Social Media and Customer Reviews May Factor in Search

December 1, 2010

In a pair of articles (linked here and here), Danny Sullivan discusses some recent developments in search engine evolution.

In the former, both Bing and Google discuss how social media link sharing is factored with the level of authority of the entity posting the link to affect its ranking in their respective algorithms. While it is not clear from the interviews whether social media affects ranking in their default web search engines, both have specialized search modes which do make use of this information. It doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to imagine this functionality being ported into the regular search modes at a future date.

If this happened, it would open up some interesting possibilities. The thought of internet celebrity affecting search results could certainly lead to abuse if not monitored carefully. But who is to say that a random thought from the mind of Lady Gaga might not provide a better response to user queries than the current Google algorithm?

The second article suggests that Google may have begun incorporating merchant reviews as a signal of a website’s quality when calculating ranking. Coming on the heels of the New York Times article about a merchant who claimed that bad reviews of his service were actually increasing his ranking, this has to be seen as a tactical move by Google to save face. Although, as reported in another article here, the merchant may have been incorrect in his assessment.

While Google did not go into detail about how the merchant review sites might factor into the algorithm, they did state that it would not be based on the sentiments expressed in the reviews. Considering the ways this might be easily manipulated, that is probably a good thing.

Edit 12/1/10: The second article sourced has been amended to clarify that Google has not gone on record as incorporating reviews as part of their search algorithm. This article has been updated to reflect the change. Here is the link to Google’s official blog on the subject.

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