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What Impact Will Social Search Have on Real Estate Pros and Is Social Media the new SEO?

According to Wikipedia:

Social search or a social search engine is a type of web search that takes into account the Social Graph of the person initiating the Search Query. When applied to web search thisSocial Graph approach to relevance is in contrast to established algorithmic or machine-based approaches where relevance is determined by analyzing the text of each document or the link structure of the documents.[1] Search results produced by social search engine give more visibility to content created or touched by users in the Social Graph.

Social search takes many forms, ranging from simple shared bookmarks or tagging of content with descriptive labels to more sophisticated approaches that combine human intelligence with computer algorithms.[2][3]

The search experience takes into account varying sources of metadata, such as collaborative discovery of web pages, tags, social ranking, commenting on bookmarks, news, images, videos, knowledge sharing, podcasts and other web pages. Example forms of user input include social bookmarking or direct interaction with the search results such as promoting or demoting results the user feels are more or less relevant to their query.[4]

Everyone has been thinking about the concept of social search for quite some time. But no one has really done it yet, unless you call Tweeting out questions to your followers “social search”. To be fair, I guess that is social search — but no one has done it in an automated way that revolutionizes the search game the same way Google’s Page Rank revolutionized search a decade ago. I believe it’s only a matter of time before we see it in action on a massive scale. Facebook is working on a Q&A product, Google already tipped their hand in a huge way with the purchase of Aardvark for $50 million. The two most dominant tech companies on the web are working on it (and I bet Twitter is too), so it’s clear social search is coming in a big big way. And that means someone is going to finally nail it. My bet is Facebook because of the social graph they have built up.

Social search has serious SEO implications, because, as I mentioned in my post on YouReach Media, “‘Likes’ and retweets are rapidly becoming the new “links” (votes) of the web”. That’s a scary thing for someone who has no concept of what those retweets and “likes” are, and how other social sites may possibly factor into whatever social search ends up emerging. It’s scary for a person who has focused strictly on SEO the old fashioned way (by paying for links) and spent zero time on their social media strategy. It’s scary for someone with no social media strategy whatsoever. If and when social search goes mainstream, it’s clear professionals with a comprehensive social media strategy and understanding about how to attract “votes” on the web in a variety of fashions will have the leg up on someone with a website from 2000 and organic ranking only due to paid SEO.

What do you think — is social search going to change the way real estate professionals focus their time online? Or the extreme case scenario (which I don’t believe) — are websites going to become obsolete in favor or Facebook pages or some other more social destination?

PS – I should note link building is not dead yet. Jay Thompson deserves credit for prompting this discussion with his comment here. Jay – you now have 70kish + 1 backlinks…

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • Great post, the Facebook “Likes” are the biggest question mark on the SEO scene in a long time. I agree they'll have an impact, but I'm a bit skeptical of those who see them as the new backlinks.

    A consumer clicking “Like” takes two seconds. A web site developer/owner linking to another site is a deliberate, information-directed action. Real links will still have much more weight, I'd imagine.

  • I think it makes sense to factor in the FB Like button, retweets and number of times something has been linked to in social media sites like FB (I guess that is really the same thing as a retweet but to me retweet references only twitter links).

    I disagree with Sam that links are more valuable because they are more deliberate than simply clicking a like button. The reality is that the majority of people consuming material are not bloggers or website owners, and have no way to create a true backlink. By factoring in actions on social media sites, the search engines would be able to see what the bigger audience gives authority too rather than focusing on just what other website owners prefer.

    • I agree with Sam that a link is always going to be valued stronger than a “like” or a “retweet” because it does actually take effort to do — even though not everyone has the means to do it.

  • Eric Bramlett

    I doubt that we'll see Facebook get a real hold as a search portal, just as I doubt Google will gain serious traction with their Facebook competitor site (if they decide to pursue it.)

    That said, Google is already using the social graph to deliver results – look at the bottom of the SERPs after running a search, and you'll often see something like “Results from people in your social circle for….” Ranking sites highly based on the gross # of “likes” (or the equivalent) is problematic b/c there's a high potential for abuse (which is why Google puts little to no weight behind user input when people bump sites up or down the SERPs in personalized search.) However, if Drew's in my social circle, and Drew likes a specific website about cupcakes, there's a % likelihood that I will also like that site. So, graphing and ranking sites based on what your social circle also likes is relevant.

    Anyways…just my .02! Speculation, but I like to think it's informed.

  • Good job pulling this all together! It has been interesting to see this industry embrace and utilize social media. What I particularly like about this is even the smallest business has the ability to make an impression on a shoestring budget.

    The key is going to be finding cost-effective ways to manage their social media presence without taking them away from their “real” job. Being a small business however, I find social media much effective where we can keep up with real-time promotional posts/tweets about buy a home , selling homes, etc.

  • I have beeing searching the google for this info and just wanted to say thanks to u for this post. Also, just off topic, how can i get a copy of this theme? – 10x

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