I just checked out Google’s new Social Search experiment.  The idea is that Google can index information from your social network and display relevant content in your search results.  For more detail read Danny Sullivan’s post on the launch.  Here’s Danny’s summary scenario on how the system could work:

  1. Google sees I have a friend on Twitter
  2. That friend links to their blog from their Twitter profile
  3. Google understands that they are connected to that blog
  4. The friend’s blog has a link to their Flickr account
  5. Google may understand, then, that the person I know on Twitter is also related to their Flickr account, even if that account wasn’t listed on their Twitter profile

I tried it out for a number of local seo and local search queries and it seems like the system still has a ways to go before it gets local.

Search Query = “local seo”

Now I am a big fan of Lyndoman, Chuck Reynolds (thanks again for the Wave invite!) & Bill Hartzer, but I am curious why these guys show up as most relevant to my “local seo” query.   I would have thought that anyone with a social profile connected to the top results in Google for local seo would be in there, but it looks like some combination of Gmail connection plus the strength of the profile’s social network is a big factor here.  There are few of us who can out-social Lyndoman and Bill has been a fixture in SEO circles for a long time so his network is likely huge and filled with others with large networks.  I am guessing Chuck’s Google Wave connection puts him over the top for me.

Search Queries = “local search engine optimization”, “local search optimization”
No social search results.

Search Queries = “pizza”

Looks like Chuck likes pictures of food.  Perhaps no one in my social net lives near me or has written a review of a local pizza joint, but you’d figure if Google shows a 7 pack for a query that the social results would also have some local intent.

I tried a number of other local searches, particularly those that targeted categories and profile names of nearby businesses that I am connected to on Twitter and came up empty-handed every time.

Google Social Search is obviously very new and I am guessing they will get better at surfacing relevant local content as they develop the service.

Bottom Line: This is a big deal.  When Insider Pages, Yelp & JudysBook first started the goal was to make social recommendations a centerpiece of the search experience.  Now Google appears on the path to making it actually happen (note to Google – I think Judysbook has a trademark you might want to check out).  I think this brings up a lot of opportunity in the local search arena – and a lot of potential for spam – if a spammer can infiltrate your social net they should be able to easily surface for a number of local queries where your real network has no data, which at the get-go should be 90% of all queries.

My advice to all of you local search optimizers out there – for now keep your friends close, and keep your friends with strong social profiles who can get ranked for those local search queries even closer 🙂

and speaking of local social here’s another one Cherrp

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7 Response Comments

  • Chuck Reynolds  October 27, 2009 at 2:24 am

    I DO like pictures of food! hence me starting http://UpChuck.us lol…

    I’d assume that anybody that’s ranked very well in Google are the only friends that’ll be showing up in the beta results, but I haven’t had time to play with it yet.

    I’m wondering why I don’t have a picture listed there… honestly it’s bothering me now haha…

    Local search is huge and is just starting to blow up, and local businesses are far behind. It’s the social media elite and bloggers and video guys that are going to shine with the new changes and businesses need to understand that people are talking about them whether they like it or not. If they engage with them and turn that into money then more power to em… this new tool is just the tip of what’s coming in local search.

    Thx for covering it

  • Case Ernsting  October 27, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Wonderful post! I’ve been messing around with Google Social Search experimental for the past hour now totally shirking duties for the day. Social search is going to change so much at search engines! If you have any additional resources that you used for this article, I’d love to hear about them.

    Do you think the new agreements between Twitter and Google & Bing are a sign of increased local search efforts?

  • Andrew Shotland  October 27, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Thanks Case. The only tool I used for this was Google. I would guess that as G & B incorporate Twitter into their algos, we should start to see these show up as part of the local relevance algo.

  • James Startford @JRStratford on Twitter  October 31, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Hopefully Google tweaks this so that the local search is more relevant. Yelp is good, but it’s strange wheat your local seo search results were. We’ll give them time and see. For now I guess I’ll get used to it and do some testing myself. Sometimes the use for something that looks focused is only good at the fringes. I’m wondering about interlacing social media accounts and aggregations effect on the perceived relevance. It’s time to go to the lab again.

    Thanks for the informative post!

  • Bernie  November 1, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Hi Andrew.

    This is indeed interesting – and kind of remind me of that lifestream craze a year ago. FriendFeed anyone?

    Nevertheless, this is probably the end of SEO as we know it – in 18 months time (or even less), you won’t have interesting results for your Google searches unless logged in. And Google will actively market that fact (see Matt Cutts’ video here: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/introducing-google-social-search-i.html), so let’s be prepared to see lots more Google users logged in than right now.

    Profiling, profiling, profiling… This is now all that matters.

  • Craig Rentmeester  November 2, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the analysis of Google Social Search. I haven’t had the time to test it too much, or write a coherent blog post like this. It was exactly the type of info I was looking for given the abundance of profile attacks on Twitter today — not sure if people in your network got nailed, too.

    I also wanted to let you know that the link to Cherrp is wrong, and directs to Cherp, with 1 R in the name — a domain that is for sale.


  • Andrew Shotland  November 2, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    oops. corrected. thanks craig.