How the order of Google search results will be affected by new search capacity and what this means for your website

Google still has the lion's share of internet searchers (64% of U.S searches according to Nielsen Online and an estimated 81% of global searches). Not a company to rest on its laurels, Google wants to make sure it maintains this dominance.

The last six months has seen the development of two major changes that will affect the order of Google search results. Google hopes these changes will improve search for users and also help them stay at the top of the search engine pile. Firstly is improving the ability of search spiders to read flash and audio-visual content, and secondly, the introduction of SearchWiki.

Both developments will impact the way you think about search engine optimisation (SEO) and content for your website.

Introducing the ability for search engines to find information in flash

SEO has always been the realm of words. Search engine spiders trawl sites for content and the only content they recognise is text. This has not changed. What has changed is technology that allows search engines to now 'read' rich Internet applications (RIAs) and other dynamic content and scan them for text and links.

Up until this development (spearheaded by a relationship between Google and Adobe and at present particular to Adobe Flash Player files - SWF), dynamic content (content that changes in response to user input) and RIA applications were invisible to search engines. They showed as black boxes and came up woefully far down the list in the order of Google search results.

The twofold effect of this was that sites built around these had to find alternative ways to make themselves visible to search engines, and searchers were not finding potentially useful sites because information was hidden.

If you've got flash you don't have to change a thing

The best news in all of this for websites that use SWF is that there is no need to adjust a site. Google currently has the Adobe technology and Yahoo! will soon adopt it, meaning potentially thousands of quality sites that were previously hidden will now be able to rate more highly in the order of Google search results.

Increase the SEO potential of your site

So you still have to pay attention to all the usual SEO guidelines (relevant and compelling content being the most important) but there is now greater flexibility in how and where you can apply your SEO on your site. It shouldn't be long before Adobe competitors such as Microsoft jump on board and also create software to make their flash programs search engine friendly.

Google SearchWiki gives you the power to affect SERP

Google SearchWiki is here and it's creating a mixed bag of opinions. If you are logged into a Google account, you will now see an arrow icon and an x icon next to each result that comes up on a SERP (search engine results page). There is also a text bubble icon and down the bottom of the page, a few new options to hit.

All of these add up to Google's introduction of users controlling the order of Google search results. Albeit to a limited extent. Click on the arrow and that URL will shoot to the top of your results page. Click on the x and it will disappear. Add a comment via the balloon and anyone else searching on that topic will be able to read it. Add your own URL to the page and it will show each time you enter that search.

The key is that these changes will only show for your personal Google account. They won't affect the order of Google search results for others (although the comments are universally visible).

What the critics are saying

Speaking of turning off, one major flaw in the application to date has been the lack of an 'opt-out' button. You can find out ways to switch it off by doing a Google search (the irony!), and Google's Vice President of Search Product and User Experience Marissa Mayer states that it is likely the company will develop an 'off' button early this year.

Critics of SearchWiki see it as a time consuming annoyance. And query the benefit in being able to add your own URLs to search results. As Brendan Slattery of PC World asks: 'How does that make sense? If you're searching for something, shouldn't you already know the destination URL, and if you do, why are you searching?'

What does this mean for Search Engine Optimisation?

Google states that they will not be using what happens on the SearchWiki to modify their ranking algorithms. However, there are indications that Google will monitor SearchWiki patterns and results may eventually impact on page rank and the order of Google search results. That may mean 'promoting' a page that many users are adding to their SERP, according to Google Product Manager Cedric Dupont or, as Marissa Mayer has suggested, 'downgrading' a page that many users are removing from view.

It will also be possible for sites that do not necessarily appear on page one of a Google search to get a higher ranking through the SearchWiki page. Users can comment on and vote for their favourite sites, so results on this page will vary from the order of Google search results for a natural search. So of course you can put a vote in for your own site (why not?). But Google will monitor black hat techniques in the same way as they do for natural search so there isn't much point in trying to 'stack' your website on thousands of SearchWiki pages.

SEO will still come down to the quality of content on your site and its popularity with users - on both natural search result pages and SearchWiki comments pages.

This is an area that may evolve quickly - especially if internet users take it up with enthusiasm. Once it has been around for a while there will be a clearer picture of how it is impacting on SEO and page rank. So stay tuned!

Author:.

Rob Lawson – Founder & CEO – iQuantum Pty Ltd - Success with online marketing increased our consulting business substantially; attracting quality leads, numerous clients for our traditional marketing business. I thought ‘why can’t we do this for our clients’; started a 5 year journey to develop a methodology for benchmarking client sites against competitors and best practice. iQuantum emerged to focus only on on...

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