Posted by Sam Battin, Natural Search Strategist
SearchWiki, implemented on Google in November, allows the customization of Google search results pages. With SearchWiki, users can re-rank or delete sites, add new sites to their searches, or even post public comments on sites in their searches. Like many Google initiatives, SearchWiki was launched with little fanfare, no promises, and the potential to fundamentally change how people use the Web.
If you are logged-in to Google, your search results page will show three new buttons:
Using these three buttons will change the results of future Google queries only for you, and no one else, and only when you are logged-in. To see the comments other users have written about a site, you must scroll to the bottom of the page and click:
The implementation of SearchWiki brings up important questions such as “What if anyone can click the “X” button and delete my site from the results?” “How does this change my search marketing strategy?” and “What keywords should I optimize my site for now?”
In the short term (about one or two years), SearchWiki will have no effect on your search strategy. SearchWiki data is not currently incorporated into Google’s algorithm. SearchWiki is still in its infancy and Google must overcome several major technological and sociological hurdles before the typical Web user notices any changes at all. For your business to succeed on the Web in the coming years, you will still need to optimize your site for natural search, and you will still need a solid PPC campaign.
The likelihood of widespread adoption of SearchWiki in the immediate future is low. To use this service, Web users must possess a Google account and the motivation to rearrange their search results pages. Google’s primary benefit from SearchWiki is the acquisition of user data; to stay on top of the search engine game, Google must lead the market in determining user intent and knowing what makes one search result more useful than another. This initial release of SearchWiki will help Google understand the challenges they must face in developing a personalized search.
In the long-term (three to five years, or longer), a widely adopted SearchWiki may affect your search engine marketing strategy, but this will only happen if Google can overcome the problems of spammers abusing this service. This is a big “if”, since spammers have been making money on the internet since 1993 and show no signs of slowing down. If spammers end up dominating SearchWiki (and they will surely try), Google will never incorporate SearchWiki data into their results because it would make people stop using Google. Google's success in the search market comes from their fast and accurate results pages, and if Google ever fails to deliver useful and relevant links, users will switch to a search engine that gives better (less spammy) results.
Into the Future
If Google overcomes the spammer hurdle, it is conceivable that there may come a time when SearchWiki “votes” become as important to natural search as an optimized site or inbound links. In the event SearchWiki becomes widely adopted, Performics’ four-pillar natural search strategy would be affected in the following ways:
Indexation: SearchWiki would not change indexation. Google will always need to crawl the Web and ensure that a page’s content is correctly represented.
Content Optimization: Popular keywords will play less of a role in natural search. The truly personalized search that SearchWiki promises would mean that every user would see a different results page for the same search term, and high-volume keywords would become less valuable for traffic purposes.
Link Building: It is unlikely that Google would completely abandon its own algorithms in favor of user-submitted data, and sites will still need to manage their link assets to receive effective visibility for natural search.
Distribution: Personalized search will change the traditional paths by which your customers will find your Web site, and marketers should focus on developing additional channels and methods of content distribution to address a changing search market.
A big bright spot in the long terms is SearchWiki's potential to deliver reliable, up-to-the minute customer feedback for your business. SearchWiki's comments about your site (and your competitors) will keep you informed on what's working and what's not. Good customer service, useful products, prompt delivery, and reasonable prices are the foundation of a loyal customer base, and a spam-free SearchWiki intergrated into Google search results will reward the sites that provide the best user experiences.