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Google's SearchWiki, which allows users to re-rank, delete, and comment on results, was released this week, leaving users with plenty of questions about the new feature.

Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land has been talking to Google about SearchWiki, and has answers to a few questions... 

Can it be turned off? 

It seems not, as Google wants to make sure we all try it out before dismissing it. According to the search engine's Cedric Dupont:

“While users don’t have the option of turning off SearchWiki, they do have the option not to use the feature. By turning off the feature entirely, people will never get used to the new offering or see how it might be useful to them.”

Users can of course sign out of their Google account if they want to avoid the feature, and Google may provide this option in future.

Online PR / reputation management

As Sullivan points out, the fact that people can now place comments beneath a company's search results presents more problems in terms of reputation management.

"We’ve always been supportive of tools that allow people to better express themselves online, and SearchWiki is no exception. In cases where people express themselves improperly or illegally against websites, we’ve made simple tools readily available for websites so they can take action appropriately."

How comments work

Google isn't giving much away about how it orders and displays comments people have left under search results, saying there are'many different signals that come into play'.

Users can give a thumbs up or down to others comments, and this plays a role, while spam, abusive and illegal comments can be reported by users and will be removed by Google.

What is Google's aim in introducing SearchWiki? 

According to Google's Johanna Wright: "It’s a new way to empower users. You can remember answers to repeat queries. It lets you add your personal touch to our algorithms."

What SearchWiki does allow Google to do is to build up an even larger set of data on user behaviour; which results they rank, which they find relevant, and so on.

Advertisers may be more interested and would perhaps be prepared to pay a premium for for personalised listings, as users would presumably be more engaged with these results. Could this be part of Google's thinking? 
 

Related articles:
Google trying to comfort publishers in times of turmoil?
Google indexes text from scanned files

Related E-consultancy training events:
Online Reputation Management - London, 9th December
SEO - London, 10th December
Online PR - London, 20th January

Graham Charlton

Published 26 November, 2008 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

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