Google’s Search Results Get More Social; Twitter As The New Facebook “Like”

google-social-logosYour friends’ activity on Twitter, Flickr and elsewhere — but for now, not Facebook — will soon be a lot more visible in Google’s search results, including having an impact on how pages rank. Google has announced an expansion of its Google Social Search results that’s beginning to roll out today on Google.com. Here’s a look at what’s new:

Social Search Blended Into “Regular” Results

Prior to today’s announcement, Social Search results — which Google introduced in October 2009 — only appeared at the bottom of a search results page or after clicking the “Social” filter in the left-side column. Now, you might see them mixed anywhere in the search results.

For example, if you’re connected to Google’s Matt Cutts and do a 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.

social-1

Social Connections May Boost Pages

In some cases, Google will simply be annotating results with a social search indicator, says Google’s Mike Cassidy, Product Management Director for Search. Google’s traditional ranking algorithms will determine where a listing should appear, but the listing may be enhanced to reflect any social element to it.

In other cases, the social search element will change a page’s ranking — making it appear higher than “normal.” This, I should add, is a personalized feature based on an individual’s relationships. The ranking impact will be different based on how strong your connections are, and different people will see different results.

In some ways, this is a further extension of Google Personalized Search, even though it is separate from that.

Social Search Now Includes Shared Content

Notice in the screenshot above how the first result has annotation saying “Nundu Janakiram shared this on Twitter.” Previously, Google’s Social Search only used content that was created by people in your social circle. If they wrote a blog post, that might appear. But if they tweeted someone else’s blog post, that wouldn’t. Now, what people share is included.

Cassidy says there’s a “significant increase in coverage” because Google is now using content that your circle has shared socially. That might include sharing that happens on Twitter, in Google Reader, on Quora, and many other sites you and your contacts have listed in your Google Profiles. But right now, this doesn’t include Facebook likes. More on that in a moment.

Results Can Be Both Social AND Private

A new Google Account setting allows you to add social networking accounts to your Google Profile while keeping the connections private.

In other words, your social connections won’t be shown to the public on your Google Profile, but those connection can still influence your search results. The new tool also shows accounts that it believes belong to you, too; both functions are shown here:

social-2

You may see this account connection tool right on the search results page, too, Google says.

Who Gets Social Results – And Can You Turn Them Off?

Google says it’s launching the new Social Search today on Google.com in English only, and searchers should begin to see the changes within the next week.

If you’ve never linked your Google Profile to any of your social networks — and you don’t make use of any of Google’s own social features, such as Google Reader, then you shouldn’t see social results appearing in your listings.

If you have linked your social accounts, you might wish to see “regular” results that haven’t been “socialized,” so to speak. You can only do this by logging out of Google. Otherwise, there’s no option to disable them from being blended.

Facebook “Likes” Not Included, For Now

NOTE: The portion below about Facebook and usage of Twitter was written by Search Engine Land editor-in-chief Danny Sullivan, who has focused on these area more.

Bing gained a lot of attention at the end of last year when it added “Facebook Liked Results” — a way for those searching at 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.

Why not? Cassidy said generally:

This is just the beginning, and we’re going to be doing much more to improve the comprehensiveness of Google Social Search.

Can Google Even Get Facebook Likes For Search?

Google does have a deal with Facebook that provides it with data about what happens on Facebook fan pages. Google can tell if someone likes those pages within Facebook, as well as comments left on them or status updates from the pages themselves. This is how Google began showing Facebook Page status updates in Google Realtime Search about a year ago.

However, Google doesn’t receive Facebook data that happens on personal Facebook walls in the way that Bing has been getting from Facebook since late 2009 (if that wall data is shared by their owners with “everyone”). Google also doesn’t appear to have access to non-Facebook pages that people may “Like” across the web.

Even tiny Blekko has access to Facebook Like data, for those who choose to link their Facebook accounts to Blekko. Chances are, Google still isn’t offering this because it objects to some of Facebook’s terms and conditions for having access to the data. The articles below go into more depth about that issue:

Tweets As Surrogates For Facebook Likes

For whatever reason, Google’s search results continue to lack Facebook Like, giving Bing an advantage on that front — though not one that’s proven to attract new searchers to Bing in any great numbers.

In lieu of Facebook Likes, Google’s clearly moving ahead in a different direction, using sharing that happens at a variety of other non-Facebook services as a form of Facebook Likes. In particular, Twitter 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.

More Information

Like movies? Google’s got one to explain the new social search that you can watch below:

For more about Google Social Search, Google Realtime Search, Bing’s Facebook Like Results and related topics, please see our past stories below. And hey! Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter and start improving your own search results by having us as part of your social network!

Also, consider attending Search Engine Land’s upcoming SMX West search marketing conference this March 8-10 in San Jose. Our Social Signals & Search panel features both Google’s Mike Cassidy and Bing’s Paul Yiu discussing how their search engines are making new uses of social data. Socially Yours, SMX West! covers all our search-meets-social sessions. Don’t miss it!

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: General | Google: Social Search | Google: Web Search | Top News

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://www.planetc1.com/ chiropractic

    So to be clear Matt, you are saying that people I follow should have tweets appearing in my Google search results but not tweets by those I don’t follow?

    Currently, I get the “Results from people in your social circle” at bottom of page, will watch for changes you mention.

  • http://www.mylocalis.com Adam Marsh

    They are appearing from people that I follow and don’t follow.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    chiropractic, if you’re only seeing them at the bottom like that, you’re still seeing the old version of Social Search. This should change within the week.

    Adam, Social Search results come from anyone in your “social circle,” which includes friends of friends. IE — even if you don’t know someone, you still might see something they shared because you’re connected to them through someone else.

    In a few case with news content, Google will show you social information in general, from people even if you have no connection with them at all. That’s not considered part of social search — and yeah, I know, it’s confusing. This article explains more about it:

    http://searchengineland.com/google-web-search-gets-more-social-53255

  • coryhowell

    So is it too far of a stretch to say that increasing your “network” (real or otherwise) would be beneficial for SEO purposes?

    The larger your network, the more opportunity for your shares/tweets/etc. to be displayed to friends, friends-of-friends, etc..

    Obviously there may be an authority impact/factor involved, but it still seems like it could be manipulated.

  • http://bit.ly/hg57gQ frrugal

    Seriously? This is Google’s answer to Facebook?

    Google should just stick to what they know, the blue links are doing just fine, if I want to see what my Twitter people, or Facebook friends are recommending for cars, I’ll ask them on Twitter, or Facebook.

    Anyways….next story.

  • http://www.dragonblogger.com/ Justin Germino

    Very interesting I wonder what criteria Google uses to show “who shared” an article, who they consider authority or popular enough to be listing them. Obviously they must have a way of weeding out accounts that would solely be used to try and game the system.

  • Garrett

    Matt or Danny,

    Do you guys know what percentage of searches are executed by logged-in/linked users? I’m just curious what type of impact this “may” have on SEO at this point. I’d guess that a small minority of searches will actually be affected by this, but would be curious to see if you’ve got any data.

    Thanks.

  • Matt McGee

    Garrett, I don’t know but it’s a good question. I doubt Google would share the info, though.

  • http://www.sefati.net Alireza Sefati

    With so many people on Facebook and Google not using the “like” button, I wonder what happened to their philosophy of user experienced and “what users like google like”.

  • http://www.miamiwebdesignpro.com POP_Creative@twitter

    what about hash tags? will they show up?

  • http://www.mom-venture.com Melissa Hall

    Thank you for this article. I got a serious let down just now because I was checking my site’s rankings in the search results and all of a sudden today it was showing up on the first page for most of my key search terms. Then I find out it was only because I was logged in to Google and it was showing the Social results!!! Very, very dissapointed. I do not like this idea of showing social results at all unless it is completely separate from Real results! This really really stinks…..

  • http://www.nuttakorn.net nuttakorn

    Google used this combination of social connection to support social signal as following.

    - Direct connections from your Google chat buddies and contacts
    - Direct connections from links that appear on your Google profile
    - Secondary connections that are publicly associated with your direct connection

  • http://www.vertical-leap.co.uk Kerry Dye

    @Garrett – that would be great info. In my experience outside the SEO arena, almost everyone leaves themselves logged into a Google account. My funniest experience was a company account with Web History turned on that meant I could see where other members of staff had been looking for jobs elsewhere :-)

  • http://informabiz.com Mehmet Korukmez

    Is there any stats or data about how many people actualy gone through the hassle and login to their Google Account,link twitter account with google SERPS ?

  • http://www.web-savvy-marketing.com rebeccagill

    I’m struggling with this new feature. It appeared this morning in my searches and I think it skewed my search results quality towards the negative.

    Every time I searched for anything with the word WordPress in it, Google was pushing my website’s WordPress website design page in page one results. I appreciate that ranking increase for searches other people do, but I do not find it of value for my own searches. Is it really of value to have my own web pages elevated in searches I perform?

    What this does illustrate is the importance of social media in search. While a painter, plumber, or OB/GYN office may not obtain high traffic from Twitter, having a Twitter account influence potential client’s search results is of value. A new consideration for all of us internet marketers.

  • http://nut-a-tut.blogspot.com nuttynupur

    I thought FB like was the new link sharing, now you tell me Twitter’s replaced that! What I like most about Google is that it is reacts so quickly to developments always, often setting the bar. So even if others innovate, it adapts itself.

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