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Why Don't I Show Up in Social Search?

Today Google officially rolled out its social search function, a way to customize your SERPs to include results from people within your very own network. Pretty neat, considering the vast amount of people we can be linked to and the amount of content to wade through out there in search engine land.

Danny Sullivan has a great post about this, in which I was surprised to learn that a person can show up in their own searches (with the 'social' option). It struck me as odd until I read his explanation of it,
" own blog is listed. That makes sense, in a way. I know myself, and I write about Newport Beach a lot."

Intrigued, I instantly opted into the Google Experiment and started searching. I tried an easy test first - "SEO" - since a good number of my friends on Twitter are SEOs. Bingo:

At the bottom of the SERP, my very own results. The dude in the 'stache is a friend...and the second result is my very own husband. Now, why wouldn't Clint's 'result' show up before Chris's, since we share the same last name (therefore, Clint would be more relevant to my search)? Well, that's not the way this social search works - even within "my" social results, they're still ranked based on the traditional Google algorithm, meaning in Google's mind is more important than For now anyway :)

Ever the narcissist, I tried another search, something for which I figured I'd show up for. Something I blog/talk about a lot: my dog. So I chose "german shepherd" and scrolled to the bottom of the page - nada. What? Where am I? Shouldn't I show up in my own social network for something I blog, micro-blog, and talk about often? Hmf. Evidently not.

Okay, different search - "music" - SOMEONE I know must be mentioning something about music. Lo and behold, when I click on my 'Show Options' view and then narrow it down to 'Social,' here's what I see:

Wait, Cities 97? I don't follow Cities 97 on Twitter...oh, wait, but one of my co-workers does. While I certainly respect her choice to support easy listening, I'm personally not interested in that station. Even though it's very relevant to music, I personally have no connection to it so don't think it's a relevant result here.

So, for my last search (in this 'test') I tried something else. I'm connected to several of my co-workers via Facebook and Twitter, so I performed a search for my company's name, expecting to find at least a few co-workers who've mentioned where they work. The only result came from a co-worker who follows ME on Twitter, but I do not follow this person.

Thus far, Google, I don't vote it a total FAIL, but I do have some grievances with how this works. Why am I not showing up for my own "relevant social searches" but people/entities I don't even follow do show up?

Looks like there could be a couple bugs yet to work out with this.

*PS: Yes, I have a Google Profile and had it long before this post.


Paul Jahn said...

Definitely interesting. I'm a bit reserved to turn it on but if it's something you can turn off on a click I'll probably at least try it out. Finding any other results?

Somewhere there is a SEO or social media "expert" connecting w/ their clients socially to try and game the system. This is sad.

Sarah said...

But that's the thing with this feature/function - I don't know that it's possible to "game" the system, if it truly ends up working as it's supposed to.

People won't follow/friend random people they don't trust (as a general rule) so even if what you propose is true - SEOs/social media 'experts' are trying to connect randomly to show up in social searches - those tactics *shouldn't* work.

Again, if this works as it's supposed to - which it doesn't quite seem to be...yet.