This blog post is guest-written by Scott Koester, Product Manager for Bazaarvoice Search

When you look at search in the new social economy, it’s a whole new ballgame. In 2010, 70 percent of all online content will be user-generated, so optimizing this information – in addition to traditional content – is key to winning new traffic. MySpace and Facebook alone have more than 450 million users – this is where people are congregating. And consumers are getting smarter in the way they search. There’s huge growth in specific search terms – those that use five or more words are growing, while those using one or two words are declining.

When considering the search problem in this social economy, you need to optimize all the user-generated content (UGC) that customers contribute, find ways to work with popular online destinations rather than compete against them, and deliver information in the ways that searchers want to find it. At Bazaarvoice, we’re helping clients fulfill all these opportunities.

It’s obvious that product or brand content won’t capture all these searchers. It’s too generic, and it’s full of “marketing speak.” UGC speaks the same language as these searchers, even going so far as making common spelling errors users make. And retailers may find that their product copy is identical – or very similar – to that on competing sites. In this case, retailers would have to focus on expensive search engine marketing campaigns to simply stand apart and capture search traffic.

UGC also excels at fueling long-tail search, which has been shown to indicate that a searcher is closer to making a purchase. For example, if you are searching for “Nissan Sedan,” you may just be looking for generic information. However, if you search for “2009 Blue Nissan Sentra SE Austin,” it’s an indication that you know what you want, and you’re looking to buy it.

From the contributor’s angle, posting a review is often just the beginning of their contribution – they often want to share their recommendations with friends and family, which opens up a whole other area of search optimization. For example, when a user reviews a product or answers a question, they can share it on their Facebook page, so the members of their social network can read it. Now that content can be found by their friends and colleagues, and it’s linked back to the product page.

Searchers also rely on experts in certain categories. Experts build credibility by the content they create and recommendations they make, and such experts often make themselves known via profiles on sites that offer UGC. Searchers go to their favorite sites that have UGC, find profiles of people like them or experts, and uncover new products those contributors recommend. All the cross-linking within the page also creates new opportunities for search engines to find this content, again bumping up the search quotient.

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In short, Bazaarvoice is creating a new way of thinking about search, and a new framework to help our clients optimize all the search possibilities. Our current SearchVoice Platform, which includes inline search, search-enabled landing pages, and cross-linked microsites, provides the technology that increases search across the entire purchase funnel. Social Amplification enables our clients to share their content beyond their site – via Facebook and other social networks, in shopping portals, and on other sites. Dynamic Merchandising lets UGC fuel successful search engine marketing programs to maximize results.

We help optimize search as soon as a client starts the implementation process, then each client’s Bazaarvoice Community Manager assesses their search performance using our Search Playbook and helps them advance across the search maturity model. We continuously innovate in search to help our clients win the battle for more search traffic via UGC.

Look for more about search on this blog in the coming weeks, and request our white paper, “Boosting Natural Search Traffic using Ratings and Reviews.”

7 Responses to “The New Social Search Game: A Holistic View of “Search””

  1. Search is the endgame in the current phase of online long-tail economics. Check out the recent ACM Journal article on search. Search evolution will be sophisticated, smart (a la neural network learning) and way beyond just recognizing typos.

    So glad to see you are incorporating the social network aspect of search. I trust my friends and family more than I trust marketers. Plus there are a few experts I filter in. If a search engine is smart enough to recognize my “trust circle” then it will truly be a useful tool.

  2. Search is the endgame in the current phase of online long-tail economics. Check out the recent ACM Journal article on search. Search evolution will be sophisticated, smart (a la neural network learning) and way beyond just recognizing typos.

    So glad to see you are incorporating the social network aspect of search. I trust my friends and family more than I trust marketers. Plus there are a few experts I filter in. If a search engine is smart enough to recognize my “trust circle” then it will truly be a useful tool.

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