Say you're Googling for information like currency exchange rates or the time in Cairo, do you ever stop to think to yourself: Gee, I wonder how my mom/co-worker/Twitter crush feels about this? No? Well, Google's going to give it to you anyway. In an expansion of its social search efforts, you'll now start seeing "social search" results appear in your regular results. (Before, they only appeared at the bottom of the page or after clicking the "social" filter.) What exactly will this mean? "If you’re thinking about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and your colleague Matt has written a blog post about his own experience, then we’ll bump up that post with a note and a picture," says Google. Regular results will also show links from people you're connected to on Twitter or LinkedIn (not Facebook, since Zuckerberg wouldn't give up the goods). "For example, if you’re looking for a video of President Obama on ‘The Daily Show’ and your friend Nundu tweeted the video, that result might show up higher in your results and you’ll see a note with a picture of Nundu." Gee, thanks Nundu. Seeing a link with a small notation that it's been shared seems interesting at best and easily ignorable at worst. Bumping links higher in your search results just because someone you have a tenuous connection with idly clicked "recommend"? No, thank you.
If you'd rather not have the information you're searching for prioritized by someone else's interests, Google's put in some privacy measures and opt-out switches. You have control over how you connect accounts to Twitter, LinkedIn, and others — something you have to opt in to. You also have the option of connecting accounts without having those connections appear public. (Say if your Google profile is public and you don't want people to know you have a secret Twitter account mocking Rahm Emanuel.) The social results will also only show up if you're logged in to your Google account.
So if you want to stay logged in to Gmail all day but still get the most objectively useful results out of Google, don't link up your accounts. Well, that or get smarter "friends."
An update to Google Social Search [Google]
Google’s Search Results Get More Social; Twitter As The New Facebook “Like” [Search Engine Land]
Update: A Google spokesperson reached out to Intel with more details about social search that weren't covered in the company's blog:
We’ve written algorithms designed to surface social results when relevant to your search. For certain kinds of searches, say for simple factual information, social results are less likely to be relevant, and so are less likely to appear in your results. We’ve also done extensive user testing and evaluations to ensure the feature is not distracting. Social results have only been visible at the bottom of the page until now in large part because we wanted to ensure they could be highly relevant before integrating them throughout the page. It's important to remember that Google uses more than 200 signals to rank search results.