Google Social Search

You may have seen one of the many posts in the past week covering Google Social Search results becoming more integrated into the normal organic search results on

One particular post from Tech Crunch sparked an internal discussion at Three Deep that we thought would be worthy of sharing with our readers.  The rest of this post represents our consolidated viewpoint on Google Social Search.

Google Social Search has actually been brewing for over a year, it just happened to surface more prominently last week and generate a lot of buzz on the web (not to be confused with Google Buzz, which is one of the services that enabled social search to happen).

The release of this feature in Google's search results sparked a lot of conversations among online marketers and tech blogs.  While we agree that this is an interesting development in search, we really think of this more as an overall opportunity for link building to improve search rankings for websites with a strong social presence.

Social Media as a Link Building Tool

Google Social Search represents the evolution of linkbuilding.  It has made it easier than ever to build links through channels like Twitter, and the heavy content producers who are tapped into social media will start to see their content more prominently in the search results.

This is a good thing.  If an article is tweeted and re-tweeted around the web, it should become one of the top search engine results, and this should happen immediately. Google's search results are notorious for being stale or rewarding old content.  Social search should improve this out of the gates, because it inherently rewards fresh content.

The Real Problem: Adoption

What we don't think enough people have focused on is how difficult it actually is to enable this feature in Google.  It is actually a fairly complicated process to get social search results configured if you are an end user.

In order for this to truly work, you need:

  • To be logged in to your Gmail account with many contacts
  • To authorize Google to log into your Twitter account to find your friends (or have one or many contacts do this)
  • To authorize Google to log into your LinkedIn account to find your friends (or have one or many contacts do this)

How many people will actually go through the trouble to do that?  Probably 5-10% of web users at most.  Unlike other features that are released by Google and immediately adopted (like Google Instant), there is no possible way to auto-enable this feature, because it involves authorization with Twitter or LinkeIn.  It's one of the first products they have released that is 100% opt in.

Social Search Benefits to Marketers

For a company like Three Deep this levels the playing field.  We now have a chance of getting our content promoted into Google's search results if we can have our content promoted by the 1000+ followers we have on Twitter and the 100-400 people each individual has befriended on LinkedIn.

If we can gain traction within our local social circles, our content has a decent chance of being more prominent on the web and enticing to Google, even if it's only for the 50-100 people savvy enough to turn this feature on in their Google search results.

The Real Winners

The real people who stand to benefit from this are the large twitter accounts that have millions of followers. They have a huge opportunity to find their way into the SERP's of hundreds of thousands of Internet users.  This might even make promoted tweets a great link building tactic in the long run.

Overall, this release feels a lot like Google Instant and Buzz – all kinds of hype and pundits weighing in, but a change that will not really affect the way we go about our business.

Our approach to search has always been about staying in touch with the iterative building of the Google search product, incorporating each of the changes into our strategy in order to stay ahead of the game.   We don't see this changing anytime soon.

Disruption for Traditional SEO?

Personalized social search has the potential to disrupt SEO more than any development in the past several years.  If the top 10 results are no longer standardized across users, it will be very difficult to set targets for ranking client websites.  This would potentially shift our focus to link building through social channels and writing provocative content.

More than anything, this reaffirms the importance of a well balanced marketing campaign, not relying on a single tactic/channel for all marketing efforts.  While focusing on a single channel may have short term benefit, it's not guaranteed to last.  Having a strong presence in search, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, email newsletters, forums, etc. will only strengthen your overall footprint on the web.

What do you think about Google Social Search?  We'd love to hear your comments.