Social Search Is Google’s Killer Feature

by Hessam on January 28, 2010

social graphThis is something which I’m really excited about and I believe is a real killer feature for Google Search. Unfortunately with the frantic hype around Apple’s announcement of the iPad, this news has not yet got the attention it really deserves. Back in October 2009 Google announced Social Search as an experiment on Google Labs. Users could then opt-in and test the feature which enabled them to find more relevant results from their broader social circle. The result is relevant information recommended by your contacts which is bound to be better than from strangers, and which results in a more personalized search experience. Yesterday Google rolled this feature out of experimental and into beta which means it’s now available for everyone.

The principles of the Social Search feature are very simple. As a user I can create a Google Profile and link it with my various public accounts on for instance Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr. Google then uses this information, plus other clues such as my Gmail contacts or blogs in my Google Reader, to generate a social graph of my direct connections, friends of friends and so on. Next time I perform a search, the search algorithms look through the public content published in my social graph to see if there is something relevant available.

Here is an example of how it can look like: when I for instance search for [301 redirect], I get two very relevant results from my social circle blended with other results. One is an excellent blogpost from my friend Jesper Åström about how to implement a .htaccess 301 redirect, and a second blogpost from my former colleague at Google John Muller about 301 redirection issues on Twitter.

Google Social Search

So how did Google found these two results? That’s simply because I have linked my Twitter profile from my public Google Profile. Google’s algorithms can then see that I’m following both of these guys on Twitter, and that both have a link to their blogs in their Twitter profiles. The type of content which might pop up in Social Search are for instance blogposts, tweets and status updates on other microblogging platforms, reviews, public Picasa or Flickr images,  and other activity from your friends on places which are linked to via their profiles.

To start using Google Social Search, you need to first create your own Google Profile and add links to your public profile on Twitter, FriendFeed, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr, etc. Google’s algorithms will then use these links to outline your relationship graph and to identify relevant content from your online neighbourhood next time you make a search.

If you are already using this feature, head over to this page to get an overview of your current social circle as Google sees it. More details about Social Search here.

(Photo credit: laurelpapworth.com, personalizemedia.com)

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