Is Bing beating Google to the Author Rank punch?Comments

Author Rank coming, YodaIs Google in danger of losing out to Bing in the race to implement a robust relevance engine for content authors?

For over a year, talk of Google Author Rank (based on the search giant's Agent Rank patent) has been fueling speculation of how it might operate and affect search rankings for content authors.

As quoted by AJ Kohn in the seminal article "Author Rank", the patent sets out that:

"The identity of individual agents responsible for content can be used to influence search ratings."

Identifying authors and then associating them with their content (Authorship) is just half the story, however, but many continue to think that Author Rank and Authorship are interchangeable, assuming that setting up Authorship will improve their ranking in search results.

Expertise

The key concept behind Author Rank is that people will be associated with, and ranked on, given topics based on their knowledge or expertise. Ranking involves building reputation and trust using, amongst other things, a combination of peer review, links and citations. Again, from the patent we have:

"an agent should have a higher reputational score ... if the content signed by the agent is frequently referenced by other agents or content"

Not all links are equal as the patent goes on to say that links from those with a higher reputational score will carry greater significance - it is, therefore in the interests of authors to gain the attention of recognised experts in any given field whilst those experts will, obviously, get a high ranking themselves.

Rather than relying on Page Rank content will be linked to the author, anywhere on the web, using a "digital passport" - using an online identity such as a Google+ profile is such a passport: a way of reliably connecting people to their material.

But do we need Authorship?

Bing news authorsGoogle and Bing have different strategies when it comes to providing social data within search results; the former feels that consumers benefit from having their results tailored using social signals whereas the latter presents social data separately from the normal blue links results enabling users to more easily distinguish (and ignore) those social signals.

By creating this distinction between search and social is Bing able to bypass the Authorship stage and dive straight in to Author Rank?

As social results are not included within the main search results there is less of a need to establish an explicit authorship structure to identify authors in a sea of links. Instead, relevant news authors are listed as "People Who Know" in the social sidebar (in a manner not too dissimilar to Google's Knowledge Graph information) implying that these authors - and, consequently, the links listed - are knowledgeable, relevant and topical.

Indeed, on Bing Blogs the addition of news authors was introduced in a post with the following:

"Behind every article is a journalist, writer or author who has worked hard to research and report on a story. These professionals are experts in their fields, sharing the latest news, developing events and information out with the greater world."

This sounds very similar to Google's plans with Bing's sources stated as including "friends you know and experts and enthusiasts you may or may not be familiar with" who frequently write articles related to the search query.

Bing is utilising its partnerships with Facebook and Twitter in conjunction with standard ranking signals to provide extra information from authors who already appear to be ranked based on relevance. The roll-out of Facebook's Graph Search, including the addition of Open Graph data, coupled with an effort from Twitter to make content more discoverable may serve to give Bing even stronger signals on which to base any ranking.

Identity not a factor

While Google is seeking to instil trust in authors by linking them back to a standard identity service (Google+) Bing is relying on a combination of authors producing consistent output and social signals to determine what we might like to see without restricting itself to any single identity scheme.

One doesn't want to accuse Google of fiddling while Rome burns but the latest Agent Rank patent was filed almost two years ago (expanding on an original application from 2005) and is one of the most eagerly anticipated developments in search for content authors.

By taking a different approach Bing is stealing a march and potentially beating Google to the Author Rank punch?

Is Bing beating Google to the Author Rank punch?

Facebook Graph Search – half way there.

Social networks are crammed full of data about our likes, interests and connections but all too often this is not available in any useful, reliable or easy accessible state. Is that about to change?

Graph Search

Search within our social networks has historically been poor, even Google+ launched without it until Google deemed it ready for public consumption.

Twitter search is still limited to a short period despite the acquisition of Summize and, as far as Facebook search goes it been a case of the less said the better.

Due to a number of privacy concerns and other issues, such as the recent fracas over the Instagram Terms of Service, Facebook has been coming in for a lot of flak - some warranted but much unjustified. Many people have decided that the just don't trust Facebook and that's that!

When App.net launched it promised to be "what Twitter could have been" and, with the controversy over ongoing changes to the APIs, became a hotbed of anti-Twitter sentiment. Similarly, Google+ seems to be harbouring an unhealthy dose of anti-Facebook rhetoric again much of which is unjustified.

People don't trust Facebook.

So Facebook is asking its users to trust each other and has been building a tool which allows us to do just this.

As anticipated, Facebook announced a new search product which formed the third of "three pillars of Facebook" namely: the newsfeed, Timeline and, now, Graph Search.

Graph search is exactly as its name suggests: a search of the Facebook social graph allowing us to find information shared with us so far encompassing people, photos, places and interests while all relating back to the privacy settings for each piece of information. It is planned that mobile, post data and the Open Graph will be indexed in future but this will take a while to complete.

My initial reactions were that the Graph Search beta content was a promising start but that will not be fully realised until the extra data - especially from the Open Graph - is included.

Playing catch-up

Yes, Facebook is playing catch-up to Google on search but as Google is originally a search company so you would expect that.

Does Facebook have to beat Google at its own game? Absolutely not!

In order to succeed with Graph Search, Facebook has to make a system that works well for Facebook users which:

  1. makes use of the connections between them
  2. uses the search queries/results to improve the experience
  3. is good enough to make users want to use it rather than jumping out for a web search

Google is blurring the lines between a traditional web search and a search of the social graph but we still have two places we can instigate this which gives us two different sets of results (Google Search and Plus).

Google web search is a blue links list which is now personalised based on our interests, data provided from other Google products thanks to the single privacy policy and the actions of others (+1s) but it is still primarily a blue links search. For those who have not yet upgraded to Plus then it is still only a blue links resource.

Facebook does not have a blue links engine - so has to partner with Bing - but is not (yet) interested in having one. Instead, the blue giant is using the power of the networkto find stuff using recommendations and trust - Facebook is not building a search engine but a "trust engine".

Yes, Google is also building this based on sharing and +1s but when you have two search locations returning different results from different data sets then something needs to change there as well.

Half wayHalf way

Graph search appears to be pretty powerful and fast and is not limited to friends but also public information which you would expect - anything visible to us can be returned via a search. It is not designed to give us a definitive list of "plumbers in Yourtown" (as would be exposed by a web search) but instead "plumbers in Yourtown which people have used and would recommend" - it builds on the relationships we have with those we are connected to and the trust we can place in their experience.

Graph Search is half way as the data held on Facebook itself is only half the story; people will be liking pages and services across the "normal web" and taking other Open Graph actions which help to flesh out their interests, likes and opinions. Once all of this data has been indexed Facebook will really be able to flesh out the trust engine.

I have stated previously:

Facebook has no need to build a full search engine as the indexing of external content is crowd-sourced to its users with likes and frictionless sharing.

As Zuckerberg said during the announcement, he doesn't expect people to come to Facebook just to perform a search when they are used to blue link sites and may not even be regular Facebook users. What he does hope it will be is a valuable resource for those people who are already on the site and want some information while they are there.

Admittedly, Facebook will also be able to mine that search data in order to further identify our likes and intentions which will, no doubt, increase the ability to target us more effectively with relevant advertising even if there are no plans to immediately monetise Graph Search itself.

Good enough, but when?

As with other features Facebook has included, Graph Search doesn't have to beat the likes of Google but be just good enough to catch the majority of users and save them the need of going elsewhere.

Zuckerberg admitted that this is not something that will roll out overnight but the key will be how quickly they can release something, how reliable it is and then how long it takes to introduce Open Graph data.

With the talk of "years of work" Facebook can, however, be seen to be in it for the long haul - just like Google with Plus.

A version of this post originally appeared at Google+

Image by mtsofan

Facebook Graph Search – half way there.

Social search: protectionism and semantics.

Now that Google+ is gaining popularity is there a conflict of interest between the social network and search? Is Google right to focus on promoting its own content?

Search PlusJust when you thought the furore over Search Plus was abating pending the antitrust investigation by the FTC then we get engineers from Facebook, Twitter and MySpace providing a proof of concept bookmarklet which reworks Google's personalised results to include sources other than Google+ in an attempt to better "Focus on the user".

By way of debate, Jon Mitchell throws an interesting argument in to the pot saying "It's Not Wrong for Google to Focus on Its Own Users".

We are dealing with a whole can of semantics here.

On the one hand we have the distinction between search plus "Your World" and search plus "The World" with the former predominantly equating to our connections as a G+ user and the latter incorporating all our social engagement equally. On the other, we have the phrase "Focus on the user" - those outside of Google are referring to a generic user looking to get a cross-section of results whereas, obviously, Google are focusing on a user with a Plus account and all that it entails.

Playing favourites

Jon asks (somewhat tongue in cheek) if it is right for Google to favour results from its own social network in results as, for those searching when logged in, Google+ pages and profiles "are the better results". While this can be true in some circumstances it will not always be so depending on the search term, type of results required and the value of the items returned.

When searching for a particular restaurant I might be looking for a menu, prices, opening times and a phone number to book a reservation but personalised search could, instead, return a post from a friend saying that he had a good time and the steak was to die for - admittedly handy to know but not what I am after.

If I wanted to search for Dave Winer I would get no value from being shown his Google+ profile as he doesn't use Plus and never has yet is still presented to me as a suggested user.

Examples such as these are why I say that personalised results should enhance search results and not replace them. Yes, tell me that my friend had a good time and recommends the steak but not at the expense of the restaurant listing itself - his post should come as a sub-item of the restaurant listing and serve to boost its position in the rankings.

Social search should make things easier to find and then present the related stories and opinions of our contacts. If you think of the way Techmeme presents a lead and then all related discussion you get an idea of how I feel social search should operate. Public posts on G+ are considered pages for search results but, when searching outside of the social network, are they actually more relevant than the item to which they relate?

The world according to Google

Jon ponders that the "best solution to social search would be one that lets the search user decide what network(s) to prefer. To the extent that a social search engine doesn't prefer the user's own networks, it's not social search; it's just search."

We are again caught in the semantics of "our world". We are often social on more than one network so, while Google doesn't need to know our relationships with others, perhaps it could take a cue from the accounts linked to our Plus profile; if I haven't listed any other services on my profile then maybe it is reasonable to only return profiles and pages from G+ but if I have explicitly indicated my presence on Twitter or Facebook then should search not take this in to consideration and return results from these locations?

Duality

We are entering into new territory where G+ is not just a social network, it is instead a core component of the Google ecosystem and will link in to all services causing the edges to blur. This creates a dichotomy of Google the search engine and Google the service provider and some believe it cannot adequately, or fairly, be both simultaneously.

It is easy to see why Search Plus is so closely linked to Plus and why Google would want to do this. It is also easy to see why Google would argue that they do not have access to content within other networks but, as I have said before, this is not needed to present meaningful results due to public data that Google has indexed along with the related accounts we place in our profiles.

In fact, the demo at focusontheuser.org is achieved only with information "from Google itself, and all of the ranking decisions are made by Google's own algorithms. No other services or APIs are accessed". If it is this easy, why couldn't or didn't google do it? The answer is that Google is keen to promote its own network and we now have a conflict of interest between the two sides of the company's operations.

Changing the social graph

Google is deprecating the social graph API so, perhaps, would argue that relationships garnered by these means are no longer relevant and is instead reliant on our G+ profiles to establish these relationships - we add linked profiles, accounts and sites but these do not appear to be prioritised.

Google is now in competition with the likes of Facebook so is keen to promote Plus at every opportunity and in doing so is, out of necessity, prioritising its users. Jon says: "But Google and its fans have two other use cases to consider. People who would rather have their personal website, Twitter or Facebook profile appear above Google+ are not well-served by Google anymore, nor are people whose social graphs exist on networks other than Google+ ... Google has no obligation to these users."

This would be true if Google were just a service provider a la Facebook but not while it is still positioning itself as the premier search engine returning, according to its original promise, unbiased results to search queries. Google obviously has an obligation to all its users but the question is: does being a Google+ user change the nature of that obligation? Just because we have a G+ account does it imply that we are better served by our "Google world"?

Ask your friends, not the web

ask your friendsGoogle has increased the integration with search by adding the option to "ask your friends" on Google+ - personally, I think this is great approach to social search: crowd-sourcing a solution if you can't find what you're looking for in the normal results. The cynic in me, however, wonders if this is a deliberate ploy: users complain that social search results don't always give us what we're after so are we now inclined to ask our Circles and, thus, do Google a favour by further populating its social network with more signal?

When prompted to ask a question in this manner we will format our query as a proper question. We will then receive answers from our Circles by way of comments which may receive +1s and, as such, create an answer rating system - the most +1s equating to the best answer.

It has long been speculated that Google would introduce a competitor to Quora - Matt Mastracci even discovered "Google Experts" within the Plus source code - and this integration is another potential example of how Google could look after its own and influence search results by having ready-made answers within the social network instead of having to resort to the normal web.

A destination

I stated that Google needed to become a destination rather than a stepping stone in order to succeed in social Google+ has very much become that destination but is its integration into the core of Google's business taking this too far and risking just as must as it promises?

Social search: protectionism and semantics.

How Google’s Search Plus Will Impact SEO And Why It Matters.

How Google’s Search Plus Will Impact SEO And Why It Matters.

This post originally appeared on Media Tapper but now that the site is no longer live I have included the full post below:

Google Search PlusControversy aside, social search is here to stay so it is better to embrace it early rather than get left behind.

The social landscape had largely stagnated during 2011; while there were new products launching they were predominantly mobile or fringe offerings having little bearing on the dominance of the triumvirate of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Despite there being an air of caution due to Google's previous ventures into social, the launch of Google+ reinvigorated the market. Obvious comparisons were made with many asking if this could finally be a "Facebook killer".

The plan to incorporate Plus into all aspects of the Google ecosystem (Google+ is Google) serves to give the new kid on the social block a fighting chance as it aims to shift the focus away from an individual destination and distribute our activity across a range of independent activities.

Search plus Your World

Social search has been with us for a while with Google previously offering a fairly basic form and also a real-time solution was pulled when the deal to access Twitter content ended. Microsoft has deals with Facebook and Twitter and still supplies social results on a separate page to the main results on Bing.

Now, however, Google has introduced Search plus Your World (referred to by most as Search+) to a mixture of fanfare and criticism; when logged in with a Google account the new service provides personalised results by default based on the contents of your social circles.

I will not touch on the ensuing arguments in this post but certain parties are unhappy to say the least at the move which appears to grossly favour Google's social network over its competition in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Since going live, Google+ has been hailed by some as a replacement for blogging - a view not universally countenanced but the argument for creating content directly in the social stream where most interaction occurs is quite strong. Now, with the integration of these social signals in to Search+ some are, perhaps, getting ahead of themselves proclaiming the combination as the future of the web.

Search+ has created a huge ripple, even if only by notoriety, but is a long way from changing the search paradigm - for all - for good.

Out with the old?

Google+ is still in its infancy; the number of accounts created (never mind active users) is small compared to all those with some form of Google account so there is a lot of work needed to teach users from elsewhere in the Google ecosystem the value of Plus. Obviously, Search+ is an attempt at doing so but will it work?

We do not know how many users will follow the prompt to sign up with Plus to enhance their social search experience but each one that does increases the importance of social search. Brands must, therefore, be waiting for them.

Still, the number of users who are actually signed in to Google when conducting a search is a fraction of the total with Google themselves stating the figure to be around 10%, for the rest social search will play no part.

Consequently, standard Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is as important as ever and the key will be learning to work with both forms of search. Page rank, inbound links and other metrics cannot be abandoned in favour of a healthy social graph as the social graph, in this context, has little relevance to a large proportion of web users.

The challenge for SEO practitioners, who are already proficient at their craft, will be to achieve success within social results so that the influence of the social graph does not override the traditional signal whilst also effectively managing social profiles to provide the best possible return.

Social search is here to stay

If Google's new search offering is investigated and found to be anti-competitive the company will no doubt forced to rework its algorithms and use data from its previous social graph along with accounts we attach to Plus to more prominently display user profiles and information from other networks. It does not need access to feeds or know our relationships to do this.

Google+ people and pages, however, will still be returned by Search+ and, as Google has intended all along, force us to take notice of their social offering. It will become imperative that Brands have a Plus page in order to maximise their potential in social search.

Social SEO

A new wave of social SEO will develop with brands (and individuals) needing to work harder on the contents of their social profiles and pages. The "related people and pages" section on SERPs will become a new battleground where individuals and brands try to win the popularity contest and be featured in results. Unfortunately, this is currently flawed.

The suggested user feature needs to be more dynamic throughout Plus and not show us a "most popular" list regardless of our own social graph and existing connections. Inactive accounts should not be recommended at any stage and - much to Google's chagrin - a connected profile from another network should take priority if it is more popular and more active but we will have to wait and see if any changes occur here.

Unfortunately, just as black hat tactics are used to improve SEO so social profiles will be abused by some in an attempt to game the system and make accounts appear more popular than is actually the case (the use of blanket follows rather than targeted "friending" for instance). The relevance of connections within their social graph and the content shared will be more important than ever and those abusing the system will be ranked down just as they would in non-personalised results.

Influence

Whether or not you like the idea of social influence advocated by services such as Klout and Kred the mainstream arrival of social search has thrust it to the fore and must now be taken into consideration by marketers. Our relationships are the true social currency and more brands will be keen to use social networks and search to identify key influencers in their field.

While these services cannot measure true influence they can collate the interactions we are having on social networks and these will correlate with the items presented on our social SERPs.

It is widely stated in business that you "can't manage what you can't measure" - Klout, for example, admits they can only give credit "for the influence we can see" so defines influence by what it can pull from APIs either publicly or with our permission via linked accounts.

Google, via Plus, will have a distinct advantage as it will have access to public information from other networks, our relationships via the social graph and all of our activity within Google+ to call on so may be able to calculate influence more accurately than a third-party.

While an external service can record the number of shares, retweets or likes the social network owner can go one better and also record data like click-throughs which could be a better mark of influence as it is a tally of physical response to calls to action rather than blind re-shares by "social groupies".

Time to get started

Marketers must seize the opportunity to target this new approach and incorporate it into their strategy. Social SEO will not replace the conventional kind but, working in tandem, they will afford a competitive advantage to those that grasp the nettle early.

So, what are you waiting for?

How Google’s Search Plus Will Impact SEO And Why It Matters.

Search Plus was hampered by its execution.

Many excellent ideas in the social space, including those from Google, are often hampered by poor execution rather than any fault with the service on offer. Search Plus would appear to be no exception.

SearchI have long been an advocate of social search and called on Google to integrate it into normal search back in August 2010. I also wrote that there were 3 ways Google could use search to have an impact in social:

Recommendations

Using likes, shares, tweets etc. to influence search results and use this to help provide a global real-time trending solution.

At the time, Facebook was driving 13% of all traffic compared to 7% from Google - no doubt due to the social element. It wasn't a worrying statistic for Google but I said:

"with their own social network, they could get their hands on some of those referrals and build it into their recommendations".

Related Content

By integrating social into search I envisaged the provision of additional related content - some kind of “you may also like” arrangement but wasn't sure if it could be successfully pulled off in real-time.

The heavy integration Plus into search has made this easier than I thought (although not as wide-ranging) and the first elements of related content are Google+ user profiles and pages associated with that particular topic.

Statistics

Here I mentioned the possibility for real-time stats and integrating tools such as Google Analytics. As we know, Analytics has since incorporated both social interactions and real-time results into its reports.

More recently I stated that Google Ripples could form the "basis for some kind of analytic offering, especially for Brand Pages when they arrive." The combination of real-time & social statistics combined with effective visual utilities would be a game changing toolset for brands to have within the social network they are using.

There may be trouble ahead

So Search Plus, at its root, is quite similar to how I expected it might be - it ticks a lot of the boxes but still suffers from issues the impact of which could have been reduced with better execution.

The biggest, and most obvious, issue which has been the subject of countless online column inches (here and beyond) is the overwhelming amount of Google+ data compared to other sources. Search results do return other sources (Live Journal, FriendFeed, WordPress etc.) but the sheer volume of data creates an imbalance and it is easy to see why the likes of Twitter are so incensed.

Secondly, and quite infuriatingly, is the continued idea of "suggested users" based on popularity. The "related people" returned by searching for certain topics suffers from the same problems that caused Robert Scoble to ask to be removed from the Google+ suggested users list.

We are presented with a link advising how we too could appear in that list but the answer is that it is just another self-perpetuating popularity contest:

"The more quality content you create and the more people that engage with you, the more prominent your profile will become".

And so we have the vicious circle; the most popular will be shown and by default get more followers by being on the list meaning their place is assured in future. Rather than just generic "related people" lists there must be a way to make it more dynamic thus preventing us from always being shown the same "elite" users.

Finally, people get angry when they feel things are being thrust upon them. My previous thoughts that Google could be better served by not making social search the default or, perhaps, prompting you when using it for the first time (maybe also every now and then afterwards) to actually choose your method of search might have lessened the impact.

Perception

As with Google+ itself Search Plus is suffering from the perception that it goes against Google's do no evil mantra. If we ignore the playground "he said, she said" shenanigans between Google and Twitter the overwhelming quantity of Google+ items in search results gives the impression that the social network is being hugely favoured (even if that isn't Google's intention).

Looking back at the original social search (when results were shown in a different section) we can see a different approach. Social results then would contain:

  • Websites, blogs, public profiles, and other content linked from your friends’ Google profiles
  • Web content, such as status updates, tweets, and reviews, from links that appear in the Google profiles of your friends and contacts
  • Images posted publicly from members of your social circle on Picasa Web and from websites that appear on their Google profiles
  • Relevant articles from your Google Reader subscriptions

A lot of this had been superseded by Google+ but the second item is really worth looking at again: Web content, such as status updates, tweets, and reviews, from links that appear in the Google profiles of your friends and contacts. In fact, each of the first three items refer to links the on users profiles.

We all furnish our Google+ profiles with other accounts, our recommended links and sites to which we contribute in order for Google to extend its knowledge of who we are but that knowledge seems forgotten once we perform a search.

With Search+ we appear to have taken a backwards step with the data Google intends to show us.

Taking stock

Providing a better balance of content based on the knowledge Google has about its users would be an obvious step in combating some of the criticisms of a Plus-heavy system. Combining with a less aggressive approach to forcing the changes on to its users could have made Search Plus a successful launch but, as is too often the case, it has been marred by controversy.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but previous experience is an equally effective teacher, we just have to learn from our mistakes. Unfortunately, it seems that Google sometimes doesn't.

Image by Jeffery Beall

Search Plus was hampered by its execution.

Shipping the Google part: social search is saved.

Last week I wrote that the direction Google seemed to be taking with the integration of social search could potentially backfire. At the time it seemed as though the social elements were over-powering normal search results making it even harder to find what you need.

I asked:

Should we have the option of choice? Do we want to see social results or unaffected results? If we choose social results how far do we want the social influence to affect them? Should we be forced to accept weighting based on the entire population of Google+ or only our closest “friends”?

It was opportune that Jon Mitchell and I touched on this subject when we did as it seems that Google already had plans.

Social or unaffected

The issue of choice was high on my list of concerns as, even when you are logged in with your Google account, you will not always want results that have been influenced by those in your social Circles. We should have the option to filter out the social aspect to our results and Google is now delivering this with "Search, plus Your World".

Search, plus your world
As is mentioned on the Official Google Blog: "With a single click, you can see a non-personalized view of search results" which is exactly what I said was required. Letting users set the state of this toggle by default is also recognition from the search provider that not everyone will want to use social search or even find it useful.

When I first called for Google to introduce social search back in August 2010 I stated that any search results "would obviously have to reflect the original privacy settings at the source". Again, Google has stepped up to the plate as personal results will be "clearly marked as Public, Limited or Only you."

Who should influence search?

The concept behind Google+ is that, from the outset, it recognises that we have different aspects to our lives hence the desire to divide our contacts into Circles be they family, friends, or based more by topic or specific interest. Google advise that profiles returned by search results will be circle aware as "people in your results are clearly marked with the Google+ circle they are in, or as suggested connections".As we would ask particular questions of a certain group of friends or relatives offline it would, therefore, follow that we would want to do the same on the web; we are not going to ask a Circle of SEO practitioners a question about knitting.

In addition to having the option to show non-personalised results I still believe it would be advantageous to filter our results on a more granular level. Not only would this be in keeping with the Circles ethos but also enable us to target or social searches notes effectively. Perhaps this will come in a future update.

It's not all or nothing

While Google are keen to ensure that Plus is populated by as many people as possible - thus creating a free, crowd-sourced recommendation engine - it was imperative that these options were not forced all those using Google search.

I would still expect for some public posts from Google+ to show in non-personalised results and even when logged out. Public posts on Plus are indexed as pages in their own right and this will be too good an opportunity to miss to help promote their social network and demonstrate the power an integrated system can provide.

Will you use personalised search?

Why not discuss this post on Google+.

Shipping the Google part: social search is saved.

Social search is only the beginning.Comments

onlyLast week we saw that Google has finally integrated Social Search into our normal results but search is really only the beginning.

It transpired quite quickly that google.me as a platform was a red herring but Google is now playing with a much larger one: its whole search infrastructure. As such we should be aiming for both Search and Discovery: we may currently search but do we really find and discover great new things or people?

Google finally seems to be focusing on what they do best: search; but we still don't have a very clear picture of where they are heading.

All about the profile?

Jeff Korhan indicates that the Google profile is making a comeback and will serve as "your home in regards to assembling your social graph for Google search". I was a big advocate of the profile being your central hub for your online world (at least as far as Google services were concerned) but Google really missed the boat on this one.

Did Google not think the world was ready for its social profiles and integrated social search 2 years ago, or was it just Google that wasn't ready? I'm inclined to believe it was the latter but you can't escape a nagging feeling that Google thought it was smarter than the average social media user and knew what the people really wanted.

Consequently, there was a masive opportunity lost with Reader and Buzz. The links between the two services and the tie-in to Gmail gave Google an excellent platform to work on and expand; combined with an effective profile page (which could have essentially served like your Facebook Wall) there would have been a solid basis for a social 'platform' even though Google were not building their own social network.

So, what of my other predictions?

When I suggested three ways Google could use search to take on Facebook I was working on the assumption that they were working on their oft rumoured social network. Now that we know this not to be the case do those ideas still stack up?

Recommendation engine:
Including shares in search results just gives us explicit links - why not use the shares of our social circle, our own shares and our search history to give us recommended sites, blogs, people - all implicit. Placing recommended content within the normal search results would be too cluttered so, perhaps, it could be a separate option along with News, Shopping, Books etc.

Related content:
Again, building on social search, there is the opportunity to expand the results returned by suggesting related items that may not have been triggered by the search terms entered. Relevance is a massive, upcoming area within the social sphere and you only have to look at what My6Sense are doing is this space to see the potential. With such a large content index at their disposal Google could clean up in respect of relevance which goes beyond the initial search results.

Statistics:
The real power for Google comes in linking services and utilising the data you generate so another huge lost opportunity in the shape of goo.gl. Better integration of the URL shortener would make it more usable - why not wrap urls with goo.gl as Twitter does with t.co? Just as with Twitter, this could be presented as a "security feature" (protecting us from dodgy redirects) whilst - at the same time - providing Google with a wealth of click-through data.

Even though Google is implementing social aspects within its existing services rather than a separate social network the potential still exists to be a major player in the social web. Sergey Brin commented that Google had "only touched one percent" of where social search can go - so much more can be achieved but they just need to know which road to take.

On the right path we can not only search but truly discover.

Image by Wootang01

Social search is only the beginning.

Google Social Search gets integrated. Is it enough?Comments

By now, you've no doubt seen that Google are rolling out the integration of social search into normal results and the way they are doing it is strikingly familiar.

Back in August I argued that Google should integrate social search immediately in order to retain some kind of relevance in the social space as we still had no indication as to what direction they were going to take. The existing of Google.me as a service was staunchly denied by the company and the concept of social layers became the reality: adding a social layer to their existing products. As I said at the time "by extending existing products Google is able to drip feed its users with social functionality in the applications they already use".

By combining a normal search result with the social aspects from Reader and Buzz I suggested that integrated social search could look something like this:

Integrated social search proposal

Googles actual integrated search looks like this:

Google integrated search

Not too dissimilar I think you'll agree.

Social Circle

My ideas for integrating results from your social circle and including them based on relevance and I even raised the issue of privacy with regards to sharing options. Google have mentioned that normal ranking may apply but the social search element may change a page’s ranking — making it appear higher than “normal.” They are also giving the options to privately connect your social profiles to your account but, as I wrote previously, I think that this could go further and would need to should social search be extended beyond the reach of your own circle - which it should.

It is reassuring to know that I was on the right track with regards to how this should go and I look forward to seeing where they take it in future. Using social search combined with Googles massive search index you have the ability to create an extremely powerful recommendation engine and a useful means of discovering related content.

While I would have liked to have seen Google push the boat out a lot sooner it is pleasing to see integrated social search finally with us. Where will it go next? We will have to wait and see but, hopefully, the wait won't be as long.

Google Social Search gets integrated. Is it enough?