While Facebook struggles to make hashtags work in the Newsfeed, Google is employing the maligned metadata tag in an alternative and potentially more successful way. Their approach is to attach any Google search for a hashtag directly to content shared on Google Plus.
When users search Google for a hashtag like #BreakingBad, a rotating stream of relevant Google Plus posts will appear in the righthand column of the results page. As you can see in the example below, these Google Plus posts do not even need to include a hashtag; in this case, the presence of the term alone (un-hashtagged “Breaking Bad”) pulls that Google Plus content into the results page.
This special column is reserved for content from Google Plus, but hashtagged posts from other networks like Facebook and Twitter are not entirely irrelevant. In the screenshot below, you’ll notice the clickable option to search the same hashtag on either Facebook or Twitter, as well as a number of organic search results from both Facebook and Twitter.
When ads appear for a hashtagged search term, that Google Plus content feed is simply pushed below them.
This hashtag update is Google’s latest attempt to pull users into Google Plus by giving the content shared there more weight in search. The question is, do enough users actually search with hashtags to make this update relevant?