Google Social Search

Google is testing out a big new idea – Google Social Search – and it could have big implications for how it ranks pages in its search listings. Google Social search was announced at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco at the end of October, it’s still under development, but even just its existence gives a clear indication of how Google’s mind is working.

In essence, Google is planning to offer content from the searcher’s social network in addition to its normal listings. So if I have published content on Twitter or a blog on, say, a basketball match that I have watched and someone in my social circle searches for something on basketball, then my content will appear at the bottom of the page under the heading “Results from people in your social circle.” Of course, you will need to be signed into your Google account to see this feature.

Apart from the privacy implications (!!) it does show how important Google thinks social networking is. That might not be exactly news but Social Search does take it to a new level.

Google first has to determine who is in your social circle. It is planning to do this by looking at places like

• FriendFeed
• Feeds you are following in Google Reader
• Gmail contacts
• Youtube
• Picassa
• Sites you have listed in your Google Profile
• Twitter

and any other social networking sites that you are subscribed to and on which you are connected to friends.

Google will go one degree of connection further, so will include content posted by friends of your friends.

Whether or not Social Search proves popular is not really what is important. What is perhaps more interesting is that it shows Google is increasingly tracking your social profile – and knowing Google, it would be very surprising if this information does not end up being used in its rankings algorithm.

So it strongly suggests that you – or more importantly from an SEO point of view – your website needs, more than ever, to work on developing a good social profile. Put another way. Google looks like it is developing a system whereby connections could become as important as links. For company websites, that translates into how many people read your blog or have your RSS feed in their Google Reader or follow your Tweets.

Of course Google is keen to assure us all that only content that we have proactively put in the public domain will be used, but even so the whole idea is pretty scary.

Matt Cutts, the human face of Google search has put out a video explaining exactly how Google will be trawling our social networks to work out our social circles. He also reassures us all that, as always, Google is doing this to “improve your search experience”. And yes that really is a direct quote from the video.

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