Tag Archives: social search

Google social search and Twitter: natural bedfellows?

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.

More referrals from social media than from search?

There’s a startling assumption buried as a throwaway comment on this post from TechCrunch on Google Buzz’s recent arrival. Apparently, links shared on social networks have been growing to the extent that the mighty Goog is concerned that this phenomenon could start taking eyeballs away from all those juicy paid search ads that keep the lights on at the Googleplex. Is there any validity to this claim? It appears so, if these data points are to be believed:

The Big Money: According to Compete.com, Google lags behind Facebook in driving traffic to major portals like Yahoo, AOL and MSN.

Silicon Alley Insider: This report last year claimed 19% of Google traffic came from Facebook (and that number is growing).

Compete.com: As you can see below, Facebook is rapidly gaining ground on Google. Golden question is what proportion of this audience are clicking on links taking them out of the blue-walled garden and into the wider web?

Anecdotally, I’ve heard on the web manager grapevine that a larger proportion of traffic appears to be coming from social media – eating into the portion of the pie previously reserved for traditional search engines. Another indication of this is the number and attendance of social search sessions at major SEO events like SES.

What does this mean? Whoever owns the largest share of our life streams (the current killer app of social media) enjoys the strongest visibility and all the financial frills that follow. Also, given that we show strong signs of adopting a crowd mentality when being ‘social’ online, the chances of the market fragmenting look slim. We will all congeal our content around a handful of platforms (if that) at the top of this lucrative pile.

And then there’s all those paychecks tied to Google’s golden egg – here I’m thinking more of the huge search marketing industry that has risen up over the last 10 years. Skill sets will shift away from the technical aspects of SEO (goodbye masters of canonical URLs and 301 redirects) to more touchy-feely PR (hello reputation managers and online community builders). Key concepts in SEO are still relevant, like creating modular topic-based content, but there will be some shifts. Rather than looking for links from authoritative sites, we’ll need to understand more about who are the authoritative figures in a network.

Where will Google be in all of this? It looks like the search giant is hedging its bets with the launch of Gmail Buzz: a lifestreaming service that sits atop the versatile Gmail email client. The future is looking distinctly social.