Brafton recently reported that seeding social sites with quality content will be key to catching clicks in 2011, and now it seems social recommendations could also play a part in which content consumers click in Google News results. The search giant has launched a "Most Shared" feature in News results, rewarding content that generates buzz among online users.
The Most Shared tab is visible on the lower right side of the page, and it offers insight on how many people have passed news stories along. At press time, the most shared article was one about the recent WikiLeaks founder, which garnered more than 1,600 shares.
It's unclear what "shared" refers to with respect to the News results included in this tab. The feature may track the number of times people use Google News' own sharing features, or it could calculate the number of times a story is shared on Twitter and other social sites.
No matter where the "share" data originates, this new tab makes it clear that the search giant is moving toward a social search experience. Brafton reported earlier this year that Google tested a similar social component in its standard search results, with "Shared By" and "Recent Updates" elements appearing below organic results. Though these features seem to have gone by the wayside, the site's recent launch of Google Hotpot and Boutiques.com, both of which were covered by Brafton, indicate that the search giant is still committed to providing consumers with relevant results supported by human users.
Notably, the company's algorithm recently came under fire from the New York Times, in the tale of one very unhappy customer who was displeased with a business that ranked well in Google results. The CEO of Blekko, the slashtag search engine that promises spam-free search results, suggests algorithms are declining, and soon human-supported search results will be the norm.
Whether or not the era of social search is upon us, this Google News development makes it clear that content marketing strategies must aim to produce Like-bait as much as linkbait. This could be especially important for brands that hope to rank well in Bing results in light of its Facebook alliance, and, as Brafton has reported, a study proves there are significant costs in traffic for failing to optimize sites for Microsoft's search engine.