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Google Gets Social

Written by Tom | 18-Feb-2011 14:03:00

Google announced yesterday an expansion of their social search results. Your friends activity on Twitter, Flickr and elsewhere will soon feature alot more prominently in search results as well as impacting page rankings. This is being rolled out onto Google.com first (English) but will likely be rolled out onto other domains.

Previously social search results only appeared at the bottom of the SERPs or after clicking the "Social" filter in the left hand side column. Now Google are integrating social recommendations including likes, blog posts and twitter posts into search results from your friends which will be "bumped up" in the listings.

For example, if you're connected to Google's Matt Cutts and search for 'climbing kilimanjaro' you might see a blog post that he shared through a service like Twitter or Google Buzz quite high on page one.

In some cases, Google will merely be annotating results with a social search indicator. Google's traditional ranking algorithms will determine where a listing should appear, but the listing will be enhanced to reflect any social element to it.

In other cases, the social search element will change a page's ranking ie making the page appear higher than "normal". This is a personalized feature based on an individual's social relationships. The ranking impact will be different based on how strong social connections are, and different people will see different results.

This works via the social relationships you have on Twitter, Quora and many other sites which you and your friends have listed in your Google Profile. A new Google Account setting allows you to add social networking sites to your Google Profile. Your social network connections will not be shown to the public on your Google Profile but can still influence your results.

Bing gained attention at the end of last year when it added "Facebook Liked Results" a way for those searching on Bing to easily see what their friends liked on Facebook in response to a search, along with general search results from across the web. Despite Google's wide expansion of Social Search, the changes don't include any Facebook "Like" activity, even if you've added your Facebook page to your social profile.

In lieu of Facebook Likes, Google's movement makes Twitter results stands out. What people tweet has turned into an easy way for Google to get "Like" data into its search results — "Twitter Likes," that is.

For advertisers, this means that the optimisation of your social community is increasingly important – how much are your potential & current customers engaging with your brand? Are influential bloggers writing about you? Who is tweeting about you?

The time for developing Social, SEO and PR interlinked strategies is now.