Google Custom Search Engines and Social Media

When Google Co-op was launched in May, I saw this as Google’s move into the Social Media space. The announcement on October 24th of it’s Custom Search Engine (CSE) initiative continues this trend. As with the other parts of Google Co-op, CSEs are intended to encourage social participation in improving the quality of search.

CSEs are designed to provide subject matter experts (SMEs) with the means and the incentive to hand carve improved search engines specific to their area of expertise. The means comes in the form of a simple, yet powerful, form based approach to picking sites to include, sites to exclude, sites to promote or demote, and more. You can read a complete Custom Search Engine overview here.

The motivation for SMEs comes in two forms:

  1. A share of ad revenue generated by the CSE
  2. The ability to generate an asset owned by the SME (or their employer, as the case may be)

So how does this relate to social media? There are a couple of ways that it does:

  1. Google is inviting all comers. Anyone can go ahead and create a CSE. This is a pretty bold move with potentially massive implications.
  2. CSE owners can decide to invite additional contributors to their CSE, either by invitation only, or by throwing their CSE open to the public. This means that CSE owner can make their CSE a social media project.

The fact that anyone can create a CSE has some interesting dynamics to it. You do need to worry about Spammy CSEs. Some will create CSEs that are designed to validate their poor quality sites using the Google name. It will be interesting to see what Google does to combat that.

One measurable approach Google could potentially use is to measure the use, and re-use of CSEs. Each usage is a vote of trust by the user, expecially if they re-use a particular CSE many times. While this is not something that they have announced any intention to do, Google could publish user generated ratings of CSEs.

Even without Google published ratings, we believe that they best CSEs will become known. In today’s web, people can share this information easily in forums, and more and more people know to look for this type of information. In addition, a company that I am involved in, Moving Traffic, Inc., has already launched a CSE Directory that provides editorial and user ratings.

This site will provide a method to find the best CSEs quickly and easily. I would also expect that you will be able to see plenty of commentary on the major forums, such as Search Engine Watch and Webmaster World.

By one means or another, users will vote. These votes will come in the form of usage and recommendations. Recommendations will drive the usage of others. These facts will put competitive pressure on the creators of CSEs, and this pressure will drive them to improve search quality.

Those of us in the biz love to talk about our search engines, yet in the past, we meant Google, Yahoo, MSN, Aks, etc. Now when we talk about our search engines, we will really mean “our”.

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