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Human Interaction: The Future of Search?

Google Labs is currently testing a new search experiment that would revolutionize search and search marketing as we know it -- they will incorporate human interaction with a select group of users. The user preference could be the future of Google search. 

The Algorithm Now and in the Future
Google constantly refines their search algorithm and search design to meet users’ wants. The new method of searching would allow users to rearrange the search results to indicate their personal preferences.

For example, if a user searches “Olympics” the search engine may not provide the results that they want. The user may be searching for general information on the Olympics, its history, or something more specific such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics. If the user was interested in the history of the Olympics, then they could “lower” results for the Beijing Olympics to reflect their search intentions.

Google uses computer algorithms to rank pages and display them in search results. While Google does not release the algorithm, it does give weight to incoming links and keywords as well as other on and off-page qualities.

One challenge for all search engineers is that computers can only sort based on narrowly defined qualities of a website. Comparatively, humans would choose sites based on many variables that may not be consistent with the algorithms because of their personal preferences.

In the experiment, down arrows are displayed next to each search result. The users can click on a down arrow to lower the ranking of a particular page in relation to other results and thus the search engine learns what the human user’s preferences are. There is no up-arrow option.

With this data, Google has a few options to actively improve its algorithm. First, Google can analyze attributes of the pages that are “lowered” by the user compared to those pages that are not in order to determine ways in which to tweak the algorithm or variable to give more weight to. Or, Google may use the rearranged rankings as one variable in the formula. Of course, there is the chance Google may not even use the results at all.

The significant factor of this experiment is the human input and the implications for search engine marketing tactics. Primarily, content has to be designed to appeal to the user and not just to the spider crawling the page. Search engine marketers will need to integrate traditional marketing strategies to appeal to these users who have less than uniform tastes.

Pages need to have relevant content, have the content they say they have, and be user friendly, among other qualities. Certainly this means that SEO and SEM will require a more dedicated team to actually see results for their clients’ sites because SEO will now require a greater understanding of what human users are seeking when they search. And while Google is still in the testing phases of this new project, the human interaction variable seems to be the future of search.

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