Earlier this week Google announced the full incorporation of social search into their algorithm, a service it’s identifying as “all the goodness of Google” with “opinions of people you care about.” While this maysound familiar as Google has used social functionality in search since 2009, this newest effort is unique and powerful. Google’s search algorithm has consistently led the way in making results more relevant and predictive of consumer behavior, having incorporated dynamic elements beginning with keyword density in the early days, to linking structure and unique inbound links more recently, and now to the opinions and volume of your friends’ interests.
Prior to this change, Google’s social functionality was isolated within a small area appearing at the bottom of your search results and was considered both insignificant and somewhat controversial, based on the predictive “friend-mining” techniques used to determine your network. The problem with this method was that private and unwanted information was taken from your accounts to push the idea of social search onto users rather than inciting users to come to social search.
Google learned its lesson quickly the first time (see graphic to the right) and has restructured the system to build your network through opting-in by connecting social accounts or updated internal Google account settings. The advantages offered by social search are readily evident through trial or by watching Google’s introductory video, meaning that getting users to opt-in shouldn’t be a problem.
The implications of Social Search is that results are increasingly less impacted by SEO tactics and more relevant to individual users. Social search is a powerful step forward in making quality content accessible to those looking for it and, perhaps more importantly, segmenting quality content by individual user. Organizations that want to take advantage of this functionality should do so by organically improving their engagement online and creating content that is relevant to specific sets of users. Inbound links and site structure are still of fundamental importance to ranking but augmenting your promotion efforts with cross-channel tactics is now more powerful than ever.
As more users connect their social accounts to Google and the online world becomes more like the real one, with friends’ and connections’ opinions carrying more weight than that of strangers, top marketers will have even more success in organically sharing their content and building their brand through the creation of quality, relevant content.