Social search is the now the latest trend in the ever evolving world of search engines. You may wonder if it really affects your website’s search engine rankings. The answer is yes, it does. But first…
What is this new search phenomenon?
Basically, it’s all about getting more personalised search results using people’s social activities and connections.
Google has now incorporated the social side of results whenever you search while logged in to your Google account; initially, social search on Google which was launched way back in 2009 was optional. if you search for ‘hotels in London’ on Google (while logged in) you’ll get the regular search results blended in with the activities of your social circle of friends. For instance, if a friend blogged about the same term in your search query, the blog post will appear as among the top results.
Google’s Social Search: In the beginning there was twitter, Quora and Flickr
Google started their social search with Twitter, Quora and Flickr, later adding Google Plus posts relevant to the search query. The activities of your connections on these sites, are integrated in such a way that when you get a relevant web page and they happened to share it, you’ll get the message ‘YourFriend Joe’ shared this on Twitter. Your social connections also include the list of people on your Gmail contacts.
Social Search Effectiveness
For a broader variety of search results, your Google profile has to be linked to many social networks. If you link your profile to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more, it means that your network of friends on the web is much more expansive. What they do on the major social networks: sharing, bookmarking, or blogging influences the results you’ll get. This new method is designed to give you more ‘trusted’ and relevant results as the general assumption is that what your friends find useful is likely to be useful to you too.
There’s no partnership agreement in place between Facebook and Google as is the case with Facebook and Bing. Bing extracts data from Facebook and will give more importance to pages shared by your friends on Facebook, while Google now integrates public Google+ posts and tweets in their search results. Other social networks and bookmarking sites, when linked to your Google profile, also play a part as your friends’ post on these will be deemed quite relevant to you.
Why do ‘we’ need Social Search?
The aim of social search is, quite simply, to personalise your search experience. Both Google and Bing use ‘social signals’ in their latest search algorithms to determine which page would rank higher in their search results page.
Social signals in this case mean the pointers from social sites about the popularity of a page. You’re probably already familiar with three of the most popular buttons to be found on blogs today: Facebook ‘Like’, Google’s +1 button and the Tweet button. The more users like a page, Tweet it or +1 it, the more popular the page is, and search engines will take note of this. It’s also already common knowledge that if your content is shared or bookmarked more, then it should rank higher in the searches – but this is getting even more significant with the introduction of social search.
Social search impacting your online visibility efforts?
Well, you’d have to adjust the efforts to focus more on improving your social media presence. For individuals and businesses alike, having accounts in all the major social sites is becoming a must. And not just accounts, but active, lively accounts. The fact is, social data is now much more relevant to search engine rankings.
Both Google and Bing have confirmed that they do analyze the ‘authority’ or popularity of a Twitter account, as part of their social search scheme, to determine the importance of a link shared by that person. Simply put, having a high number of followers means that your account is popular and therefore carries a bigger PageRank, hence considered an authority source. Therefore, the relation between having a popular Twitter account linked with your website and getting higher online visibility is direct.
As things are looking right now, the search industry is not about to go down anytime soon thanks to the introduction of social search. The major search engines are giving more importance to backlinks from the top social sites as well as personalising every user’s search experience. On-site SEO efforts like adding social signal buttons (Like, Tweet, +1) are now more crucial than ever in directly optimising your online visibility.