Thursday, February 17, 2011

Google Will Blend Pals' Opinions Into Search Results

Your friends' opinions will be mixed into search results as Google gets more social. But Google isn't including your friends on Facebook. So if you search for a restaurant and your pal has comments about the place, Google will let you know in the search results. An analyst said Google is moving to match what Microsoft's Bing does.

Google on Thursday set out to blend Google search results with the opinions of your friends, family and business associates. The move to bolster social search is an acknowledgment that relevancy includes relationships.
Google first introduced Google Social Search in 2009 and has made improvements along the way. Now the company is moving to more visibly integrate information from your social network, including YouTube, Flickr and blog and web sites. Notably absent is Facebook.
"First, social search results will now be mixed throughout your results based on their relevance -- in the past they only appeared at the bottom," Google Product Management Director Mike Cassidy and Product Manager Matthew Kulick wrote in a blog post. "This means you'll start seeing more from people like coworkers and friends, with annotations below the results they've shared or created."
Relationship-Driven Search
In practice, that means if you are thinking about going to Bongo's Café at the Hard Rock Café in South Florida and your colleague Julie has written a blog post about her experience, then Google will bump up that post with a note and a picture. You will see who shared the result in an annotation underneath.
Google also made social search more comprehensive by adding notes for links people have shared on Twitter and other sites. In the past, Cassidy and Kulick said, Google displayed results people created and linked through their Google profiles.
"Now, if someone you're connected to has publicly shared a link, we may show that link in your results with a clear annotation -- which is visible only to you, and only when you're signed in," the duo said. "For example, if you're looking for a video Relevant Products/Services of President Obama on The Daily Show and your friend Nundu tweeted the video, that result might show up higher in your results and you'll see a note with a picture of Nundu."
What About Facebook?
Finally, Google is offering more control over how you connect accounts. You can still connect accounts publicly on your Google profile, but Google has added a new option to connect accounts privately.
Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, said this is Google's attempt to match what Microsoft Relevant Products/Services's Bing is doing with Facebook and social search and bring more social content into search results to provide a filter for users.
"Ultimately 'social search' is about filtering data Relevant Products/Services in search results. Google knows that it must evolve in this direction and is trying to use Twitter sharing as a kind of substitute for Facebook Likes," Sterling said.
"At some point Google may try and access Facebook Likes data, but that doesn't appear to be on the horizon for a number of reasons. So for now Google must piece together a social graph of its own from alternative sources."

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