Google will announce today (Update: official announcement) the launch of SearchWiki, a major addition to its user interface that allows users to edit search results. When using SearchWiki, you can re-order, remove, or add web pages to the search results for any query. You can also add notes to specific listings. You have to be logged in to a Google account so that the changes you make will be saved and shown the next time you run the same search.
“This is a way for search to adapt to a more interactive experience,” says Google Product Manager Cedric Dupont. “We ran a bunch of experiments, and the response was overwhelmingly positive from our users. They asked for this feature.”
How SearchWiki Works
Two light-colored icons next to each listing let you reorder the search results. An up arrow lets you move a result higher on the page; an X will remove the result. After you’ve moved a result higher, a down arrow shows up so you can move it back down the page. The icons turn bright green after an edit to remind you that you edited the result. A fourth icon in the shape of a text bubble lets you leave comments on any listing; anyone can see the comments you make on a separate page. Here’s what a typical search results page might look like:
There’s an “Add a result” link at the bottom of the search results page that let’s you add web pages to the search results. There are also links at the bottom of the page to show and restore listings you’ve removed, and to see all other SearchWiki changes (in aggregate) and comments made by other users. Here’s what that public notes page looks like:
SearchWiki is turned on by default for everyone logged in to a Google account. If you don’t like SearchWiki, you can ignore the icons or you can make them go away by logging out and then continuing to search.
How Smart Is SearchWiki?
If you’re logged in, SearchWiki will remember changes you make when you search again for the same exact word or phrase. On occasion, it may also remember changes when you search for a very close match; i.e., if you re-order the search results for the word [widget], SearchWiki will likely show you the re-ordered results again if you search for [widgets]. But, if your next search is for [interesting widget], it will probably not show the changes you already made for [widget].
“We’re trying to be smart on this issue,” Dupont says.
Google emphasizes that changes made in the SearchWiki interface will have no impact on the traditional ranking of web pages. If you put your own site in the 1st position for your primary keywords, you’re the only Google user who’ll see your site at the top of the rankings. Your site will, however, be included when users click the “See all notes for this SearchWiki” link at the bottom of the page; that link leads to another page that shows what results other users have re-ordered, removed, or added.
Still, Dupont didn’t completely rule out the possibility that user data from SearchWiki may someday impact regular search rankings. I asked what would happen if 10,000 people all added “Matt McGee’s Widget Page” to their own results for the phrase [widget]. “We’re always looking at user data as a signal,” Dupont says. And in a situation like that? “We’re not closing any doors.”
The massive amount of user data that Google will collect from searchers that use SearchWiki should allow Google to further expand the service’s functionality. You can imagine Google suggesting pages to add when a user removes a result s/he doesn’t like, for example. “Who knows what the future will hold,” Dupont said, when asked about future development plans.
The service, which some users have been using on an experimental basis for about a year, will be rolled out today. Google says it should be fully available to all users by the end of the day.
Postscript: See also now from Search Engine Land, Google SearchWiki 101: An Illustrated Guide.