Few search experts doubt that social media will have some impact on the SERPs in the future, but up until now, it hasn't been very clear that search engines like Google and Bing quite know the best way to integrate social content and signals into their algorithms and UIs.
But if several changes spotted in the wild on Google News results are any indication, they're increasing their rates of experimentation.
Malcolm Coles shared the details, and screenshots, on his blog:
Google seems to be experimenting with adding a "Shared by [number]" stat next to Google News results - so you can see how popular each story is on Twitter etc. Here's a screenshot - you can see "Shared by 5+" next to the news source...
In addition to the 'Shared By' data that Google is experimenting with, Coles also spotted a new 'recent updates' box underneath news results, which links to Google Realtime Search results related to the news topic.
Simple? Yes. But simple doesn't mean 'not better'.
Knowing how many people have shared a particular story might be interesting to Google News users, if not useful. And of course, it hints that Google might be looking to incorporate sharing as a ranking signal if it isn't already doing so already.
As it relates to the One of the big problems with Google Realtime Search (and Bing Social Search) is that tweets and status updates aren't immediately likely to be interesting, and most internet users probably aren't going to seek out Realtime Search or Bing Social Search on their own. But a subtle, non-intrusive link to social search results around something that many people converse about on Twitter and Facebook -- the news -- could be a step in the right direction.
Of course, for a search social layer to be really interesting to consumers, both Google and Bing will need to tackle the challenge of relevancy. Bing's partnership with Facebook, which looks to add relevancy by taking advantage of Facebook's social graph, may or may not prove to be the best way to separate the wheat from the chaff. But it's quite clear that Google and Bing are dedicated to adding a social layer to the search experience and that means we can expect to see a lot more experimentation, and a lot more refinement, in the very near future.