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Social search just got serious

I’ve written in the past that these upstart new search engines won’t unseat Google, and nothing about Delver changes my mind. However, I do think Delver is worth watching, because it might show us the way to a new level of search relevance through its interesting implementation of social search. What Delver is doing is important and I believe you’ll see the mainstream engines take notice at some point, either by acquiring Delver and its social search counterparts, or by implementing such features itself.


I really like what I see from Delver—Webware has a nice review of Delver if you haven’t heard of it.
Until now, social search engines have depended largely on your friends signing up. Delver doesn’t. It finds the information about your friends automatically. This is a critical feature for social search. Just as relevance took a massive leap forward when directories (that you had to sign up for) gave way to search engines (that crawled what was already out there), so will automatically identifying friend patterns make social search a serious feature that no search engine will be able to ignore for long.
For search marketers, the implications are clear. With each step forward, the onus on your content being truly helpful and relevant increases. So, in the days of directories, your Web site only needed to be good enough to slip past an editor—after that your description and title determined how you were found. When crawlers begain grabbing all content, it was critical that your site be able to be indexed and that you optimize keywords on your pages. When Google pioneered link analysis, suddenly your content needed to attract real people who would link to your site. As blended search has added images and videos to search results, you needed your site to go beyond textual content.
Social search will up the ante even further. Social media marketing will now become important to raise your search results, just as link-building did in the past. Links have always been good ways to draw traffic to your site, but Google’s embracing of link analysis raised the value of links by affecting search ranking, too. Similarly, social media is important as en end in itself, because it draws traffic to your site—now it might start affecting search rankings on top of its intrinsic value.
As with blended search, it will take a few years for social search to have massive effect—it will start small. Some areas have more affinity for images, podcasts, and videos than others, so those keywords will be affected first. Social search only works when the searchers have friends with online activity. For some segments of the population, use of social networks, blogs, and other social media remains relatively low, so keywords that skew to those target segments will be affected by social search last.
But Google could decide at any moment to make a deal with FriendFeed and suddenly the floodgates would open. Woe to the search marketer waiting for that day, because it is too late once Google moves. The time to move is now, especially if your searchers use social media already. Anyone targeting people in their teens up to their thirties should be thinking about gaining social media visibility now, both for its own value and the value for search marketing to come. If you waited for blended search to become reality before investing in video, you paid a price. Don’t pay another one for social search.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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