In case you missed it Google released a few new search products yesterday. Google Co-Op, Google Trends, Google Desktop 4, and later this week Google Notebook. Each in it’s own way may contribute a little something to search engine optimization, but it’s the first two I mentioned that I would like to talk about here.
Google Co-Op is a way for contributors to share their expertise by labeling web pages to help users refine their search based on the contributor’s expertise, giving them a customized search experience through the use of ‘subscribed links.’ That’s a mouthful. Maybe describing the process will make it easier to see what’s going on.
A contributor will either add to an existing topic or start a new topic. For example doctors may decide to contribute to the health topic. They will then assign labels to the topic which will later be used to help people refine their search. The aforementioned health topic currently has labels for ‘Alternative Medicines’ and ‘Support Groups’ among others. Contributors would additionally attach those labels to specific urls s a way to annotate them. Annotating a web page with a given label is an indication that the web page should be preferred in a search result for queries with that label.
Users can subscribe to different contributors which will then take into account the labels of the contributor in searches. So referring back to the health topic instead of being on your own you could subscribe to your family doctor or any doctor who’s opinion you trust and essentially have that doctor help you in your search by giving preference to sites they find valuable about the topic you’re searching for.
Google Co-Op is still in the early stages and there are many different ways it might end up getting used. For example if one of your friends or family members is always providing tech support, you could subscribe to get their links and be able to benefit from their advice about fixing your computer even when they’re not around. Or maybe your friend the audiophile can provide links to sites selling speakers they think are the best. Another use will be for businesses to provide links to their services. Some examples from the Subscribed Links FAQ:
OpenTable built a subscribe link to deliver users real-time information about restaurant availability whenever they perform a restaurant search on Google, with links to make reservations on OpenTable’s website.
People Magazine created a subscribed link to give users relevant celebrity info anytime for relevant searches, with links to more detailed info on People’s site.
It’s too early to know where this will lead, but the concept of tagging, which is essentially what labeling is has been going around the search engine community as one of the possible next big things in search. The two examples above should give an indication how a business might make use of Co-Op to provide a better experience for customers and gain some new customers.
Google Trends allows you to get a little information about how people are searching for a given topic, by presenting a a graph of the searches you ask about vs. the total searched at Google over a time. It’s basically a search/volume graph.
Trends will probably be most valuable when comparing the graphs of two or more different searches to see if the different searches perhaps influenced each other in some way or are somehow related in people’s minds. A perfect example is provided by Google with the search hurricane katrina, gas prices. It’s pretty evident that at the same time people were looking for information about Katrina they were also concerned with the price of gas given the spike in searches during the same time frame.
Google also provides a bar graph below the general graph where you can compare the relative searches by city, region, and language. I would have preferred seeing some actual numbers of how many searches were performed and being able to move the graph a little the way you can move Google Maps around to allow for some control over the time frame. I’ve also noticed that graphs are only available at the moment when there is a large amount of data for the search query. Seeing a graph for less searched queries would have been nice, since being able to get the results for less popular search queries could provide a wealth of information for selecting keywords.
Still there’s no question that marketers will be able to learn a wealth of information about the associations people make. Imagine for example that people searching for cameras show the same trends as those searching for batteries. It would seem likely that anyone selling cameras should also be selling batteries, maybe even right next to the camera display. That’s a rather obvious example as we already know to sell batteries alongside the products that use them, but you get the idea.
Both Google Co-Op and Google Trends look pretty good and if they’re like most publicly released betas from Google they’ll likely grow better in time. Both have implications for search in general and search marketers. Google Co-Op may be leading the way to a new way to get your web pages in search results or provide new ideas to attract traffic to your site and Google Trends may be providing valuable insight into the thought process of your potential customers. Both are worth looking into more in depth.