SearchWiki: Six Implications For Public Relations Professionals

Google recently announced SearchWiki, a way for people to customize their search results by promoting, deleting, adding and commenting on search results. I see six implications of this change for digital public relations and marketing professionals if this becomes a popular feature:

  1. Another place to monitor
  2. Increased customer interaction
  3. Control by the customer
  4. Advantage goes to the existing players
  5. More expensive Adwords
  6. (Unconfirmed) SEO potential

First, though, a few basics for those of you that haven’t heard much about this yet…

What is Google SearchWiki?

giggle Essentially, Google SearchWiki represents the “diggification” of Google that has been discussed on sites like Googlified and Valleywag for a long time now. This, in its own way, turns Google search results into a wiki, where people can promote, relegate and comment on search results for every search term.

At a practical level, SearchWiki means that when you’re logged-in to Google you’ll see three new buttons alongside each of your search results:

  • Promote – moves the item to the top of the list of results
  • Remove – does exactly what it says
  • Comment – lets you leave a public comment about the result

There are also links at the bottom that let people add new sites to the results page, and allow people to see the notes that other people have made about their search results.

Why are they doing this?

I see a couple of reasons why Google has done this (and no, altruism isn’t one of them). Both of them relate to advertising:

  1. People are likely to spend more time on Google now – in the past, success for them was people finding what they were looking for and leaving Google quickly;
  2. People may come to Google (even) more as they can tailor the results for their commonly-used search terms
  3. People will increasingly see their own preferred sites in the search results, making Google Adwords an increasingly important way of getting noticed

Why should PR professionals care?

First, a caveat: I don’t know what proportion of Google users have (and use) a Google account. I suspect it may not be that high, but that’s just a suspicion. If the numbers are low, relatively few people will have access to these features so their impact may be limited.

Should Google SearchWiki take off, it has several important implications for public relations and digital marketing professionals:

  • Another place to monitor – The comments on search results represent another place where people can publicly comment on your brand
  • Increased customer interaction – For companies going beyond simply monitoring online conversations the comments on search results for your brand are yet another place to engage your existing and potential customers.
  • Control by the customer – Assuming SearchWiki becomes popular, it has some important implications for search engine marketers. For those working in good faith to legitimately optimize sites, they may see an increased return on their efforts. However, black-hat SEO people beware – if you somehow manage to ‘game’ the system but your site isn’t relevant, people will be able to simply remove the site from their future results. What’s more, while Google won’t currently use peoples’ voting when determining search results, there also remains the possibility that they will begin to in the future. Given Google’s data-driven nature, I’d be astonished if they don’t eventually do something with that data.
  • Advantage goes to the existing players – As people increasingly tailor their search results, the companies that are already in the game have an increasing advantage. The more results that people promote in their list, the harder it will become to break through into the first page of results.
  • More expensive Adwords – This directly relates to the previous point. The harder that it becomes for companies to break through into the first page of results, the higher demand will be for Google’s ads on those results, and the more expensive the ads for those pages will become.
  • (Unconfirmed) SEO potential: This may open up a whole new aspect to SEO – trying to optimize your SearchWiki comment results. There are just rumours and rumblings about this, though.

Conclusion

If SearchWiki becomes popular, it has some pretty important implications for digital PR and marketing.

I’ve outlined the six areas that I see implications for; what else do you see?

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  • Thanks for this, Dave. I’d been meaning to blog about SearchWiki, and your post helped inspire a post of my own.

    I like what this tool does from a monitoring and SEO perspective. Who knows, maybe in another 5-10 years we’ll be doing SearchWiki clippings for our clients!

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  • Very interesting analysis. For the average user, they see should see this as a win-win in many cases. From a practitioners standpoint, I see some areas of concern as well. Competition for keywords may be more limited to the major player (Google) getting even bigger. This is competition in itself though – build a better mousetrap. A second is whether or not this will skew search results based on semantics (I said this once before, but mean something different now).

    If it is a better mousetrap then it is not wise to stand in front of the swinging metal arm for the sake of trying to stop it – not strong enough to do so. Innovators find a way to step to the side and improve the exisging xy or z.

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  • People are likely to spend more time on Google now – in the past, success for them was people finding what they were looking for and leaving Google quickly

  • Mike

    I’m using this service to monitor my website’s position – http://monitor.mazecore.com . They provide rank and uptime monitoring with alerts, but position monitoring on free account is enough for me. I recommend this service with free tariff for your website.

  • Hmmm, I don´t know. It looks to me like a test of Google to make the search results better with the help of the users. Sure, Google say´s: “The way the user arranged the results does not affect the search results of the other user…” but I think this is rubbish. Like allways google uses the data of the user arrangement SERP´s cause their are natural. On the other hand, there is potentail the risk of bowling competitors results out of the serps with different accounts and proxys. Hmm… I still wait what times brings and look forward for caffeene.