Posted November 26, 2008 12:01 am by with 26 comments

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By Joe Hall

According to a report from Danny Sullivan it looks like Google’s much talked about SearchWiki is here to stay. Most of the clammer about this new Google feature is focused around a user’s inability to turn it off. While there are several browser plugins available to hide the SearchWiki functions, for most users the SearchWiki is now a permanent part of the Google search experience.

Google’s SearchWiki is a new feature that allows for users to organize search results and make comments. The reorganized results only show up for the user that made the changes, but the comments are made public.

While it seems that most are concerned about turning the SearchWiki off, few have highlighted the effects that this new feature will have on SEO.

At first when I read about SearchWiki I thought that this was the end of SEO. How am I supposed to implement the perfect strategy to manipulate SERPs when all users have to do is click arrows? But now, I think its anything but that.

Now that users are given the ability to reorganize search results it means that listings on the first page are much more valuable. Here’s why: after a user has selected a handful of listings that they send to the top of their SERP, they have effectively locked out the rest of the listings.

Also, the user’s selected listings are saved based on URL, meaning that if another search query is run where the same URL comes up, then the listing/URL is automatically at the top.

In my opinion this means that SearchWiki will inadvertently help create a rise in the value of SEO. It will also force SEOs to be more focused on relevant high quality content.

If you haven’t noticed yet, I like ending my post with questions, and this one is no exception. This question goes out to all the SEOs in the audience: Do you really want to let users have the ability to turn SearchWiki off, if it will help rise the value of SEO?

Joe Hall is Chief Web Head at JOZSOFT.

  • It is just like all of the other updates that brought un-warranted fear into those doing SEO. If you are good at what you do, you will not have to worry about it, but just keep doing what you are doing. And I agree 100% that all this does is add more value into what we do as SEOs.

  • Andy – it will make SEO infinitely more powerful for those who are doing it right (relevant/engaging content), and infinitely impossible of those who do it wrong (black hat). It’s not the end of SEO at all. It’s the end of gaming the system. And that, my friend, is a great thing.

  • I hadn’t realised this:

    “the user’s selected listings are saved based on URL, meaning that if another search query is run where the same URL comes up, then the listing/URL is automatically at the top.”

    IMHO, that just doesn’t make sense from a user perspective. I can understand why a user might want to see a particular listing at no.1 for a specific search, but I can’t see why they’d want that same listing AUTOMATICALLY at no.1 for an entirely different search???!

    Is that really the case?

    I know that this situation is only likely to arise for very similar searches (as it’s page-based, not domain based), but still, doesn’t it seem strange to everyone else?

    Also, I think there’s real danger in allowing users to lock off the entire first page of SERPs. It sounds like it’s empowering the user, but in reality, it’s simply limiting their choice. Who’s to say the listings they promote today are going to be the most relevant or helpful in two weeks’ time? I know the user could simply use the de-promote option, but they may not think to do that. Not all users are that proficient. What’s more, without seeing a more relevant listing pop up in front of them, they may not stop to think that there might actually be one.

    In answer to your question, I think that searchwiki makes SEO more important, because it’s now more critical than ever to be on the first page for a first-time search (before users start promoting other listings and locking you out). But I believe it’ll eventually make Google less relevant. So it’s probably a moot point.

  • It’s not the SEO implications that bother me … it’s the comments that can now be added to sites. Google Maps is already filled with negative comments on many sites that have been placed there not be disgruntled customers but by competitors seeking an unfair advantage.

    The same thing is going to happen with Search Wiki. Just wait till you do everything you possibly can to satisfy an unreasonable client with no success and decides that a vendetta agains your site in Google is a great way to obtain revenge.

  • Hmmm, so they made it easier to bookmark websites? Yikes! I guess I better not hit any arrows, I might end up never finding anything new.

    I guess Internet businesses will be including an new entrance barrier in their business plan
    “After spending years building a user friendly website with tons of great votes, we must find a way to get search engine users to go 3 pages deep and push the up arrow”

    In a few years, Google will have created more value for their advertisers since Google AdWords will be the only source of something different.

    I hope I’m wrong, am I wrong?

  • Adi

    I don’t really see the problem myself. This is of course assuming that the bulk of SEO is creating great content that people will find useful and will therefore naturally recieve lots of links, and in this case votes. If that’s how you do your SEO then you have little to fear as the sites you work with will no doubt get voted up by all of your happy visitors.

    However if your idea of SEO is manipulating the serps for short-term gain by sending traffic to poor quality websites that don’t really deserve the oxygen of a high listing, then you have every reason to be afraid.

  • I really don’t think its going to be a problem at all. It may be for people that have spam type sites, but for people that build sites for small niches its not going to be much of a difference in search.

  • I think it is completely ridiculous that people can simple move results where ever they want by only looking at how attractive the title and description are. Google gives webmasters zero control on how your title and description appears in the SERPs yet this is how most that use Search Wiki will judge. No one is going to go back and forth from SERP to website to take the time to rank websites. They will be moving websites around by the way they appear in the SERPs. I think that problem alone is not getting enough coverage and is far more troubling than the fact that this feature is being force feed to the webmaster community. I say webmaster community because let’s face it, how many other really have a Google account anyways.

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..Google Publicly Attacking Paid Links Again?Stop Already

  • Jayson’s right: ‘Promote’ is just another word for ‘Bookmark’. And (as per Jaan’s comment) people won’t bookmark in searchwiki based on content, they’ll do it based on brand name, title and desription. So IMHO, it’ll make no difference whether you use blackhat or whitehat tactics, or whether you have quality content.

    But I don’t think any of it’s likely to become an issue, because I don’t think it’ll ever really take off.

    The big problem is that there’s no real value in being able to Promote/bookmark a listing. The value of proper bookmarking is:
    1) you’ve found a good page (searchwiki fail – all searchwiki tells you is the title & description; you don’t know if it’s good ’til you get there);
    2) you quickly save that page (searchwiki fail – you have to press back first and find the listing); and
    3) you can quickly retrieve it (searchwiki fail – you have to open searchwiki, remember the search query, perform the search, and click the promoted listing)

    So who’s going to use it? Who’d would WANT to bookmark a page before they see it? And who’d want to use searchwiki to bookmark when there are so many better ways of doing that?

    I reckon Google will realise that most people won’t use it for the above reasons, and those who do will simply be getting less value out of Google search. So it won’t last long.

    What’s more, as a bookmarking system, it’s pretty lame because it only allows you to bookmark those pages that you find thru search. In my experience, most people (power user webmasters & SEOs aside) use one method for bookmarking. They’re not going to want to use one method for pages they find thru search and another for pages they find through some other method!

    And finally, there’s the question of who’s likely to actually perform the same search repeatedly. People who are after different results each time, of course! And what use will they have for it?

    I’m not discounting my other comment above, I just don’t think it’s gonna get to that.

  • I am a bit sceptical as well about the functionality and usability of SearchWiki. Especially if a promoted site/URL shows up for different searches as well. What happens when you have promoted some a large number of sites and only promoted sites start showing in the first page of the search results for many of your searches, it will be very hard to find new sites, and also very hard for new sites to do search engine optimization and get visibility in searches. I guess we will have to wait and see how SearchWiki will affect all this…’s last blog post..Two simple tips to recover unverified email subscribers

  • Promoted sites and, indeed comments, don’t show up on other computers or other users on the same computer. So, in answer to your question: No.

  • I like the Search Wiki though it’s going to take a while to get enough comments on enough urls for enough common queries to make the feature useful, in my opinion.

    The other side of it – what incentives does the search have to leave a comment on a url?

    As far as one commenter on this thread that has a problem with Search Wiki Comments being saved against the url and not the search query – that would be almost impossible to do – there’s so much that needs commenting on as it is – to only show the comment against the same exact query that generated the result that was commented on – would mean hardly anyone would ever see anyone’s comments.

    Give it 6 months to a year – collect enough data that individuals can start creating research around the commentary, plus new services and ranking extraction tools will be need to extract comments and present them in a report for clients – and I see this as being, really, a good thing – what Google has done here with Search Wiki.

    Maybe the only thing I’m afraid of, is what everyone else is afraid of – that people will say nasty things about each other and there’d be no way to get rid of the comments – that can create all kinds of problems. So … is Search Wiki fully worked out? No – more work is needed on this enhancement to search to make it possible for users to have privacy, when they want it – and that hasn’t been done, as far as I can see.

    But having said that – Google Search Wiki really does merge Search and SEO, and as a result, could feed the next revolution – which is that Social Media, it’s ROI, now becomes more associated with Search than before – we can now begin to index Social Media ROI with Google’s Search Wiki – the Wiki will be the door in to prove Social Media works, and is scalable.

    Just a thought on this pre-Thanksgiving day.


    Marshall Sponder’s last blog post..Technology creates new advertising opportunities

  • I’m not a fan of the changes to google, I’m not sure if there’s an option to turn it off completely but I’d choose that.

  • Turning it off is easy – sign out – I’ve now signed out of Google when I search since I’ve ruined my account by testing the new feature.

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  • I don’t think so, because I’m sick of seeing the SEO experts getting all the lime-light for hot keywords, when it’s content everybody’s a king!

    Abdul’s last blog post..Try the new StumbleUpon

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  • The wiki is not scary if you have content. Content remains king. The blessing I find is to be able to comment and knock out the constant spam sites, made for adsense sites with little content, the software sites that seem to dominate every known keyword – why you might be able to eliminate enough chaff to make Google an actual valuable tool to get to information you were looking for. I think we all know how much one has to sift to find anything now? So for those whose SEO is to create a fine meta tag, title and page whose content matches to give the searcher what he was looking for it is great. For those whose SEO skills are used to try and bring scrapers and advertsing holes your days will be numbered by how fast Google notes the comments. Of course there could be competitive malpractice in this and that said it will be.

  • Of course these are just ideas, it may never happen. Like what Marshall said, give it 6 months to year until Google has played with the data then we may see it start influencing live search.

    If they do allow us to influence live search ranking I think more weight will passed onto trusted Google account owners who have been registered for years and have a good Google footprint. Those who have just signed up will have little or no influence on the rankings in live search.

    For years Google has been busting a gut for all of us, so isn’t it time we started to help them?

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  • The same thing is going to happen with Search Wiki. Just wait till you do everything you possibly can to satisfy an unreasonable client with no success and decides that a vendetta agains your site in Google is a great way to obtain revenge.

  • Personalization or SearchWiki won’t equate to the death of SEO. It’ll just change things a bit.

    Utah SEO Pro’s last blog post..ExactFactor: An SEO Tool Review

  • Andy – it will make SEO infinitely more powerful for those who are doing it right (relevant/engaging content), and infinitely impossible of those who do it wrong (black hat). It’s not the end of SEO at all. It’s the end of gaming the system. And that, my friend, is a great thing.

    OSYM’s last blog post..Aralıktaki Sınav için Son Gün

  • Telling the truth, I am quite sure in positive results of SearchWiki usage. This feature is sure to result a rise in the SEO value. Additionally, such a kind of SearchWiki will make SEOs to be more concentrated on useful, beneficial and proper 1st quality cinformation.

  • On the positive side, it seems like those black hat SEO’ers with terrible content the sites should be moved out of the top rankings at some point. On the other hand, irreversible public comments made by the competition could get very, very ugly.

  • Death of SEO? Not at all … it actually puts more pressure on SEO .. it’ll change SEO though