Sunday, 23 November 2008

The End of SEO as we know it?

Google have recently graduated their social search product from Experimental to live for all Google account holders. Entitled SearchWiki, this tool allows the Google account holders to make changes to their search engine results pages (SERP's) that can be stored for access at a later date.

Here are my immediate thoughts:

How many people will use the tool?

It is estimated that 1.3M people in the UK have an iGoogle account. This can be used as an approximation for the volume of people that can use SearchWiki. However it is really only a small subset of these suers that are likely to use SearchWiki.

I use a lot of Google tools throughout a typical working week. I conduct hundreds of searches, am constantly using Gmail for email and file transfer, use Google maps to find directions to for meetings and football matches, analytics to monitor my web traffic, adwords to drive traffic to sites and webmaster tools to analyse technical details about my site. However, I can't realistically see myself using this tool.

The reason I use Google as my main search engine is because it provides me the best results in the right order. I have become accustomed with the how to search in order to give me the results I seek.

I also use Favourites fairly heavily and take advantage of the intelligent search bar within Firefox 3.0. Therefore, I cannot see why I would want to reorganise or annotate my search results as I can access the sites I need to in a simple way already. Is SearchWiki not just en elaborate favourites menu?

Will Google use any data from the tool?

At present, Google state that the information gathered from SearchWiki is not used to calculate organic rankings. My view however is that this will not be the case for very long.

Google are aware that organisations are currently able to reverse-engineer the algorithm and influence the organic search engine results. The principles of pagerank rely on users being able to hyperlink to and from websites. However, this means that search engine results can only be influenced by a small sample of Internet users that are capable of doing this. As the number of non-technical web users has grown, this percentage becomes even smaller. Therefore, it is important that Google take this volume into consideration in order to maintain the integrity of their search results. SearchWiki aims to achieve this by using Google users to shape it's search results.

Of course, it will not be long before SEO organisations adapt to start taking advantage of SearchWiki by using multiple Google accounts and increasing the rankings of their client sites.

I would love to know the level of adoption SearchWiki has seen since it's launch. Having been a fan of a lot of things Google have done, I struggle to see the value that making such a visible change to the SERP's would have on a Google user. I can only suggest that Google's intentions are not immediately transparent.

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