It’s been about a month since Facebook and Microsoft hooked up to talk about how Bing will be using Facebook data in its search rankings. It caused quite a stir, for about ten minutes, and then everyone moved on. We went back to asking what Google will do next and we are missing the big picture. It’s not about what the search engines announce they are doing. It’s about what is really happening, whether it is announced or not.

Google doesn’t need to announce that it is integrating data from YouTube. Google doesn’t need to announce that it is integrating data from Google Analytics. Or Google Toolbar. Or Google Checkout.

Google might be using all of those sources of data, or they might not. We don’t know. What we do know is that social media is becoming more and more important on the Web, so you should expect that it is becoming more and more important in search.

Search engines did not adopt link analysis because links are the only way to do it. They once were, but social can do everything links can do and more. So why are we waiting for announcements?

In a couple of years, we will all look back upon this as the period where SEO and social really came together. So, if we wait until everyone understands what is going on to change our approach to SEO, we’re just waiting until all of our competitors have lapped us on the track. Instead of waiting to find out exactly what social media is being rewarded, why not do what is best for your customers and assume that the search engines will eventually reward it.