Is Search Going Social?

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Finding true relevance in search results is becoming the new focus of users who are looking to the web for their information needs. For years, the algorithm has been the standard method that search engines have employed to determine relevance and deliver comprehensive results. Social search, however, could represent a change in search philosophy.

Even though Google prides itself with impressive algorithms and the latest in anti-spam technology, are search engines like Google truly succeeding at delivering results that are relevant to search terms?

Arnaud Fischer highlights these statistics in a piece at Search Engine Land:

According to Jupiter, 41.2 percent of users report that general search results are often not directly relevant to queries, and 18 percent leave a search engine without having found the information they were seeking.

So even with all the great advances in search technology over the past ten years, nearly one in five users leave empty handed. I think most search companies would agree that this is not an acceptable figure.

An algorithmic formula, however, has issues determining relevance in human terms. Stemming from this realization, the idea of socially driven search is beginning to gain a foothold in the minds of industry professionals and avid searchers.

Fischer talks about the benefits of social search technology:

Social search offers a new discovery paradigm. Internet search is for getting stuff done; it’s an in-and-out navigational tool. Search is also very much about discovery browsing and community-driven recommendation engines. Discovery browsing is entering a whole new navigation paradigm exemplified by companies like StumbleUpon.

The traditional linear directory navigation model is broken. Most emerging social discovery engines are adopting tag clouds as navigation tools that complement the search box.

My colleague Jason Lee Miller would tell you that the wisdom of crowds is a load of poppycock, and I’m not inclined to disagree. Appealing to the lowest common denominator isn’t exactly a sure fire method to raise the quality of, well… anything.

Perhaps social search, however, depends less on true wisdom and more on employing basic common sense when it comes to determining relevancy.


Is Search Going Social?
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