Google’s New Social Search Creates Opportunity

by Brett Pollard on February 1, 2010

Last week, Google announced the public beta release of Social Search.  The announcement was met with little fanfare as it happened to be on the same day as Apple’s iPad event.  However, the potential for SEO and other marketing opportunities created by this new shift in search should not be overlooked.

What is social search?

Google’s concept of social search places greater relevance on content from people/organizations in your own social circle.  In other words, Google will actually display content on the first page of their search results from those which you have a social media connection.  More importantly, this works in reverse.  Your own content has a better chance of being displayed in Google search results if you have a connection to the individual performing a search.

The video below is a nice demonstration from Google showing social search in action.

How social search works?

Understanding how social search works will help you to make a greater impact with the public content you are currently offering online.  By analyzing your social connections, Goolge creates a “circle” of those you are likely to find more interesting than others.  This circle determines what content may be displayed in the social search portion of the results.  Google currently determines your social circle in 3 different ways.

  1. Public Google profile – When you set up your Google profile, you have the option of adding different social accounts such as a blog,  Twitter, Friendfeed, Flickr and Youtube.  You have the option of including or excluding any of your social accounts.  Accounts you choose to include in your profile will be publicly visible to others and also be used to determine your social circle.  For example, if you add your Twitter account, Google assumes those you are following as part of circle.  Consequently, you will be part of the social circles created by your own followers if they add their Twitter account to their own Google profile.
  2. Google chat buddies – Interestingly, it isn’t your Gmail address book that determines more social connections.  Rather, anyone added to your Google chat will automatically become part of your social circle.
  3. Google reader subscriptions – Blogs you subscribe to through Google reader are also added to your social circle.  This is a very logical step in the evolution of search because your subscriptions indicate which online content your value most.  So if I do a search for “Facebook fan page tips”, Google will now assume articles generated from those sites in which I subscribe may be more relevant.

Content from your social circle is displayed at the bottom of the first page of search results.  In order for this to happen, you must be logged into your Google account and you must have a public Google profile.  When Google social search was launched as an “experiment” back in October, Matt Cutts released an informative video detailing how Google determines who is actually in your social circle (see below).

Why social search matters?

The primary goal of social search is to continue the ongoing effort by Google of making your search results more personal.  Clearly this new offering will have the desired effect for those who use it.

When our algorithms determine that it would improve your search experience we surface public content from your social circle at the bottom of the search results.

Matt Cutts, Google Search Quality Group

More importantly, it reemphasizes the importance of building your influence online by continuing to create new connections through social media.  The more connected you are with others, the more your content will be displayed in the social circle search results.

Obviously, this works for businesses as well.  Would your business benefit by more people seeing the content it has generated?  Google’s new social search is just one more reason businesses should embrace social media and connect with consumers.

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