While everybody is talking about content farms right now, most people seem to overlook the far more important change that took place recently: Google has incorporated social search results right into the regular ones.
Until now they displayed searches by your Twitter, FriendFeed or Google Buzz friends below the regular organic results. These changes are even more profound; I can’t explain them in a few short sentences. What’s clear though is that for power users who have a Google account, there has been another important layer of personalisation added.
The rankings differ significantly when logged in and out. For instance I see shared results for the keyword [seo] on #3 and #5, while they are usually #5 and #7 behind the Google News results. Compare the two screenshots below, the logged in version comes first.
Social search is not just Google though. Google is late to the party. There have been several first generation social search engines around since 2009 or earlier, but most of them haven’t survived or only offer a poor user experience and search quality. On the other hand there are plenty of new tools out there – not necessarily search engines as we know them – that offer unmatched social search capabilities.
Last but not least, Bing and Blekko offer Facebook search, which Google does not. So it’s time to dig deeper into search, both from an end user and an SEO specialist perspective. Thus I have compiled one of my infamous lists: 30 Social Search Tools & SEO Resources for Power Users.
Definition and features of the new Google social search
What is social search? How can you use it? Which results are social, and how are they determined? I won’t answer these questions. Google and other publications have already explained and visualised it:
Bing Social Search (Facebook Search)
While Google uses Twitter, Google Buzz, Friendfeed, and even Quora and other results from the sites you have connected on your Google profile, it doesn’t have access to your Facebook data. Microsoft Bing does.
Other Social Search tools (non-Google and non-Bing)
You don’t have to rely on the two big players to get social search from your online friends and colleagues. You can use third party tools, which often do an even better job at facilitating social search, be they browser extensions, similar site collections or less known search engines.
Social Search SEO for Google and Beyond
OK, so now you agree that social search is probably the future of search, or you at least you consider the ramifications of all these tools and changes as a webmaster. Other people have done that before you. What do SEO specialists consider to be the impact of social search on SEO?
The history of Google social search (newest first)
For all those who haven’t followed social search in the past, while it was evolving, take a look at where it came from and how it developed. As I said in the first paragraph, social search has been around for years and what we see now is already the second wave of more advanced social search tools.
Issues and Trends
While social search might be the next big thing, it also raises some eyebrows. Do you really want Google to know who your friends are? Do you trust the social search tools and your online friends? Once we admit that social search is about to stay, how will the future look when it becomes more popular?
Why is this list geared to power users? The average searcher might still frown upon social media enhanced search, as they prefer to use Google in the same way that they did for the last decade. For the others, Google appears to become more and more low quality, despite the latest “farmer update”. Some content farms have even been winners in this update.
So advanced searchers are frantically trying to leverage their social connections to get better search results.
For good reason, it’s sometimes better to trust people you know, or at least large groups of people liking something, than algorithms counting words and links, especially as hardly anybody links naturally anymore.