Earlier this week Google added a subtle, but interesting addition to its search function. For some search terms, news results are now displaying a ‘shared by’ number alongside the link. For the searches I’ve tried so far, these ‘shares’ only relate to Twitter but I’ve seen other people comment that it displays Facebook too. Here’s a screengrab of the first page of a search for ‘The Apprentice.’

When you click through into the News page there’s no ‘shared by’ numbers next to the full list of results, so at the moment, Google only seems to be providing these stats as a brief snapshot on the main page.

What’s interesting in this example is that The Guardian and Entertainment Weekly are not the top results in a Google News search. Is this new social search feature therefore going to affect the way Google ranks its results? It’s unclear at the moment whether this function will be further rolled out across all news results and/or into other search areas i.e. blogs but it’s certainly something that could have an impact on brands’ SEO strategies in the future.

What do you think of this new function? Should sharing be a key factor in Google’s mysterious ranking system?

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