A few recent articles on social search got me thinking about how much search has changed and continues to change. In a meeting with a staff member last week I was explaining the notion of “collective intelligence” and how millions of individual editorial decisions people make through social search and tagging is taking the user search experience to a new level.
Over at iMedia Connection, iProspect’s Naga Krothapalli talks about the pros and cons of social tagging and search. The pros include: an alternative to browser based bookmarks, ease of use due to tags and the “theoretical” improvement in ability for the search engine to provide relevant and more accurate results. The cons: limited number of user adoption and doing tagging as well as limitations of tagging.
Overall, Naga says search marketers should be sure their regular organic search results are doing well before investing too much into affecting social search, since there is such a small user adoption rate.
The LA Times posted a storey from AP, “Do ‘Social’ Search Engines Have the Answers? ” that highlights several small search engines that use social search and tagging as well as the efforts of Google and Yahoo. The article gives the assessment that traditional search engines offer information based on objective criteria, whereas social search is more subjective. I think there is a certain objectivity that comes with a mass of subjective evaluations though, and that is the potential for social search if the number of users increases significantly.
Regardless of the adoption rates, social search and tagging have definitley hit the radar for the search marketing community. The upcoming Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose has devoted an entire track to social search.
I agree with the articles that social search isn’t going to overcome traditional search functionality, but the niche engines will be able to offer insight to users that the larger search engines cannot. Yahoo MyWeb, del.icio.us, and Google’s Personalized Search and the Google Co op program illustrate the traditional search engines’ efforts at incorporating social search into the array of options to keep users happy. I think those efforts have the opportunity to make traditional search better – we’ll see.