Google Experiment Could Place Friend Rants Above Retail Results

For time immemorial, or at least for a decade, E-tailers have been using everything from alchemy to algorithms to try and master search engine optimization (SEO). The oft-elusive goal: to have the almighty Google find their sites and place them high on prospective spenders' search results pages. Now, as blogger Paul Gillen perfectly points out, the Don't Be Evil Gods have changed the rules. With its experimental new program, called Social Search, Google is including--high on the precious first page of the results it fetches--items culled from the searcher's social network sphere.

Say John wants to buy a Gateway computer and does the regular Google search for the model he likes. With the new Google program, a Facebook rant by John's trusted college buddy Joe about how, say, Best Buy weaseled its way out of matching a competitor's price for a Gateway might show up right next to an expensively SEO-fertilized Best Buy listing. Granted, the Google Social Search listings appear at the bottom of the first page, but there are retailers and vendors that would kill for that chunk of real estate.