If you have a Google account and are logged in whilst searching, you’re now likely to see these buttons (in the UK at least):
These let you promote (the up arrow) or remove (the cross) an individual search result from the listing. You can also add your own comments using the speech bubble icon at the bottom of each result. The first time you use these you’ll see this message:
So, as you can see, Google has effectively taken a Digg-style approach to its search results, allowing users to vote (and negatively vote) for pages, as well as providing comments on them. Should you remove a search result from the page, it will disappear in a puff of smoke and re-appear at the bottom of the listing, along with some other options:
So, this functionality is useful to users to help them organise their search results, telling Google the type of sites they don’t want and to make notes they can refer to later when searching again for similar information. But will it affect SEO?
I think the answer has to be… possibly. At the moment, I find it unlikely – it’s too early and Google will want to see how users respond and what data is created. If the results are positive, maybe they will incorporate this user feedback into rankings, although it is a very simple system – “yes or no”, in effect, not “how good”. I think the notes are useful, as people can identify spam sites etc. before others click through to them, but whether keywords in these comments will affect rankings is a slightly more difficult proposition.
If Google did let SearchWiki affect rankings, how long before people in, um, less well paid countries than ours started offering “1000 positive reviews from 1000 unique Google accounts” type services? Then Google would have to start checking Google accounts against IP addresses to identify mass activity from a particular location, but even that is quite easy to get around. Ultimately such action might affect the whole user-friendliness of a Google account, which would cause far more harm than good.
No, I think the likely outcome is that SearchWiki will be included as an option for users to get input from others as to whether sites are any good. You may be able to search notes made on SearchWiki directly at some point, essentially mirroring a search on Digg (or other social bookmarking sites). I wouldn’t be surprised if additional social bookmarking features like keyword tagging appear as well; but I don’t think we’ll see this stuff directly affecting rankings for others, as the implications for spamming are too difficult to control.
As a final comment, don’t forget that Google already personalises your search results if you’re logged in – for instance, your own website may well appear higher in searches than other people see it, because you often go there! SearchWiki just takes that to the next level, so rather than Google guessing what you do/don’t like, you can tell it directly.