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People have been talking about social search for years, but the noise reaches a crescendo whenever Google does something–in this case, Google Labs suddenly delivering a Social Search function. How does social search change the game for search marketers?
That’s actually a trick question, because nothing in Google Labs changes anything for search marketers. Almost no one uses alternate search interfaces, and social search is no different. The real question is how will this change the game if social search’s features are folded into Google’s mainstream search that is used by almost everyone?
Social search has some interesting features by which it shows content by people you know much higher in the search results than they’d otherwise be. Regardless of whether this creates a successful search experience, this shuffling of results wreaks havoc for the average search marketer.
Search marketers have grown accustomed to relying on search rankings to determine how well they are doing. Everyone wants the #1 result, but social search, and all other forms of search personalization, doom rank checking, because every searcher might receive different results for the same search keywords.
In a personalized search world, search marketers must stop focusing on rankings, instead focusing on referrals—the number of searchers that click through to your site—and conversions. Personalized search, including social search, might finally take the focus off search itself and place it squarely on the business value it generates. That would be a huge step forward for the business.