When Google debuted this search tool in 2009, the service was designed to enhance your Google search results by displaying relevant posts from your social contacts at the bottom of each results page. Starting today, Google will be integrating some of your social media contacts' activities directly into your search results.
For example, when you log into your Google Profile and query "windsurfing," you might notice a search result that includes an annotation about a friend who has shared this link on his Twitter feed. Google will also include content shared or created by your friends on Blogger, YouTube, Quora, Flickr, Google Reader and others.
Social connections can affect the ranking of some Google search results. "The ranking impact will be different based on how strong your connections are, and different people will see different results," writes Search Engine Land.
Social Search results will be clearly marked with a note and a picture, so you'll know whose tweets or blog posts you're looking at.
If you decide to use Social Search, you can link to your own social media accounts publicly via your Google Profile, or you can make these connections private with a new setting in your Google account. Google will also search for other public accounts you might have and recommend that you link to them.
Will the expansion of Social Search be a boon to users? The jury's still out for some. "While that sort of information is great for some cases, there are often times when social search just isn't the right idea," writes The Next Web. "Quite often, I'm not looking for discussion or social features. I'm simply looking for facts or relevant information. Whether or not someone to whom I'm socially connected has shared that information doesn't necessarily come into play."
If you noticed that we haven't mentioned Facebook at all, there's a reason for that. "One thing this update doesn't include is Facebook 'Like' data, a prominent feature of Microsoft Bing," Mashable points out. "Unlike Google, Bing has access to instant personalization and the user data behind Facebook's walled garden. As one of Google's archenemies, it's unlikely the search giant gave much serious thought to deep Facebook integration, instead choosing Quora, Flickr and Twitter as its inaugural integrations."
To learn more about the expanded Social Search, visit the Official Google Blog, or check out a demo video (below).