For once, an advance in Google personalized search I actually like. They’re adding the same stars we’re so used to in Google Reader and Gmail to personalized search results. The starred results let you mark favorite sites to show up at the top of future posts—and it doesn’t appear to affect the rankings of the rest of the organic results.
As Google puts it:
With stars, you can simply click the star marker on any search result or map and the next time you perform a search, that item will appear in a special list right at the top of your results when relevant. That means if you star the official websites for your favorite football teams, you might see those results right at the top of your next search for [nfl].
The stars are replacing an old feature in personalized search: SearchWiki. Says Google, “In our testing, we learned that people really liked the idea of marking a website for future reference, but they didn’t like changing the order of Google’s organic search results.” (Which probably isn’t to say they actually disliked reranking sites, but just that they didn’t do it very much. Seriously, it just wasn’t super useful.)
Any SearchWiki notations you made will be saved in your Google Account. If you want to continue to make notations in SERPs, Google recommends Sidewiki, its browser-based, publicly-edited sidebar wiki for commentary launched back in September. Last we heard, Sidewiki hadn’t really taken off—maybe this is Google’s push to create new, passionate users.
The stars are all set to go and will be rolling out for all signed-in users in the next few days. So far, there’s no indication starred Google Reader items will have any relationship with this effort beyond the passing similarity.
One big drawback for marketers, of course, is that every step forward in personal search may mean we’re less likely to be able to rank a site universally—or even tell if our site is showing up for most signed-in users. Plus, we may have to sign out to get the “neutral” results for reporting (although if you’re starring a client’s competitor in your SERPs, “sumbuddy’s doin it wrong”).
What do you think? Do you like the idea of stars and the simpler interface to mark sites you’d want to see in SERPs again? Or do you worry about personalized search affecting marketing? Would you like to see your Google Reader starred items showing up for relevant searches?