A recent article on ZDNet posited that Google will continue to be the primary search engine of choice for the foreseeable future. With competitors like Bing clamoring to get a slice of the “search pie”, and Facebook’s experiment in social search, it’s not easy to predict the future of search engines. The data, however, leads to interesting questions on just what it means to be the top search engine on the new Social Web.
No matter where you are on the web, you’ll hear it eventually: Search and Social are merging. The introduction of Google+ Local Pages is a prime example of search giants merging social networking with search results – using logged-in user information for better places results. The challenge to competitor search engines is first convincing people not to use Google, and second, competing with the vast array of product Google offers. On the whole, most average internet users are just fine with Google’s services, making the search juggernaut a household name – “Just Google it!” Since that’s where the majority of users are, that’s also where the advertisers are.
Another challenge competitors will face is to offer a search index as extensive as Google. It would be hard to provide better search results, better user interface, and better integration with all the other applications users use – Gmail, Youtube, Maps, and documents (Google Drive), for example. Even those who say that mobile apps and vertical portals will weaken Google’s search profits have to consider the iOS6 Maps debacle. One article claims that the “Giants [are] fighting a war for shrinking territory”, but even mobile apps are distributed via Google Play – which can be found on both Android and Apple devices.
But what if there was an insidious search option that’s used by over 845 million active users– 425 million users on mobile alone, each day?
What if there was an unsung search giant with over 100 billion collective connections – accounting for 1 out of every 5 pageviews on the internet world wide?
What if this search giant already had access to all the data a search engine would need to curate results based on interests, event attendance, app activity and social interaction – that was willingly given by users to the search engine, and updated constantly, making it some of the most in-depth and ACCURATE data available?
What if that Search Engine was Facebook?
Users may not like the idea of a Facebook Search Engine – but Facebook doesn’t strive to be a search engine. Facebook has the power to develop a social search option, which provides accurate results based on user profile and social data already provided.
The difference between Facebook and Google is the relatively little time it takes Facebook to crawl pages and glean information, versus the time it takes Google crawl lines of code and guess everything about the search user based on a meager amount of information. Where Google searches are all weighted nearly equally (with the exception of +1 votes for pages), and rely solely on search terms, Facebook likes, in app activities and “action links” help prioritize pages. Facebook users actively identify the types of content they share, allowing businesses to personalize content and driving engagement.
Of course, Google offers profile personalization, and with Google+ the search giant has taken steps towards becoming more social. Still Google+ posts on average have less than one +1, less than one reply, and less than one re-share. Users spend on average 3 minutes a month on Google+, whereas they spend over 400 minutes on Facebook. Google+ engagement levels are so low that they actually rank BEHIND MySpace.
All these things are changing the current search paradigm, to create new social searches that provide better results with better data. Since Facebook has tried extremely hard to keep from competing directly with Google, Bing and Facebook have partnered to give Bing’s search results a more social aspect – this may have helped Bing’s Search Market Share, which has been slowly, but steadily increasing. Of course, where privacy is concerned, Google still has more authority than Facebook. Google claims that 50 million users make use of Google’s “enhanced” products each day – including Gmail. Where search is concerned Google still eats up 66.8% of the Search Market Share. That leaves Google as the reigning king of search… for now.
So how do you prepare for the merger between search and social? How do you make sure your website will be seen in both traditional search and in new social searches? For starters - do focus on your Google search results because at this point, those are still important results. It also doesn't hurt to utilize and optimize Google's profiles and places so that you're participating in the social aspect of Google. Where Facebook is concerned, it is important that your business has a page, that it links back to your content, and that people can find you, when they need you, in Facebook searches. Facebook and other social networks still have the edge when it comes to engagement. Since every like on a page is a social vote for your site (which gives you sort of a "social" pagerank) building out your community is key to successful social search results.
What are you doing to prepare for new social searches?