Now that’s a powerful proposition on the face of it: being able to see what your friends ‘like’ in the SERP’s. The expansion of Social in to Search has already received good deal of attention; some of the recent attempts being Google Buzz – botched attempt at creating an insta-social network- and Google Social Search, which did not really take off either. So, the marriage between Facebook and Bing is another big move in this direction. This little phenomena comes out of a 2007 deal between two, in which Microsoft paid in $240 million for 1.6% share in the growing social network. This investment was sufficient to get Facebook social data which is unavailable to other organizations. What are we to make of this new attempt at social search and the adding of ‘likes’ into search and of Bing Social Search?
Who Stands to Benefit?
On face value, this move leverages Bing, it has Data From 500 Million plus Facebook users and this move will drive some traffic. This may benefit the Zuckerberg Machine by bringing some more revenue, that’s if it can effectively manage the privacy and spam issues that it will be facing with further expansion into the world of search. The Facebook touch to Bing Social definitely got my attention- it’s like a twitter and openbook mashup. Simply beautiful! This is a great innovation for anyone doing market research, for Community Managers trying to fill in the blanks in their brand building efforts, and really anyone looking for opportunities to connect to people in their niche. For SEO’s, I think it give us a peek at the changes that I think are going to be coming hard and fast. It goes without a saying that social will become a larger ranking factor with time. According to Microsoft’s president of online services, Qi Lu, when asked about the potential of utilizing the Facebook social graph by Wired stated that, “This is just the beginning of how people can become first-class citizens of a search experience.” One hint to how this can unfold was hinted at by General Manager, Sean Suchter, at Microsoft’s Search Technology Center, when asked about if we can expect a standalone like search at Bing, as opposed to having to be logged into Facebook, his response was that, “that’s a pretty good area of direction.”
What About Users?
You may have noticed, when I was doling out benefits, I did not talk about end users…not really. Normal people have what I like to consider layers of friends: people who are my actual friends/family, people who I met once or twice but are strictly facebook friends, people who I haven’t talked to in forever, and so on. The PC World Blog states some of the problems on the user end with this initiative; the article assumes that even if it was given that Bing Social worked as intended, providing likes by your friends for most of a users queries, why someone care what people who they do not even know think about their searches. In response, I suggest that it is not deniable that for the same average user, seeing a ‘like’ next to a link makes it, at the very least, a slightly more appealing option for the said user. I think that even if likes became a fixture in all SERP’s they would likely become what links are today, a kind of commodity and not in all cases a true gauge of value, especially if it became possible to have standalone likes. Thus, I do not think that the use of ‘likes’ in SERP’s will be useful for the end user in it’s current formulation, at least not in the long run.
On a wider view, for a vistor to even get see their friends ‘likes’ in their SERP’s, they’d have to be logged in to Facebook. So, if you subtract all the percentage of people who would be doing their search in Google and the percentage of people not logged in to Facebook at the time of search, the chances that a user will even seeing a’ like’ in their SERP is lowered tremendously. From a user standpoint, there is nothing revolutionary here.
How Does This Impact Google?
The web is filled with doomsday-sayers wondering what this will mean for Google, if indeed , “the web is dead” or if it is the “the end if the web;-P.” No, no it’s not. Hitwise numbers, as reported by Jon Brodkin of NetworkWorld, shows Googles search share increasing from 71.59% in August 2010 to 72.15% in September. Google is keeping steady, if not growing by small margins. All of us have been watching Google’s steady movement toward social and local – after all according to Bloomberg News, they are moving Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Search Products, over to Local Services. So, Google is definitely taking action to meet the challanges of the new web. As far as what this could mean for the Google vs. Bing story which is all over the blogs at least once a week, it’s hard to say. My inituiton is that this is a small step in a larger process toward ‘doing it right’ to unify social and search. Danny Sullivan has a great post outlining the potential impact on Google and an analysis in a broader context.
My take is that as of right now both engineers at the major search engines and SEO’s alike are trying to unify social and search. Search engines want to use it to ‘enhance the search experience,’ which really means figure out how to incorporate it into their algo’s and to drive profits and SEO’s want to figure out how to use it drive traffic and get links. My take is that this is a new toy, and I am excited to play with it. I am also very excited for future importance of social ranking factors, which translate to me as, “okay, how do I use this to get ranked?”
-By marketing ninja Bonnie