It was announced last night that the social media giant Facebook, would be sharing the social context of its information database with the search under-dog, Bing. In other words, Bing will now know what every Facebook user “Likes”. Bing announced that it would be incorporating this information into its search algorithm to help increase the relevancy around its results.
An example of how this would work would be: if you search for hotels in Johannesburg, and your friend Jack has “Liked” the Nicol hotel in Bedfordview, Bing would give this more preference in the search engine results. Your friend’s name would also appear alongside the listing stating that he/she liked this hotel.
Popularity vs Relevance
While this does provide another level of intelligence to the search algorithm, is it not one that doesn’t really matter? Does this new addition not measure popularity over relevance?
Relevance: Relevance is a term used to describe how pertinent, connected, or applicable something is to a given matter.
Popularity: The quality or state of being popular; especially, the state of being esteemed by, or of being in favor with, the people at large
In short, are they not just making it more difficult for the potentially relevant under-dogs (less popular) businesses, ideals and people to be found high up in the search results pages? Just because I liked an article doesn’t necessarily mean I found it particularly useful or relevant. I could have just “Liked” that article as it was someone I admired who posted it. Once again, this proves that people with many connections and friends will have the upper hand in getting their content “Liked” and displayed higher up in the SERPS.
By using the “Like” button as a guide we are placing a lot of trust in our “circle of friends”. If I’m looking for something technical, who is to say my friends are well versed in the technology that I’m looking for.
Google has spent years refining its search algorithm and fine tuning it in to what is today, a highly relevant set of results. Granted, Google is going to have to find an answer to Bing’s heightened social search. But I highly doubt that Bing’s 10% market share of search is going to keep the developers and mathematicians at Google awake at night. Not to mention that in the announcement they said that 4% of their searches were of a social nature (searching for people). If this is their target market for this algorithm update is it really worth all the hype?
If they are truly trying to measure relevance, then surely the next step would be to have the long awaited “Unlike” button. If we are just measuring what people like, as apposed to their likes and dislikes, are we not only looking at one side of the coin? Surely these results will be skewed as they are far more things in Facebook that have not been liked than the ones that have. Again this goes back to our initial thoughts on popularity versus relevance.
Ironically this article is highly relevant in terms of the Bing and Facebook announcement. Does that mean if no one “likes” this article, does that mean that it is not relevant in the eyes of Bing?