Google has now officially rolled out the latest iteration of its social search which includes much tighter integration between social elements and what the big search giant is commonly known for uncovering: web pages.
Google has been displaying results from social networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn and its own Buzz in its search results pages, but these were typically segmented out at the bottom of the page.
With the latest update, these are now intermingled with other page results:
(see the first and third result)
The New York Times points out benefits, such as seeing links to pictures from your friend who recently went to Mexico when performing holiday searches for that same destination.
I’m not convinced this will hit such mainstream applications for one reason. There’s a big elephant that is still not in the room: Facebook.
Let’s face it, this is where most of the sharing happens. According to recent reports, we’re talking about 100 million photos a day that just wouldn’t make it into the Google search result pages. Going back to the New York Times example, there’s a big chance that Facebook is where those Mexico pictures would have been posted, so they’ll never make it to the Google search results page.
What kind of results will show up? Areas where Twitter is particularly strong: news (as the recent events in Egypt made clear), technical information (eg. the code samples and tips often searched for by developers), and location-based searches that could show up results from Foursquare, Gowalla and other similar services from local searches.
At the individual level, those who stand to gain are those who have built up a following by sharing content – the curators. (A by-product of social search could be an increase in SEOs employing Twitter curation/syndication models). It will also help breakdown the time zone barrier that has long segmented the Twitter crowd: if you post a Tweet at lunchtime in London, it will be pushed way out of my Twitter feed by the time I wake up in San Francisco. However, if you happen to be in my network, I could see your tweets show up in my search results, even weeks after the tweet.
If these social results start showing up in a larger number of searches, this is obviously a boon for Twitter (as well as the other networks Google features). It’s effectively a free SEO boost.
And what could be construed as a snub to Facebook.
The fight for content from each other’s network has been pretty public. Will this be enough pressure from Google to force Facebook’s hand into releasing its well-guarded trove of user activity data?
That remains to be seen. One potential issue of adoption is that Google social search is heavily tied to Google Profiles and the search giant still has some way to go to make these as visible and user-friendly as other services out there (um, Facebook springs to mind).
Still, go ahead and hook up your Twitter/LinkedIn/YouTube accounts to your Google profile and try social search for yourself.