SES: Maximizing Social Search

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The rise of the social network has e-business professionals batting ideas back and forth about how to properly utilize them to draw attention to a service or product. One of the areas explored is social search – where’s it headed, what needs to be improved and what people are doing about it.

Maximizing Social Search
Maximizing Social Search

From the Search Engine Strategies conference in Chicago, the session entitled “Social Search Overview” was, according to sources on the scene, just that, with the moderator of the session the only panelist with anything useful to impart.

The others, representatives from Google, Yahoo, and Ask.com, seemed to be on more of sales call, plugging their own products rather than talking about the real topic: utilizing social search to better your business.

At the conference website, the session was described this way:

“Humans are hot again, when it comes to search. But this time, it’s not the old school method of using a small group of human editors to categorize the web. Instead, search engines are tapping into human knowledge more widely through tagging, click through tracking, search history features and other methods.”

Chris Sherman, executive editor at Search Engine Watch and moderator for the search engine sales presentations, went in to a detailed list of various Web 2.0 social sites before addressing the problems facing the new wing of the industry and how to overcome them.

Sherman outlined an array social sites, from social bookmarking to tag engines, collaborative directories, personalized verticals, collaborative harvesters, and social Q & A sites like Google Co-op, Yahoo Answers, and Answerbag.

Social sites are having a major impact on the way information is shared on the Web – so much so that there are terms blossoming like “the Digg Effect,” and “getting Boing-Boinged” or “getting Slashdotted.” These are events getting well-known amongst content providers because they are prone to melting servers as visitors rush in.

Robert Scoble has talked about this effect in the past, comparing the traffic he gets from Digg.com to mainstream media sites like USA Today. Digg generates far more traffic than MSM.

Hence all the buzz and why Sherman provided a list of these sites to examine:

  • Social Bookmarking: del.icio.us, myweb, and furl
  • Tag Engines: Technorati and Bloglines
  • Collaborative Directories: ODP, Prefound, Zimbio, Wikipedia
  • Personalized Verticals: Eurekster and Rollyo
  • Collaborative Harvesters: Digg, Reddit, and Netscape
  • Sherman alluded to the problem of information overload – there’s so much information out there, being pushed and linked and discussed, that someone trying to keep up with everything would be hard pressed to do so.

    Search, then, will become very important to the end user as this information overload builds. But the focus isn’t on text. The major search engines already rule that front. Social search will flourish alongside video, image, and audio content.

    An issue that will need to be addressed, though it seems somewhat unrealistic in a social world with every type of person, is the issue of tagging. This is where a webmaster or blogger can get a leg up on the unprofessional competition. Those who tag their content for Technorati still often tag with ambiguous language.

    There’s no “controlled vocabulary” being used to boil down the topic enough so that a searcher can always find it. This is often an issue with traditional SEO – writers using keywords that nobody uses.

    Spammers, sploggers, and scrapers also douse the parade a bit, either redirecting traffic that belongs to someone else, stealing content, spreading malware, or offering useless stops along the way.

    Sherman believes a combination of things, ultimately, will make social search work:

  • A combination of algorithms and people-mediated search
  • Trust networks (shared bookmark services – areas you trust)
  • Increased personalization and user control over result filtering
  • Focus on non-text content
  • Tag:

    Add to Del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit | Furl

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