Facebook and Google are the two giants of the Internet world right now. As Facebook gradually crept up in numbers on Google, analysts jumped to conclusions that Facebook would somehow dethrone Google — despite the fact that their services were unique and non-overlapping. However, the picture is changing somewhat, and while Google will still not be shut down by Facebook, a lack of a solid partnership with them could be devastating.
The reason is the current trend of the search engines to integrate social networking data into their results. As reported by the LA Times, Blekko and Bing are key in adding social features to search. Bing’s partnership with Facebook has allowed them to showcase items that friends have “liked,” provide opportunities to like webpages, and otherwise integrate social networking features. Meanwhile, Blekko’s latest slash-tag (the /commands that you can enter to increase the focus of your search results) let you look at items specifically “liked” by your friends. In this way, the concept of internet popularity moves from the automated “link juice” model to one of “like juice.”
Adding social features also has one very significant advantage: It works as a human test against spam. Google, powerful and feature-filled though it may be, is seeing more and more complaints about the quantity of spam results — or, far more frequently, results created by those who make a living off of SERP manipulation. It’s that very same flaw that let Google overtake Yahoo, and it may be what allows Bing and Blekko to start taking pieces of Google’s empire.
Keep in mind, though, that the most recent Webmaster Q&A video from Matt Cutts tells us that Google will be looking at adding more search features, and that they’ve already started doing so. However, until a strong social networking partnership is established, Google may simply drag behind.