Google Outsourcing Their Search Algo.....To You!

Not really. But kinda.

Google have announced the release of SearchWiki, a way for you to customize search by re-ranking, deleting, adding, and commenting on search results. Don't like a result? You can vote it down. Likewise, you can vote links up if you think they deserve a higher rank.

These changes will only appear in your Google account, and won't influence the result sets as seen by others. However, it is hard to imagine that Google won't take note of such signals, especially if they see broad patterns emerging, and then feed this data through into their algorithm development.

When asked about this point, Google sounded a little cagey:

"Dupont was noncommittal about whether the company planned to build in that feedback loop, either directly as a signal to influence search rankings or indirectly as extra data that could help the company judge the relevance of its search results. But he certainly didn't rule the idea out. We don't close any doors. We constantly evaluate signals" that are incorporated into the search results algorithm. Search is adapting to the Internet as it becomes a more participatory medium. Now you have people telling us specific things about how they'd like to see their search results."

Make of that what you will.

Is this a sign Google are looking for other signals of quality? Do too many people know about the influence of inbound linking these days? Quick, vote down Wikipedia! ;) Curiously, Wikipedia's seo page already has 4 negative votes.

Seriously though, let's try an experiment. We here at love votes for link building, seo tools, and seo ;) Best review on seo for wins a free month of Aarons world-famous SEO training program.

SearchWiki could also be seen as another distribution channel and potential link source ie: the people who look at the SearchWiki are likely to be webmasters. Something to think about if you're targeting this group.

Published: November 21, 2008 by A Reader in


November 21, 2008 - 5:21am

By letting users build their own search results tells Google not just what people click on but what people actually like. I think you're right about seeing broader patterns emerging, and wouldn't it be interesting if in a few years a Google tool was created to show marketers what people actually liked, similar to the trends or insights tools.

November 21, 2008 - 5:30am

Interesting that a single vote takes the result to the top, not just one place up.

BTW, I think they can't publicly say that they will use this to rearrange ranks. Or we will have other stories like people outsourcing to Asians to go on bike from one cafe to another, and vote up/comment for their site.

Also, I can't see what would be the motivation for a genuine searcher in using this feature. I mean I may 'remove' wikipedia and other competitors and may ask some friends to do so but if I am just using Google normally, why would I bother to click there. One exception can be when I do a navigational query often and the result isn't there.

Maybe GG is trying to layoff some of it's 10,000 quality raters; the economy's hard.

November 21, 2008 - 5:56am

I think it is just another potential signal of quality for Google to use...the risk of trying it out is fairly minimal, and if the signal works then good deal for them.

Why would people use it? Well lots of people use this is one better than than people bookmarking whatever is hot at the moment with tons of different tags people are stating what keywords certain content deserves exposure for.

To some degree this might mostly just reinforce what is already is popular.

It is still new…I am uncertain how much they will use it, but if they do then creating the type of content that people would want to bookmark and share is important. Branding would increase in value.

Also the type of people looking for an additional voice beyond what they find in Google’s organic results are the type of people who would be likely to be able to cite / link to quality resources…if you like the concept of social media then you have to appreciate that this is another channel to be found through.

Search is so targeted that even if only 1 in 1,000 click on this it is still a nice additional distribution channel.

November 21, 2008 - 6:45am

I meant lack of motivation since Google claims my votes won't push deserving content up for other users, unlike StumbleUpon and the like where votes push the content up for others as well. But I guess you are right, little harm in testing and with the current likeness of social media amongst netizens, it can become hot.

On another note, the comment thing is interesting and can also have devastating effects for some. Because whether my votes affect others' serps or not, my comments can be viewed by everyone. It can be more effective if GG places individual 'view public comments' buttons besides all individual results (the public comments link is at the bottom currently and for the whole serp, not individualized).

Suppose a web designing company doesn't provide me good services, I can add some negative comments. Can make a huge difference that way, as Peter mentioned in a recent post that social media can't be controlled. Imagine a person doing a navigational query to buy something, then reads the public comments and changes his mind.

November 21, 2008 - 10:39am

Hi, surely this is so open to abuse from competitors, or will it register ISP's and ban multiple clicks?

November 21, 2008 - 10:54am

Just so you know, it breaks SEO for firefox on mine..... :(

I could see this being abused if they did make it effect main SERPs, hello to India wide SEO centres $1000 for 10,0000 reviews methinks.

November 21, 2008 - 11:55am

We are trying to fix seo 4 firefox.

November 21, 2008 - 12:08pm

Timing is bad.

At this time when people are loosing their jobs, and income shrinking, Google has come out with this SearchWiki (the name for a layman looks like some partnership with WikiPedia ;-)) which says – "common guys help me and I won’t pay you a dime for this".

I feel it will be more manipulative than helpful. Most SearchWiki users will be webmasters trying to manipulate the results in the hope their site or their friend’s may get a better rank.

Only time will tell. Unfortunately most of us will never know if Google actually bases its results on how people *vote* in SearchWiki.

Dilip Shaw

November 21, 2008 - 1:34pm

This is Google trying to take over the "bookmark" function of the browser, as well as the whole social bookmarking and commenting thing. I wondered when they were going to move into the territory of all the Digg-type sites.

November 21, 2008 - 1:58pm

This is google getting lazy...

The reality is they could easily track this themselves, as they are tracking results that are clicked on.

So simply.

If a user clicks on a result and doesn't come back +1, if a user clicks and comes back (mean unstatisfied) -1 .. nuff said.

November 21, 2008 - 2:11pm

But this is as much marketing as it is a relevancy idea. It will make some people feel an allegiance to Google and kills the Wikia search product dead. It will also make some people talk about the comments on Google search...further building Google's brand as THE place to search.

November 21, 2008 - 2:41pm

I disagree with Mike that Google will share this info with marketers-or if they do, they will share it in the way they share the info in Trends, using big, wide strokes and offering little as far as minute detail. There is too much money at stake - and IMO, Goog will be more likely to acquire the businesses to monetize the information themselves than share it in any meaningful way. Do they EVER let out more information now than you'd see on Trends? Not that I see. We all know how valuable knowing search habits can be - why would Goog give away a piece of the pie? They have the money and braintrust to capitalize on the data, and that's what I would think is the underlying intention.
I tend to agree with Dilip - this is something that webmasters will be more interested in than other users.

November 21, 2008 - 3:11pm

Have you seen this tool yet?
They are letting out A LOT of valuable data there

November 22, 2008 - 9:28am

Cool tool, thanks for pointing that one out. I didn't know about that tool.

November 21, 2008 - 2:44pm

I really think it was just a matter of time before Google came up with something like this. That said, doesn't make it any less interesting to see what will happen next.

I know Bruce Clay recently had an interview where he stated that "ranking is dead", I do think that's an over statement but I also agree that things are going to be changing drastically (albeit slowly) with regards to how Google ranks sites, especially when it concerns user preference - SearchWiki could be a start to that even if they don't officially use the results as ranking factors.

I may be being paranoid of course ;)

November 21, 2008 - 3:24pm

I am less interested in how this will change the main stream SERPs and more concerned that giving people the ability create their own personal search results will give less reliance on the main stream SERPs, thus making our significance as SEOs close to nothing.

If people can manipulate their own SERPs to pretty much create their perfect personalized service then, why would there be a need for SEOs, and how would we even start and try to manipulate this type of service?

November 21, 2008 - 3:33pm

People need to become AWARE OF YOU before they will vote for you. :)

Given that...SEO, social media, advertising, and/or word of mouth are needed before you get any benefit from user votes.

Also don't forget that most people are lazy. Most will not use the advanced services much. Think back to the time before you were an much did you know about search back then? That is probably at or above the level most people are at today.

November 21, 2008 - 3:28pm

I'm not seeing SearchWikia (I'm not in the US). Is it US only at the moment?

November 21, 2008 - 3:31pm

I think it is US only (or possibly US and UK) at launch.

November 22, 2008 - 5:22am

Well. I am in Pakistan, South Asia and I can see and use this SearchWiki.

But from some of the other comments on other blogs, it seems that some users are not seeing this option yet. But it doesn't seem to me that the problem is geographical.

Make sure you are logged into your Google account while you search. Searchwiki isn't available to people not logged into Google.

And Seo 4 firefox is still working when signed out of Google.

November 21, 2008 - 3:44pm


Thats a good point, maybe the SearchWikia will be only hip to the major search geeks like us!

November 21, 2008 - 4:04pm

Here is another way of looking at it. In the above blog post it asked readers to bookmark this page. Out of about 30,000 RSS subscribers and other blog readers so far about a dozen have. Costs them nothing but 5 seconds and most people are too lazy to.

November 21, 2008 - 9:18pm

My main question is this - Do you think that non social media users/types are smart enough to even figure it out?

November 21, 2008 - 9:32pm

Most will not use it right away...but it does not cost Google much to try this out, and if it catches on they are ahead of the curve.

November 22, 2008 - 5:33am

@Peter Da Vanzo

What about the contest you opened? How are you going to know who's who? Only the signatures are visible as I can see.

November 22, 2008 - 11:16am

the person who left comments there should comment on this page and say "hey I am xyz on the searchwiki"

November 22, 2008 - 12:36pm

That's great.
I am PK on the Searchwiki.

November 22, 2008 - 2:40pm


"If a user clicks on a result and doesn't come back +1, if a user clicks and comes back (mean unstatisfied) -1 .. nuff said."

That doesn't take account of a user's reading speed, the site's download speed (and more importantly how fast the juicy content downloads, since few people care about the ads), and the user's own broadband speed. Also, some people could stay to browse a site because they can't quite believe how awful it is, and want to show their friends.

November 22, 2008 - 8:33pm

Hey I am gallaghersean on the searchwiki

yet another ben
November 24, 2008 - 12:06pm

I leave the country for a few days, and look what I come back to! Ha!

November 24, 2008 - 3:05pm

I'm Yoshimi on the search wiki :) (see what it takes for me to finally register after reading for 3'll never get rid of me now!)

November 26, 2008 - 12:10pm

I am business entrepreneur, Few months before i was in a huge loss and the reason behind it was my bad marketing. One day I heard from one of my friends about SEO and I hired SEO consultant to market my business and today I am in to huge profit. After reading the above article I think that I can start the SEO by my own. Thanks for the stuff and keep posting more tips on SEO.

yet another ben
November 27, 2008 - 10:15pm

I wrote a review for the site, but one problem, it now almost fills my entire screen in the SERPs! I guess that's not a problem when I'm looking for this site anyway.

December 5, 2008 - 9:13am

Hi Aaron,

Just checking up to see who won the contest?

Thanks and keep up the great work.

- Sean

December 5, 2008 - 12:19pm

Hi Sean
A few days ago I sent them a link to join the community privately via email. I think his username here is Sokoban.

December 5, 2008 - 10:22pm

Okay thanks, good job to him!

yet another ben
January 17, 2009 - 12:43pm

Ah shame - I just came back to see who won!! And my review was like War and Peace too! :)

Cheers all the same Aaron,


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