- Has the time come for Digg-style social voting search engines?
- Can a search engine present algo-based results that can then be further influenced by user votes?
- Are users comfortable enough with the concept of voting at this point to be able to marry digg-style voting with normal search?
- And if socially-influenced SERPs become a reality, will we attempt to game it and subsequently ruin it?
- If a new search engine can successfully accomplish such a goal, will users switch to it?
Let's attempt to answer each of those questions. First, let's take questions 1 and 2 together.
Has the time come for Digg-style social voting search engines? YES.
Can a search engine present algo-based results that can then be further influenced by user votes? YES.
In fact, just such a search engine already exists. I'll bet you didn't know that. Sproose.com works first like a meta engine, in which it gathers results from Yahoo, MSN, and Ask, and then returns results based on some algorithm off of that. But that's where the meta engine similarities end. Social voting is then married with the results, in Digg-style to allow users to have some control over future SERPs.
Registered Sproose users vote for sites they like, and can report spam results as well. Only registered users can vote, and each user only gets one vote per page. When a user reports a page as spam or unrelated to the query, it only gets removed from that user's results set. However, if many users also report the page as spam or unrelated, it will be removed from everyone's SERPs.
Like other social voting sites, members can profile pages and can see others' pages. Users have the option of either sharing their vote history, or keeping it private. You can see my profile here, which is sparse at the moment.
And like other social voting sites, webmasters and bloggers can put voting buttons on their pages so users can Sproose (vote for) their articles while reading them. You can get the code for the button at the Sproose button-widget page. By installing the button, users can have their own traffic remotely vote to increase their ranking in the Sproose search engine index. This is free, instant SEO that your users implement for you, because more votes equals a higher ranking which results in more traffic for the website or blog. I'd like to see plugins made available to make this an automatic thing for blogs, however.
Sproose also automatically creates tags for popular sites, so searching via tags is yet another way Sproose marries Web 2.0 with traditional searching.
Users can search and vote without logging in, however, guest user votes will not influence the ranking of other users. Guest votes only influence that guest's own search result order.
Are users comfortable enough with the concept of voting at this point to be able to marry digg-style voting with normal search? I'm not sure if the concept of social voting is widespread enough yet, however, the INFLUENCERS are comfortable with it, and that may be all it takes at this point.
Will people attempt to game such a system and subsequently ruin it? Well, there's no doubt in my mind that users will attempt to game any such search engine. However, Sproose has built-in barriers so non-users' votes, robots, or scripts will be blocked, discovered, and removed. How well those barriers work still remain to be seen, and how well the barriers for registered users to attempt to get more than one vote remains to be seen as well. And of course, there's the whole group voting game that also has to be taken into account. Again, only time will tell if Sproose can handle this or not.
If a new search engine, such as Sproose, can successfully accomplish the marriage of social voting with SERPs, will users switch to it? It's difficult to get users to switch, no matter how great the new search engine is. I have my doubts about it, but if the influencers like it enough, then it has a chance. All the search engine has to do is first, get the influencers to try it, and second, make them love it. That's a huge task, but it can be done.
Frankly, I love the concept that Sproose has put together, and am pretty excited about it. I am willing to test it for one month. If I continue to like it, I'd be willing to switch. (Keep in mind, however, that I switched from Google to Yahoo a year ago, so I'm already the type of person who is willing to switch if I'm happy with another engine). I'll be sure to report back after I've given it a thorough testing. In the meantime, I have to give major kudos to Sproose just for putting the whole concept together. Good job!
BTW, I do almost all my searching directly from the Firefox search form, so I wanted a way to search Sproose from there. Mycroft lists all the search engine plugins available for Firefox, but Sproose wasn't listed, so I created a plugin for it. You can add the Sproose search engine to your Firefox search form here. Just click on the hyperlinked Sproose word to add it to FF. It seems to work for me. If you find any problems with it, don't come to me! LOL. I just took a wild stab at it, but it was my first, so I really don't know what I'm doing. 🙂
This has been a paid review, however, the opinions, as always, are all mine.
6 thoughts on “Social Voting Meets SERPs – User Improved Search Results”
Sorry to disagree but I HATE this idea.
1. My biggest concern would be having my pages “buried” because they don’t conform to the biases of other users (a MAJOR problem at Digg). It helps that Sproose doesn’t currently allow “buries” (that I can see) but “buries” also perform a useful function as a counter to users gaming the system. So not allowing them is “one step forward – one step back.”
2. Second, I’m usually searching for accurate information, not popular information.
3. I don’t want my search results tailored to fit me. That just reinforces my own biases.
4. When I click on a link in Sproose the new page is framed within a Sproose page (ala Google Image Search). That’s just poor form in my opinion.
Pops, you are more than welcome to disagree with me any time. 🙂 I honestly hadn’t noticed the framed page because my habit is to always right-click and choose Open link in new tab. Doing that does not frame the site, so I missed that. So, I just tried it the regular way, and you’re right it does frame it, which is poor form, I agree, in some ways, although it does make it handy for voting. Pros and cons for that one.
I’m testing the accuracy during this month long test. So far, because it relies on several engines, it seems to be doing an ok job with accuracy. Voting only enhances that, imo, but I can see where you might disagree.
So, all in all, I see your points, and they are certainly valid ones. Just not sure I agree with them, but I’ll know more after the month is over. 🙂
Some great questions there. Sproose may be able to generate some value for specifc types of searches and from specific groups.
I dont see the bigger play, mostly because I think rankings will be wildly different between types of users. Microsoft tried something similar several years ago on MSN, where ‘popularity’ influenced ranking – might have been Alexa driven. You will notice that they are not doing that anymore, though I found it valuable on a few searches.
But even a small percentage in the search engine world can be huge. If I was Spoose, I would target a specifc demographic to get the most effective value creation and market penetration.
Donna, I have to agree with Pops on this one, I think. OK, I don’t HATE the idea, like he does. But, while I like this idea “in theory,” I think Pops is right.
I love social media, but I’m not sure I trust the wisdom of the crowd when it comes to search. As Pops said, when I’m searching, I’m looking for accurate information, not popular information (although, these 2 things are not necessarily mutually exclusive).
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