The advent of Google’s latest foray into the social web could have profound effects on the use of search engine optimization (SEO) as a digital marketing tool, experts say.

Google Social Search, which launched earlier this year, essentially ascribes more relevance to content from social media networks than from the web at large. John Greer, of Search Engine Watch, says that "this tends to fit into certain types of searches, such as ‘What’s a good restaurant to take my wife for our anniversary?’ rather than ‘How many light years away is Alpha Centauri?’"

Greer suggests that Social Search will place a premium on subscribers and update activity for a company’s social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter. Gmail results are also included in Social Search, Greer says, so an email newsletter – with the proper degree of search engine optimization (SEO), of course – could pay dividends.

Experts say that, while the use of social media by businesses has suffered from teething troubles – some concerns over privacy and relevance remain – the SEO potential of the medium is very high.