The integration of social services on sites such as Bing and new start-up Blekko may change the way people consider search, according to one expert.

Search Engine Land's Greg Sterling suggested that, in the future, it may even reach a point where social data is "as powerful an influence on ranking as any factor".

Although he noted that Bing has so far been "somewhat cautious" in its rollout of Facebook Likes in its results, services such as Blekko are being far more aggressive with these strategies.

Blekko, which has been live since November, also recently announced an agreement with DuckDuckGo to share certain features across both their domains.

Mr Sterling explained the start-up's use of slashtags could be used to create more relevant and personalised search returns, but the challenge for the company was giving them exposure and getting the public to take full advantage of them.

He added that this greater use of social factors could represent "an entirely new approach to ranking", which may be an element that needs to be considered for search engine optimisation in the future.

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