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The Social Evolution of Search Engine Result Pages

barak-erez
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Social search updates by Google and Bing have generated a lot of buzz in recent weeks. Instead of separating results from social networks like Twitter and Facebook from organic results, both search engines are streamlining search engine results pages (SERPs) by combining organic results with this social context.

Both Google and Bing have declared that, for some searches, social context will boost the rankings of results higher on the SERP than regular results. These announcements are just further confirmation of the convergence of social and search, and signal the growing importance of social media marketing for businesses.

What's noteworthy about these changes:

  • Both Google and Bing have moved away from showing tweets and sectioned-off "Liked Results" in the SERPs.

  • Search engines are now sending users to the correct websites, as well as providing the detail about the origin of the recommendation (i.e., friend's profile, original recommendation).

  • With these social annotations, the search engines are giving users some visibility as to why they're algorithms are picking certain results over the others.

Google's Evolution: Twitter Integration

Google's SERPs have progressed from showing organic results as a website link, to a specific tweet from a user within your social circle who mentions a link, and now to a combination of the two: the website result, a link to the friend's social network profile (e.g. Twitter account) who did the sharing, and a link to the original recommendation are now combined into one result.

  • Classic result: Google's organic result for a keyword search pointing to a website.

Google Organic Result

  • Tweet result: An link to the actual tweet from friends within your social network, mentioning your search query.

google-tweet-result.jpg

  • Combined result: The website result, with additional annotations linking to your friend's profile and a time stamp that redirects to the original recommendation are all combined in one result.

google-organic-tweet-combo.jpg

Bing's Evolution: Facebook Likes

Bing has primarily focused on the integration of Facebook Like data in their SERPs and algorithm. Their social search features have evolved from showing organic result as a website link to a module within SERPs that's set apart the organic search results with the header, "Liked by your Facebook friends," to listing organic results with an added social annotation mentioning friends from your Facebook network who have also Liked the URL.

  • Classic result: Bing's organic result for a keyword search pointing to a website.

bing-organic-result.jpg

  • "Liked Results": A separate module included alongside organic results in the SERP (includes the website result, friend's profile).

bing-liked-results.jpg

  • Combined result: The website result front and center, with social context (friend's names and profile pictures who have liked the link).

bing-organic-likes-combo.jpg

Facebook Uses Bing Search Results

Another development of note is coming from Facebook, which has started providing Bing's web results as a part of their internal search feature. Twitter isn't using Google results, just yet, but judging from Facebook's and Bing's partnership, it might be a matter of time before we see this unfold.

facebook-bing.jpg

How Significant is This Change for Marketers?

This is yet again confirmation that social media optimization should be an integral part of any company's search strategy.

Actions like getting retweets and mentions on Twitter, Likes on Facebook, and mentions on Quora are crucial for today's online businesses to gain visibility through search engines and social networks.

As search gets more social, the idea of the social footprint which gives you exponential reach into a follower or fan's social network just from a simple @mention, retweet, Like, or follow will have a whole new large-scale network effect.

When people share your content, it will show up across their social networks and in their friends' SERPs.


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