I’ve been reading a lot lately about the convergence of search and social. Aaron Goldman just published a good article on the similarities and differences between search and social users. And Danny Sullivan detailed how Google has responded to the recent partnership between Microsoft and Facebook by integrating more social content into their standard search results page.
To get a better understanding of how Google continues to evolve its management of user-generated content, let’s take a look at a few new features on the standard search engine results page (SERP).
Streamlining of Google Updates
As Danny Sullivan points out, Google has changed their treatment of latest updates. Previously, when a keyword reached a certain threshold of social chatter, Google would incorporate “real-time” updates into the search results box. These updates from Twitter, MySpace, etc. would scroll continuously on page 1, as in this example for [United Airlines]:
Now the count of recent updates will increase in real time on the SERP, but users must link out to the Google Updates page in order to review the content:
Google probably removed the scrolling real-time updates as part of the transition to Google Instant. Personally, I found these real-time updates to be distracting and of little relevance, so a link out to the current assortment of Tweets and status updates seems to improve the overall user experience.
In addition, Google has added a “shared by” count to popular news articles. In this example, the article from WebMD has been shared by 20+ people on sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. Clicking on the “shared by” link takes you to Google realtime search results for that URL.
Google is making some big steps to expand the breadth of content in the standard search results. As Sullivan points out, however, there is a big difference between the way Google and Bing are managing content from social networking sites. Bing is using Facebook data to show content from your circle of friends. Google is showing updates and social links from everyone.
Promoting Google Trends
In reviewing these new social–integration features, I came across yet upon another new content type on the search results page. Google is now including a search volume index and “hotness” meter from Google Trends for certain keywords on the bottom of Page 1:
A keyword needs to crack the Top 20 list on Google Trends for Google to include the search volume index and “hotness” level in the search results. Based on the volume of searches for [graco stroller recall], Google has deemed this to be a “Volcanic” query – a 5 out of 5 on its “hot or not” meter. In addition to “Volcanic,” the other hotness indicators (from more hot to less hot) are “On Fire”,” Spicy”, and “Medium”.
What do you think of these changes to the Google SERP? Does the inclusion of search volume data really help answer a user’s query? Do I get any more information about the recall of Graco strollers by knowing that this has been a “volcanically” hot topic on Google? Or is this an attempt by Google to promote its Trends data in response to the growth of Twitter and other real-time search engines?