Social search can be defined as a third and distinct area of search marketing. Rather than an algorithm or an auction-based ad system providing results, social search is the community of web users who are the authors of such answers. For example, Yahoo! Answers, just one of the social search engines out there, boasts 90 million users and 250 million answers worldwide. This provides consumers with the ability to get answers and pose queries for questions that arent readily given by an existing web site or paid placement listing.

If we think about the true potential of social search, it can be staggering to comprehend. In the current world of search, SERPs are comprised exclusively of content found on a published web site or ad copy placed by search advertising specialists. While this represents billions and billions of possible pages, it only reflects a fraction of all known human knowledge. Think about yourself for a moment, how much of your total knowledge have you committed to a website or book? My guess is less than 1%, even if youre a prolific author and web publisher.

With social search, we have the ability to tap all human knowledge. Sounds lofty and a bit portentous, but it may have the same democratizing effect on search marketers as blogging had on newspaper publishers. Power is spread to the masses, and rather than fear this, we have an opportunity as an industry to capitalize on this in order to offer more comprehensive insights to our clients.

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