Today Google has introduced an interactive ‘social’ element to their standard search engine results, a feature they’ve dubbed SearchWiki. (Note: the features of Google’s SearchWiki are only available to logged-in Google users)
SearchWiki is a Google search results page update which has been on the horizon for a while now – limited testing made some of the features visible to users over the past few months.
In a move which subtly changes the Google results page to closer resemble social bookmarking and media sites like the Digg or Stumbleupon system, there are now buttons next to each listing allowing the user to remove a particular site from the results page, or vote it upwards.
There is also a comment button, allowing the user to add public comments about a particular listing, an “add a result” link at the foot of the search results page, as well as the footer-based navigational tools for the SearchWiki.
If the user is logged in to a Google account, the changes made by an individual are stored, so that the results pages will become more and more specific for them.
The burning question is how this integrates with the Google ranking algorithm? Do the votes which the end users are making within their own Google accounts have a bearing on the results generated for others?
Potentially this could be a minefield, so to speak, as people will go to any lengths to propel their site to the top.
Google have made it clear that for the time being, this system will have no impact on the traditional ranking system of web pages – in that changes are visible only to the person who made them – this from the official Google blog “The changes you make only affect your own searches.” Any “notes” added, however, will be shared across the user base via the “see all notes for this SearchWiki” link.
Eventually, this could make page 1 search results more relevant for the end user. It could also signify the beginning of the end for sites which are not designed with quality of content and usability in mind, and it will change the way that Google handles WebSpam. In essence, the Google WebSpam team just increased exponentially, to include each and every user.
Harnessing the power of the social network, Google have made another leap deeper into the realms of the “semantic web 2.0”. Essentially the concept of content rankings adjusted with a voting system is nothing new, however this time it’s on a scale which has never been seen before.