Google (news, site) is fiercely protective of its search business. While Facebook, with its social media supremacy, perpetually looms over the horizon as a potential arch-nemesis, Google is continuing to add features that make search more social. The big G has just rolled out social search to more languages and locales.
Integrating Twitter, Facebook, Other Social Media Sources
Google's Social Search started as an experimental feature that brought in social-related content into search results, which include blog posts, Twitter feeds, bookmarked items and the like. While SERPs are still ranked according to relevance as per Google's secret formula, Google has been inserting relevant results from one's social networks as determined by Google account login.
As Google launched +1, users found a more direct way to share their search recommendations with friends. Still, Google has thought it best to not just passively rely on users tagging content as part of one's social recommendations, and is actively incorporating other sources for added relevance. Now, the social search feature is open worldwide with 19 additional languages.
Social Search can help you find pages your friends have created, and it can also help you find links your contacts have shared on Twitter and other sites. If someone you're connected to has publicly shared a link, we may show that link in your results with a clear annotation. So, if you're looking for information about modern cooking and your colleague Adam shared a link about Modernist Cuisine, you'll see an annotation and picture of Adam under the result."
Google Knows Your Friends
Social will only be active if you're currently logged in to your Google account. Google will then try to analyze your connections based on your Google contact list, Google Talk buddy list, Buzz contacts, Reader contacts, Gmail correspondents, and will also attempt to look into your publicly available connections on networks such as Twitter and Facebook.
To some, this borders on invasion of privacy, and you might actually agree with how Facebook tried to bring these issues to light in a recent PR scandal. If you're squeamish about your privacy, then social search sources can easily be controlled and edited through your Google Dashboard under the Social Circle and Content heading, which includes direct connections, secondary connections and social content.
Is it Good for Business?
For enterprise users, the question here is perhaps the impact that social search will have on one's business. You're probably already doing some onsite and off-site SEO on your company website. Social search adds another dimension to SERPs: The trust factor. Readers are more likely to click results that friends have read or recommended, and Google might give your content additional relevancy points if more people give their approval by bookmarking it.
This is one good reason to design your content to be "share" worthy. Make more attention-grabbing headlines. Write more engaging content. Be active in interacting with your social network. Actively click +1 on sites you like. This added activity can also get you increased visibility.