The battle for attention in search results: will Google Posts replace Twitter?

At first glance, it seems like Twitter has some strong, new competition: will Google Posts take Twitter’s place? Probably not. As Recode’s Mark Bergen writes: “Twitter shouldn’t be too worried, though. When a subject is trending, the Twitter content might surface above Google’s new carousel in the search results.” It’s also still not clear that the new feature won’t hurt Google’s most valuable asset— its search experience.

Google Posts ()

Screenshot:Google Posts

Google Posts debuted in the last week of January as a way for US political campaigns to post their own text, photos and video to be displayed in search results. For example, if you type “Clinton on immigration,” a little box comes up presenting a statement from the Clinton campaign on immigration, as well as media quotes from Clinton on the subject. This feature allows candidates to publish long-form rebuttals to each other, and makes it easier for voters to understand the politicians’ positions on key issues. Then, at the beginning of March, search expert Mike Blumenthal noticed a change: Google had begun extending the Posts feature to small businesses.

Blumenthal noticed a test-run of the new feature while searching for an engagement ring in Buffalo, New York. It allows small businesses to use swipeable “business cards” to share their content in search results. Google has announced it is now extending the feature to major public figures and organisations. For now, the ability to publish with Google Posts has been by invitation only, and there is currently a waitlist for those who want to be able to publish. 

Some think that Google Posts could be a threat to Twitter. The purpose and functioning of the services are similar, so content from Google and Twitter may now be competing. In fact, the Google Posts content has been pushing Twitter content down in search results. Google Posts content tends to appear near the top of the results list, and has a form that catches attention. It seems that Google is using the Posts feature in an attempt to increase the clicks it gets from mobile users. Or, the company could be building interest in the feature and promoting it with the plan of later charging publishers for its use once it is popular.

However, Google Posts may not be a threat to Twitter after all. While there are similarities between the functioning of Twitter and Google Posts, there are also important differences. Google allows posts to include a much a higher number of characters, as well as up to 10 images or video. Also, Twitter is focused mostly on the most recent news and updates, while Google Posts so far focuses mostly on providing the most relevant information. So, users might go to Twitter and Google Posts for different things. Also, as Bergen explains, when Twitter content is trending, it could still appear above Google Posts. 

Going forward, Google will have to be very careful about how it develops the Posts feature. If marketers and brands are given too free a reign, the ads popping up in search results could turn users off. So far, Google Posts has only been tested on a small scale with a very limited number of publishers. We will have to see what the search experience is like once Google Posts is in full operation. For now it is for sure a nice opportunity for publishers to place their content high up in Google’s search results.

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