Search News: Welcome to Search 3.0

Sometimes the world is like a Chuck Close painting: standing up close allows patterns and colors to be discerned, but it’s only by taking several steps back that what seems abstract congeals into a recognizable set of strikingly realistic features. Right now, that’s the way the world of search and social media feel – we all know that they are converging, and we all know that they affect each other, but it’s difficult to actually wrap our heads around what this will look like from a marketing point of view – let alone as users.

In Advertising Age’s latest Digital Issue, Reprise Media Managing Partner Peter Hershberg does the equivalent of taking three big steps back in the museum and reports on what he sees. What he reveals is something that we like to call Search 3.0 and it’s not just where search and social media are right now – it’s where it’s going in the future.

The most basic definition of Search 3.0 from the article is this:

“In Search 3.0, relevance is determined not just by what’s on a page and what surrounds that page but how that data relates to your personal network.”

It’s a conception of relevance that has the potential to radically change the way things like Google’s quality score and even search results themselves work.

The tendrils of these shifts are all around us – consider the fact that users who log into Google for services such as Gmail are already served up different search results from everyone else. They can even take the next step and customize those results to create a completely customized SERP.  The fact that Google now includes Twitter in its search results means that it could be possible to deliver search results that are filtered to rank results from or about people in one or all of your personal networks.

Facebook is another example – the recent changes to their interface have raised the ire of users but one of the most clever and so-far overlooked features is the ability to filter your friends into different categories, similar to what people do with the Tweetdeck Twitter application. If you want to know how good the new Yeah Yeah Yeah’s album is you could query friends in your “music lovers” category while you might not ask these same people for new car advice.

So what does this mean for marketers? Here’s how Pete put it:

“If 1.0 was about making sure the information within individual pages of your site could be found, and 2.0 was about making sure your site was optimized within a network of related sites, then 3.0 is going to be about finding ways to reach individuals by using their social graphs. That means reaching people where they’re already sharing, linking, publishing and tagging, and becoming another node on their social networks by interacting with them and adding value to their experiences online.”

In Search 3.0  people are empowered to control their information sources, and brands need to build up trust and utility in order to be included as a resource. Trust and utility can be gained by actions as simple as sharing recipes if you are a food brand, or dedicating your Twitter feed to answering questions about your product.

Optimizing your social profiles and your website through SEO will still be important  – after all you will need to found initially. There will also continue to be a paid search component. However paid search that takes advantage of the 3.0 environment will offer different options to drill down to consumers than what currently exists.

Search is increasingly a must-have feature on social networks like YouTube and Twitter, just as results from social networks are increasingly prominent on engines like Google and Yahoo. As users begin to categorize and filter their networks, so too will the ads that they are shown become more targeted based on the preferences of the user. In essence, it’s introducing an element of user-defined relevance, which given the controversy over relevance when it comes to search engine results, has the potential to serve more meaningful search results.

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them here or check out Reprise Media folks on Twitter.

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