Google Search Results Go Social – Who’s Talking about You?

Google has been personalizing search results for some time. You may have noticed that searching for a fairly generic service can bring you results specific to your geographical area, and if you search while signed into your Google account, Google may personalize results based on your search history. Search result personalization is taken to a new level with the release of Google’s latest experiment, SearchWiki.

If you perform Google searches while logged in to your Google account, you have probably noticed some distinct changes in the result pages over the past few days. On Thursday, Google released SearchWiki, a feature that allows Google account holders to rearrange, comment on and edit their own set of search results. Customized listings appear only for the user who created them, and only while logged into that account. According to the Google blog, SearchWiki is “a way for you to customize search by re-ranking, deleting, adding, and commenting on search results.”

Google SearchWiki Screenshot

As shown above, new controls appearing to the right of each listing allow you to promote or remove results individually, which modifies the results only you see when logged in. But the ability to comment on each listing is where it gets interesting. Check out this option at the bottom of the page:

Google SearchWiki

Customizing your search results aside, the most revolutionary component of SearchWiki is the ability of any Google account holder to comment on any listing as well as view all of the comments posted by others. The previously one-way street of delivered search results is now a social networking platform, subject to all of the spam and manipulation that makes it difficult to distinguish the truly valuable user generated content. Site owners also do not have the ability to directly moderate posts about their pages.

Personally, I do not see value in the ability to customize my search results, because manually edited search results would not save me time or make it easier to find pages I like. If I discover a web page I’d like to find later, I’ll bookmark it. With a click, I’m back to the page anytime. I do not have to log in to a Google account, nor do I have to remember and type in the search term I used to find the page the first time.

Manually edited search results would also prevent me from discovering new pages that would normally appear in the search results for the topic I’m searching, which could cause me to miss out on relevant results over time. Setting search results in stone would be like referencing the same newspaper time and time again rather than reading a current paper daily.

Will data from SearchWiki be used by Google to fine-tune signals used to rank sites in the future? It seems logical in theory, and is certainly not out of the question. In a perfect world, this data could be used to improve the search engine’s ability to find the most relevant pages, but I have my doubts about how well valid content can be separated from spam and slander across such a vast number of pages on the internet.

Danny Sullivan over at SearchEngineLand posted a great interview in which he asks Google’s Cedric Dupont, Johanna Wright and Corin Anderson the SearchWiki questions on everyone’s minds.

-Pam Westbrook, Ecommerce Marketing/Copywriting

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