Google Social Search powers out of the gate with a global rollout in 19 languages starting in the US but rolled out over the coming weeks, but it’s not clear if this will delay the rollout of +1 or if the two products will eventually be combined into a single platform. Google Social Search is not new it was first rolled out as a search experiment back in 2009 but it appears to have mostly sat on the sidelines for the past 2 years with only gradual improvements. The growth in the value of social media is clear but the only point that is left out in this arms race is the winner will have a solution that requires no real effort to use on a daily basis and the flood of new share buttons will just annoy most users and very few businesses will choose to implement into their websites.
Google cannot afford to lose it’s gain to the combined Facebook/Bing platform but the question is will chasing trends keep it ahead of it’s competitors or lead it away from it’s core competencies of making massive piles of money for it’s investors? Google has tried and failed with most of it’s social products because it’s not a core part of the companies DNS so what will make +1 or Social Search any different?
Impact on Search Traffic?
The obvious change is that any websites with a large number of shares by friends/connections will get far more attention from viewers and also help lift their CTR as you can see below in the heatmap test. The only issue is that having social shares and likes is great until they are so common the only one that stands out is the website that has none, so in a strange twist of irony will being unpopular be the new trend in 2012 to stand out in the SERPs?
AdWords CTR Impact?
The Google +1 platform initially has a far smaller impact on AdWords as the +1 button is typically blended into the background but when you move your mouse over the button it changes to a brightly colour box with an annoying popup message advising you to “recommend this page”. This extra distraction from the visitors clicking on your AdWords result and also how will Social Search integrate into AdWords will it advise what AdWords results your friends have clicked on and will that massive invasion of privacy lead to consumers abandoning the AdWords platform or Social Search?
There are estimated to be just over 10,072,000 Australian users on Facebook which is far less than the population of Australia of 21,874,900, so 54% of the population is likely not able to take advantage of the new Bing/Google products. Even accepting a number of these people may never user the internet much at all, that is still a fairly large portion of their possible users that can never offer Bing/Google any social signals on what content they like or their friends like because they don’t use platforms like Twitter or Facebook. The only interesting insight into the Bing solution according to FastCompany is they their solution won’t always rely on Facebook likes to understand what is related or suitable.
How can you customise and improve your Google social search results?
As Google is a company built on data they need to expand their data points that they know about you and your friends but unlike Bing/Facebook they can only do this by you expanding the number of public profiles you have starting with a Google profile. They then need you to add links to all your public connections such as your link to your blogs/websites and also connect your public Twitter and Flickr accounts to your Google Account/Profile. To further increase the data points they understand about you, following this you should find people to follow on Google Buzz, but also remember to add all your friends and contacts in your Google contacts and categorise them by friends/family/coworkers to complete the circle of trust. Now when you do a friend/collegue a favour by sharing or liking a piece of content of theirs your vote will likely be discounted due to the close personal connection, so be careful how many pieces of the puzzle you link up….
To finish off the pieces of the Google’s social search puzzel, they also need your to start subscribing to people on Google Reader to be automatically subscribed to all that person’s shared items, this enables them to start to evaluate which celebrities should have a greater share of voice in social search based on the number of lemmings following them. Just as Twitter has it’s own internal social analytics to understand trust and Facebook has EdgeRank Google needs you to fill in the blanks for it’s social search product to function.
2011 Updates to Google Social Search
Bing Likes Facebook
Last week Bing started the rollout of their “Friend Effect” to their search results, so you will start to see more personalised search results based on the opions of your friends and can see what your friends like across the web. According to Bing research the “Friend Effect” helps deal with the 80% of decisions that are delayed until you can get a friend’s stamp of approval, which can last from a few minutes to a few days. The only side issues around the Facebook tie-in is the possible issues of privacy of user data and how elements you share privately maybe made public to your friends and connections via Bing search results. Currently Bing “Friend Effect” is only available within the USA but will be rolled out internationally over the next few months once the bugs are ironed out.
The elements of the Bing “Friend Effect” is made up of a few key elements
- Trusted Friends – liked results, answers and websites, more personalised results
- Collective IQ – popular sites, integration of social messages
- Conversational Search – expanded Facebook profile search, travel wish list, friends who live there, flight deals, shared shopping lists
Impact on Bing CTRs?
It’s also harder to estimate the possible impact of Bing social search integration as the team has removed all the photos from their official blog post, but you can see their video about the platform here Facebook Friends Now Fueling Faster Decisions on Bing (VIDEO)