File Under: Social, Web Services

Google Taps Your Friends to Improve Search Results

Google has updated its Social Search tool to add links, photos and relevant web pages from your friends to Google’s normal search results. The changes build on Google’s earlier social-search efforts and help add a more familiar, human element to your search results.

Google Social Search, which debuted in 2009, taps your social network to find search results from people you know. Although your friend’s Flickr photos of Yosemite might not normally rank high in a Google search, Social Search adds another layer to the algorithm-based results and makes sure that you see your friend’s photos when you search for “Yosemite.” In order to use Social Search you must be signed in to a Google account.

Back when social Search first launched any results Google found within your social networks were relegated to the bottom of the page. Today’s update changes that, mixing social results in with regular search results. The change not only makes it easier to find results from within your social network, it also signals that Google is getting more serious about social search as a first class offering.

Facebook already uses similar social network connections to surface helpful links and even recently started using your friends to promote and advertise products within the site. Google, on the other hand, has been slow to embrace social searching. This is only the the second update to its social search tool in nearly two years.

The second major change in this update is that Social Search will now add notes for links your friends have shared on Twitter and other sites. For example, if you search for a video of a singer slapping his guitarist after a bad solo, and your friend happens to have posted the same video to Twitter, that result might show up higher in your results. You’ll also see a note beneath the link, mentioning that your friend tweeted the video.

The last change in this update to Social Search gives you a bit more control over how your various social network accounts are linked to Social Search. Previously accounts were connected publicly through your Google profile page. That still works, but you can now also connect accounts privately, so no one else will know that you masquerade as @voltronsuperfan on Twitter. Of course, Google will still know, so if you’re concerned about maintaining your privacy, Social Search probably isn’t for you.

For an overview of how Google Social Search works, check out this video:

Photo by Brynn Evans/Flickr/CC

See Also: