How Google’s Social Search Works

google-labs-logo Google announced their new Social Search product this week on their blog.  Google Social Search is still in the experimental phase but it looks promising. Once you factor in Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, and a Blog, most of us publish a lot of content.  Some of this information can be useful to others, and even though they are connected to you socially (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and subscribe to your blog, they currently aren’t able to pull up this information very quickly. In the case of a web search, it’s highly unlikely your posts are going to show up on the first page for whatever topic they are looking for, but this is where Google Social Search is going to come in handy. 

Here’s a scenario where this could be pretty helpful.  Let’s say I have dinner at a great Mexican Restaurant in Little Rock and I post a note to Twitter raving about the food.  Let’s also say that a few of the people who follow me on Twitter reply to me with favorable reviews of their own.  Follow me so far?  Okay, let’s also say that 2 months later one of my friends is thinking about trying this restaurant but hasn’t talked to anyone who has been.  He does a quick Google Search for the Restaurant to see some reviews and my Tweet shows up in his search results!  Since he knows me as a trusted source, knowing first hand that I have excellent taste when it comes to food, a good review from me is going to trump any review website that he would have ordinarily based his decision on…

Here’s a better description from the Google Blog as to how the social search feature is going to come in handy:

Your friends and contacts are a key part of your life online. Most people on the web today make social connections and publish web content in many different ways, including blogs, status updates and tweets. This translates to a public social web of content that has special relevance to each person. Unfortunately, that information isn’t always very easy to find in one simple place. That’s why today we’re rolling out a new experiment on Google Labs called Google Social Search that helps you find more relevant public content from your broader social circle. It should be available for everyone to try by the end of the day, so be sure to check back.

A lot of people write about New York, so if I do a search for [new york] on Google, my best friend’s New York blog probably isn’t going to show up on the first page of my results. Probably what I’ll find are some well-known and official sites. We’ve taken steps to improve the relevance of our search results with personalization, but today’s launch takes that one step further. With Social Search, Google finds relevant public content from your friends and contacts and highlights it for you at the bottom of your search results. When I do a simple query for [new york], Google Social Search includes my friend’s blog on the results page under the heading "Results from people in your social circle for New York." I can also filter my results to see only content from my social circle by clicking "Show options" on the results page and clicking "Social."   Here’s a good video demonstration of Google’s Social Search:

All the information that appears as part of Google Social Search is published publicly on the web — you can find it without Social Search if you really want to. What we’ve done is surface that content together in one single place to make your results more relevant. The way we do it is by building a social circle of your friends and contacts using the connections linked from your public Google profile, such as the people you’re following on Twitter or FriendFeed. The results are specific to you, so you need to be signed in to your Google Account to use Social Search. If you use Gmail, we’ll also include your chat buddies and contacts in your friends, family, and coworkers groups. And if you use Google Reader, we’ll include some websites from your subscriptions as part of your social search results.

To learn more about how Social Search works behind the scenes, including the choices and control you have over the content you see and share, read our help center article or watch this video:

This feature is an experiment, but we’ve been using it at Google and the results have been exciting. We’d love to hear your feedback. Oh, and don’t forget to create a public Google profile to expand your social circle and more easily find the information you’re looking for (including that New York blog).

If you are interested in testing the Google Social Search Experiment, click here.
Official Google Blog: Introducing Google Social Search: I finally found my friend’s New York blog!