Being from a paid search background, I always find it funny when my friends post questions on Facebook that could be easily answered by searching on Google. But now I have started to see it’s a great way to find something more valuable than a million plus search results. By posting a question to Facebook, you can easily get advice from someone you trust. We all know that word-of-mouth marketing works so well because people value the opinions of their friends and family. What is exciting now is that search engines have found a way to incorporate this through Google’s Search, Plus Your World and Bing & Decide with Your Friends.
Search, Plus Your World is Google’s new offering which allows you to see “personal results” when you are signed into your Google account. These results could include photos, posts, comments, or even pages of brands that relate to your search. Here is an example, where I was recently searching for some information on a local vintage shop named “Hot Toddy.”
This screenshot shows Google has 381,000 results for “hot toddy.” The top 3 pertain to the beverage, not the vintage shop. So my next step would normally be to refine my search to specify I’m looking for the vintage shop. But one personal result came up:
The personal result shows that one of my Google+ connections went to Hot Toddy and added her location to her stream post.
The location information she added linked directly to Hot Toddy’s places page and gave me all the information I was looking for. Also, since she said in her stream “I want everything in this store” I was instantly persuaded to go check it out!
Google isn’t the only one incorporating social information into search results. Bing & Decide with Your Friends is a similar offering released by Bing in 2011. It allows you to see your friends’ Facebook “Likes” right along organic search results. Bing is trying to create a “social search experience.” In the screenshot below, I was looking for the top food carts in Portland.
Bing & Decide with Your Friends shows me that the third result is a website that two of my Facebook friends have liked. I happen to know that those two particular friends of mine have excellent taste in food carts. So I didn’t even bother visiting the two websites that were ranked one and two organically.
Search, Plus Your World and Bing & Decide with Your Friends both provide searchers with even more relevant search results. Marketers now need to consider how this could impact their search strategy. At SIC2011, Stefan Weitz, Director of Search at Bing, described an interesting concept called “reranking.” Reranking is when articles not normally ranked on the first page of search results organically are moved to the first page because the searcher has friends who have liked that page. Stefan gave a great example of someone searching for a hotel in a new city. If one of the searcher’s friends had liked a hotel in that city on Facebook, it’s site could be moved to the first page search results. And the searcher would likely try to book a room at that hotel since they know someone who had a good experience there.
Both searching features are still in their infancy but I’d say it increases the importance for your paid search ads in 2012. If reranking does start to push your website lower down on the page organically you can ensure a top of first page position through paid search.
Lastly, as Google so desperately wants to make clear, developing a truly engaging social strategy on Google+ (and Facebook of course) is only going to be more and more important.