Google appears to be experimenting with social tagging and expanded bookmarking; leading some to conclude that if successful, Google might integrate user-input data into future organic algorithms.
Last Sunday (January 30), Google released the fourth version of its toolbar for Internet Explorer (a Firefox version is scheduled to be released soon). Two of the features embedded in the toolbar suggest Google is moving towards incorporating views expressed by its users into its methodology for factoring search results.
The first is a Bookmark button inviting users to save documents or search results by creating a specific toolbar command to access those documents or results.
Another feature allows users to share websites, documents or results with other users via Email, SMS or Blogger.
The ways in which Google users who have the toolbar installed make use of these features will be tracked by Google and likely incorporated into the document histories Google keeps on all files in its index, thus affecting search results.
Currently, SEOs assume Google is actively tracking how each user sees and moves though documents in its index. Google Analytics, combined with information gleaned from toolbar users and registered members, already provides Google with a great deal of up to the minute data detailing visitors’ impressions of documents found in its index.
User behaviours are thought to be one of the best indicators of the value or relevancy of a particular document. If, for instance, users tend read Document A and subsequently view other files in the site Document A originated from, Google assumes there must be quality information found on Document A. Users took the time to read it and they obviously want to know more about the site or business the document was written by. If, on the other hand, users tend to exit the document before reading it without following links found on the page, Google will likely take a dimmer view of the relevancy or importance of information found on that document.
In conjunction with the bookmark feature, Google users are being prompted to personalize their surfing experience by adding one or more tags to the documents they bookmark, sort of like a user-entered keyword or phrase describing the bookmark. Those tags are then associated with similar tags in the Google search history feature.
Google’s biggest search rival, Yahoo has successfully used tagging since the advent of del.icio.us and their purchase of Flickr, both of which are Yahoo owned properties.