If there is anything sacred to the Internet marketer, it is the search engine results page for key terms. As paid search, display and e-mail campaigns come and go, organic search results are earned over time, and worn like stripes in a monthly position analysis report. Sure, conversions from organic search are the end goal, but there is nothing more visceral than seeing your firm ranked at the top of the first page of results. That is, until Google launched SearchWiki, allowing consumers to shift organic results up and down a page.
In its official blog post, Google states that the goal of SearchWiki is to allow individuals to “tailor Google search results to best meet your needs.” This means being able to move search results up and down a page, adding notes, and even deleting a result completely. And while the emphasis is on this personal customization (these are personal rankings), the global assumption is that this data might eventually be used to improve upon the algorithm.
“What? Google relying upon humans, and not the almighty machine for relevance? “ you ask? Sure. As the Web becomes more social, so will Google’s algorithm. And if that means incorporating consumer data via social web functionality, so be it.
So here’s how it works. Users who are logged into their Google account now see gray icons next to each search result that allow the user to move a result up the page, or completely delete it from their search experience. Users can make public comment on a result, or move it down, once they have moved one result on this page up. Users also can click on “See on all of my SearchWiki notes” or “See all notes on this SearchWiki.” The latter brings up all of the various comments previously made.
If this is thoroughly confusing to you as a user or as an Internet marketer, you are not alone. This is why we have Danny Sullivan. In his post, “SearchWiki 101: an Illustrated Guide,” Danny not only outlines the entire functionality set, but details bugs and loopholes. In his final analysis, he states that “The system needs much better controls.”
There is no doubt that Google appreciates this independent QA effort; over the weekend, particular aspects have been modified.
From a consumer perspective, the primary concern is privacy. When a user first enables SearchWiki, he or she is reminded “Customize your search results with your rankings, deletions, and notes — plus, see how other people using Google have tailored their searches. Please remember that your SearchWiki notes will be visible to other users, identified with your Google Account nickname.” Yes, that’s right. Your Google Account nickname will be associated with your comments and searches. Based on the negative coverage to date, I do expect greater privacy controls to be incorporated shortly.
Marketers, on the other hand, are trying to estimate how this interface will affect their search marketing strategy and tactics. While Google emphasizes that customizing results is personal, I wouldn’t be surprised if the engine eventually incorporated some of this consumer feedback. Apparently others feel the same, spending hours moving their URLs to the top of the page in hopes that it will affect search results for others. And if not, at least it makes them feel good.