The Intersection Of Search & Social

Up Close SMX West 2014

Search and social are increasingly being used in the same sentence. There are two major trends involving search and social: Social media is being integrated into search results, and people are searching on social networks. What do these trends mean for marketers?

At the Social Meets Search: Where Are We Now; Where Are We Going? session at SMX West 2014 moderator Danny Sullivan was joined by Duane Forrester, Sr. Product Manager, Bing and Ruslan Belkin, VP of Engineering, Twitter, to talk about this integration and what online marketers need to know.

Social Signals Help Define Authority

Bing indexes half a billion tweets and two billion Facebook updates every day. Bing also integrates with LinkedIn, Klout, and are looking at Google+ data. That’s a lot of information!

According to Forrester, Bing is using all of these social signals to help determine authority. The search engines want to provide the best content from the best people, and social can help them determine who/what that is. Forrester noted that social signals are in fact influencing rankings, but only as part of an overall pattern. For example, when a large number of people are sharing or linking to a site, this attracts Bing’s attention. To determine if it truly has value, they may try to rank it higher and see what happens. He did however say that there is not a direct connection between number of likes and tweets to rankings.

The key for search marketers is that social signals can help a domain build trust, in addition to adding to the authority of a person. As more people are talking about a site and those social signals build and build, the domain becomes more authoritative. It’s worth noting, that while Bing does integrate with the various networks, there is no tool for inclusion. It’s up to Bing to decide what social content is relevant.

Bing Is Continuously Testing

Forrester said that tests are always happening and they are happening quickly. An A/B test doesn’t run over the course of two months, it runs over the course of four hours.

This testing becomes more important as the search engine integrates social elements. They still need to provide the right balance of results. For example, Bing used to have an arrow that showed trending topics and faces of your Facebook connections directly below a search result. While these elements drove a large number of clicks, they also took up a lot real estate. Bing moved these elements to side and is now seeing more engagement without taking up all that space.

Twitter Search Is Growing & It’s Personal

Last year alone, Twitter search grew by 120%, with the majority of that coming from mobile. In fact, according to Belkin, 76% of total traffic on Twitter is mobile. That’s a lot of people tweeting from their mobile devices when you consider Twitter boasts 241 million monthly active users.

Belkin also noted that Twitter search is increasingly personal. Using “realgraph,” Twitter looks at factors like who you follow, who you interact with, and where you’re located when providing search results. New products are also helping with personalization. @MagicRecs for example sends personalized push notifications about followers and tweets. @Discover also aims to provide these types of recommendations but in a larger capacity. The goal is to help you find things you’re interested in but aren’t necessarily in your timeline.