Google’s Open Social, SEO, and You

originally posted on Concept Hub

by Timothy Moenk

Since Facebook unveiled their application platform earlier this year, all other social networking sites have been having to play catchup. This could have turned out very badly if each social network had developed their own platforms for social applications to plug into. If this had been the case, then the battle for eyeballs would have turned into a war of attrition as each network would have had to court the scarce resource of web application developers to each of their respective platforms. This would have been bad for the web application developers, and bad for the web in general.

Fortunately, this past week’s announcement of Google’s Open Social initiative has come just in time to save the day! In one swell foop, Google has leveled the playing field by creating a solution to the major problem of competing application frameworks for social data.They’ve done this by proposing open standards for the same types of social applications that have been appearing in Facebook the past few months. And while it may seem that all these social networks are “ganging up” on Facebook, this development benefits Facebook as well. Through Google’s Open Social initiative everyone wins, and the playing field has now changed.

While Open Social changes the landscape of web in a way that benefits everyone, Google didn’t just do this for the betterment of all. This move really ties back into their core offering: search.

One of the key innovations that has made Facebook so influential in the industry is their social “News Feed” that presents you with activity information for people in your network. Through the Facebook Platform, you are able to connect all the web services you use from across the web whether it’s a blog, social bookmarking service, streaming video site, event calendar, game, etc, and create a personalized news feed of your activity from all around the web that is then presented to people in your network (according to your privacy settings of course). Through Open Social, every social network now has the ability to aggregate and present this information to your network.

Needless to say when you have a lot of friends, this can turn into fire hydrant of information fast! Luckily, Facebook already has a solution. They have an algorithm that preselects which information about your contact lists activities will likely be most relevant and interesting to you. Up until now, they have had no competition in this space. Now, Google is their competition. Google has years of experience in creating algorithms that determine relevancy for search, and now they will apply this expertise to social information.

Google may not be Facebook’s biggest competition however. The social networking space is crowded, and Google doesn’t really need to win the social networking game. So why is Open Social so important for them, and how does this impact us?

It all comes back to search. By having access to aggregated activity information in the same way Facebook does, Google gains a powerful contextual look into user behavior  across the web. Google already keeps tabs on our search history in order to improve search results. Now because of Open Social, they’ll be able to track our behavior in ways never before possible and bring us closer to the holy grail of search: Personalized Search.

This will change the face of Search Engine Optimization because our search rankings will become more influenced by social effects than they ever have before. Because of this new added dimension to Personalized Search, it will become increasingly impossible for organizations to continue ignoring the social web. Over the long term, Open Social makes the necessity for strategically engaging human beings via social media all the more imperative.