One thing is clear. For better or for worse, the major search engines are going more social in their quest to deliver more relevant results. In fact, even the non-major ones are as well.
Google recently announced the global launch of its social search, and Bing heavily boosted its integration with Facebook (the most popular social network – by far). I wrote an article for WebProNews recently looking at how to get more Facebook Likes and more traffic to your site with Facebook, some of which can actually be fueled by search.
Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz, a well known SEO expert gave a talk in Germany recently about the future of link building and the importance of social signals to the influence of search rankings:
It’s worth noting that Bing found Fishkin’s talk valuable enough to share on its own blog.
Of course not everyone thinks social is the right way for search to go. For example, you may not care what every person you’re connected to on a social network thinks when it comes to any given query. Frank Reed brought up some good points about trust in relation to social search in a recent article. He said:
It seems that Google and Bing are banking on people trusting more readily. The trouble is, that we have watered down the meaning of friend to the point where it is almost unrecognizable to what it was a mere 10 years ago.
I have a relatively low number of Facebook friends (although I am still above the stated average of 130) but many aren’t more than acquaintances, and that’s with me being very careful about who I accept. As a result, my level of trust with these friends does not come anywhere near the level of the small circle of truly trusted people in my life.
There’s no question that there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to social search, and that will likely remain true for quite some time. Users may see content based on friends, and find little to no value in it for the majority of their queries, yet they are likely to come across something every now and then from a friend that actually influences a decision – even if that decision isn’t to actually purchase something, it could be as simple as the decision to click on a search result, which could of course be your site.
Beyond that element of social search, people simply sharing your content on social networks like Facebook or Twitter may actually help your content rank better in general.
The fact is, social is becoming more critical to SEO strategies, and any online marketing campaign in general.