At Google, it’s high time for real time.
The search giant began rolling out updates earlier this week that it says will increase the relevancy and depth of search results. According to Google, the new features “bring search results to life” through a real-time content stream aggregating the most relevant updates from microblogging platforms like Twitter and FriendFeed as well as news articles and blog posts as they are published.
Google is fueling real-time results through partnerships with Twitter (a relationship announced in October), Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, Jaiku and Indenti.ca.
For example, if you’re a Notre Dame fan looking for the latest info on the hunt for a new coach – and breaking news about the prospective hiring of Cincinnati’s Brian Kelly – you could utilize Google’s “Latest News” feature to peruse updates as they happen. Results on this page include tweets, blog posts, comments and updates from other social microblogging platforms like FriendFeed.
This feature, which acts somewhat like a custom news ticker, allows searchers to create a real-time feed of live updates pertaining to their topic of interest. You can also specify which type of real-time results you want to see – for example, by selecting the “Updates” option you can view only results aggregated from microblogs.
Even for Google users not specifically looking for real-time updates, this content now frequently appears in search results. When searching for the movie “Sherlock Holmes,” for example, a box of real-time search results appears within the list of natural results. And the listings here update, often every couple of seconds for a hot topic, as long as someone stays on that page of search listings. Google’s relevancy algorithms determine where to rank the real-time results compared to all of the other results on the page; for some queries, the real-time results rank first, making them the most prominent listings on the page.
Google is compiling its most popular real-time topics into the “hot topics” function within Google Trends.
With these updates Google has accounted for mobile searchers in addition to those using the Web. The “Latest News” and “Updates” features are designed for display on the iPhone and Android devices – so that searchers can access real-time results on the fly.
If marketers didn’t pay attention to real-time search before, now is a great time to get started. Google may tinker with how prominently it ranks real-time results, but at a minimum, one can expect that such results will be a mainstay of Google’s index. As more people and brands contribute public status updates across social media platforms, and as those updates come more frequently, Google will only have more such content to draw from.
This doesn’t mean every marketer should instantly hop on Twitter and Facebook and any lifecasting service they read about in Mashable, though registering brand names to prevent others from cybersquatting is always prudent, even when you have no plans for using the account. The first step is to monitor how real-time results affect your overall search presence, though note that even if real-time content doesn’t appear today, it might tomorrow.
More importantly, marketers will need to decide how they want to be part of the conversations that are happening. If they represent brands that people are talking about often in positive contexts, there is the opportunity to join and respond to these conversations to amplify the beneficial buzz. If they work with brands that attract a lot of negative chatter, they may look for ways to follow up with such consumers offline while funneling the feedback to customer service, research & development, human resources, or other internal parties as appropriate.
If there isn’t much conversation in real-time results, which will often be the case, then it will be beneficial for marketers to explore why this is the case. Is it because the brand is part of an industry that just isn’t discussed much in normal discourse? Do people talk about the activities they’re doing (such as laundry or sailing) without talking about the brands they’re using (like the kind of detergent or sailboat)? There are many strategies for helping brands stand out in such contexts, some of which are discussed in 360i’s Social Marketing Playbook, and ultimately marketers should see this as one more opportunity, just as Google’s arrival a decade ago as an important search engine presented marketers with a new opportunity to gain more visibility among their target audiences.
-Katie Perry, Corporate Marketing Coordinator, contributed to this report.