What Google Social Search Means for Marketers
Earlier this fall, Google announced the launch of Google Social Search, "an experimental feature that helps you find relevant public web content from people in your social circle," according to Google. What’s the program really about, and how will it impact your search marketing? I’ll provide a few insights here.
How it works
Google Social Search makes it easy for searchers to find information from their contacts. With Google Social Search, when you’re signed in to Google, the content your personal contacts have created — on sites like Twitter, FriendFeed, Picasa, Blogger and Google Reader — will appear within your personalized search results.
Google already has a list of your contacts — the people you contact through Gmail, for example. Now, however, it’s using those contacts’ content within search results.
What it means for marketers
Since Google Social Search is still just an "experiment," any direct impact on marketers is limited. But if Google Social Search results become a standard part of Google’s search results, then you may have to change your existing approach to achieving visibility. The following are three reasons why and how you'll have to adjust:
1. Targeting becomes more critical. When users search for information on anything — from a store to a vacation spot — they likely pay more attention to content from friends than content from strangers. As a result, you'll face more challenges convincing searchers to believe your advertisements versus their friends’ advice. To create messages that resonate with searchers enough to fare competitively against posts from friends, you'll have to up your games in terms of targeting. More so than ever, you'll need to find the precise ad copy, keyword sets, geographic/demographic targeting and dayparting to reach your target audiences.
2. Organic real estate shrinks. While Google Social Search results currently appear on the first page of organic results, they're listed at the bottom of this page. Even so, that’s considered prime organic real estate. And these results may creep up further as Google Social Search develops. This means that Google Social Search results — i.e., your buddy’s Twitter updates — are poised to steal real estate that's traditionally gone to the best search engine optimized pages on the web. This poses a serious challenge to the SEO community. The only way I see search marketers regaining search results real estate is if they buy more search ads. (Of course, that’s my perspective as a practitioner of paid search; I’d love to hear thoughts from SEO exponents on this issue.)
3. Prime time for real time. Go to bing.com/twitter and you’ll see how much real-time search has already become a reality. By clicking on this link, users can access Bing to search the latest Twitter posts, as well as the web pages receiving the most links from Twitter users. Google Social Search, Twitter/Bing and any other search/social media mashups marry the fast-paced, often real-time social world with the world of search. As search results update at a quicker pace, be sure your advertising systems continue to work at the speed of search. You'll have to invest more heavily in real-time search advertising systems than you ever have before.
There’s a lot more to be said on the topic, but I’ll leave the rest for reader comments below. Also, if you’d like to follow up with thoughts about social media and search, feel free to reach me via my LinkedIn profile.
Mark Simon is the vice president of industry relations at Didit, a Rockville Centre, N.Y.-based digital advertising agency specializing in paid search. Reach him via LinkedIn or at firstname.lastname@example.org.