Have you been looking for ways that your social connections influence your search results? Did you Google it? You might have even Binged it? But I don’t think anyone ever Yahooed anything? And are you enough of an internet veteran to have ever Dogpiled anything?

comScore research has shown that more than 90% of business purchase processes begin with someone typing some keywords into their favorite search engine. In the US, 65% of the time that is Google, but increasing, Microsoft is responsible for serving those results through both Bing and Yahoo, with 31% of US search volume.

So back to the question at hand. How do your connections influence your search results? That depends who you ask. Let’s start with Google.

What happens if you Google the phrase “How do my social connections affect my search results?”

The first result is a Rand Fiskin article on SEOmoz, one of the leading SEO resource sites on the web, called Social Annotations in Search: Now Your Social Network = Rankings. The article shows several examples of search results and what appears at the top of the results based on connections. Not only does he look at the serious and competitive category of web analytics, but also cupcakes.

The second result is from Google+ Webmaster FAQs and, among many other things, it describes how the Google +1 button affects search results. Since this is an FAQ page for site publishers, it answers the question of what happens when people click the +1 button on your site. That page is more likely to show up in the search results of their connections. And the search results indicate who in your network clicked +1.

Now that Google+ is open to everyone, more people will be connecting their social networks, and their entire social graph, to their Google account. Social influencing search just got bigger.

How about asking the same question on Bing? “How do my social connections affect my search results?”

The first result is from a New Delhi SEO blog. Without knowing much about this firm, I would guess they have cracked the code on Bing search results, because this is not a site that normally tops the list of SEO experts. The second and third results are the same as Google: the SEOmoz article and the +1 FAQs. I was surprised that I didn’t get any results describing Bing’s integration with the Facebook social graph.

It turns out that you have to connect Facebook to Bing for the social connections to work, but I didn’t see much difference in my search results after doing that. The top results didn’t change. In this instance, social search did not provide much value on Bing, but it is coming.

Two Business Takeaways

  • First, if you are responsible for making business purchases, it makes sense to connect online with industry colleagues, so their online endorsements can provide better recommendations within your search results.
  • Second, if you are looking to spread your company message, again connect with industry colleagues to increase the likelihood that these connections will see what you have shared and liked.

Have you seen your social connections appearing in your search results? Have your search results gotten more relevant as social search grows?