Google launched its Google Social Search this week. The new product is still in its experimental phase so you will need to log in to your Google account to sign up for the experiment as well as see the social search results.
So what is Google Social Search exactly and how does it work?
Google Social Search is simply a way to see “relevant web content written by people in your social circle”. You can view the content from people in your social circle by joining the experiment here and viewing the results listed under the new category, “Results from people in your social circle”, found at the bottom of Google’s SERPs.
There are three ways in which Google determines the people that belong to your social circle: your public Google profile, Google chat buddies, and Google Reader Subscriptions. If you haven’t tweaked your Google profile it would be a good idea to add all your other websites, blogs, and social site accounts in the profile so that Google can add your contacts in these site to your social circle. Note though that since Google includes both your implicit social circle (people directly connected to you) and your extended social circle (people connected to you via your contacts) you might see results from people you do not know or do not necessarily wish to follow.
When Google has determined the list of people in your social circle it then uses its regular search algorithm to fetch results for you whenever you search for anything via Google but this time adds results from your social circle WHEN RELEVANT. So do not expect to see the “Results from people in your social circle” each time you make a query.
PRIVACY AND CONTROL ISSUES
Not surprisingly one of the biggest issues people will be even more concerned about when it comes to social search engines (not just Google’s) is the privacy issue. The good thing about Google Social Search is that it will only index and list PUBLIC content. What this means is that you have control over what will appear in your friends search results. If you are not comfortable about your content appearing in social search results then make sure your social site account profile is not ticked as public. Furthermore if you don’t want friends of friends to see your online content then specify that you only want direct friends to be able to see your content. You can do this on facebook and most other social sites. As for your blog and other sites just make sure you don’t publish anything you don’t want to make public! And remember delete all links in your public Google profile that you don’t want to make public.
When it comes to screening the content YOU see you also have control. You can simply remove a “friend” if you are getting results from someone you do not know.
Another thing you should remember when it comes to the privacy issue is that people Googling will not automatically see your content they first have to be logged in to their Google account, be connected to you in some way for you to be included in their social circle, and they have to search for something relevant to your public content. Furthermore, your list of buddies/friends will NOT be listed publicly. You will only see results from these friends but even you will not see a complete list of their buddies.
Next I will be doing a short post on why social search is important in SEO.