to really succeed. LinkedIn. It was mostly where you went when you wanted to find a job. Alternatively it was your business address book. It was not a destination site to spend time on. LinkedIn has tried and tried to make it so with its business news feed but I don’t see people consistently using it in the same way as Facebook. They keep trying though and with Microsoft acquiring them, who knows. Maybe it will change so dramatically that it will succeed.