The State of Search: User-Generated Comments

Posted by Steve Wanczyk

From its earliest days, Google positioned itself as a crowd-sourced search engine. As the first index to use third party inbound links as a ranking factor, Google established the importance of the wisdom of the crowds, and pegged its success on what is essentially social behavior--the value of the hyperlink. Now, Google may be introducing a new kind of crowd-sourced content to the SERPs that could have significant implications on user behavior. Last month, in a development that did not receive a formal announcement, Google clarified its plans to begin integrating user-generated comments within search results. The exact shape these comments will take is not yet clear, and it’s hard to imagine Google allowing unfettered content to muck up its results. The simple fact that this functionality is under discussion raises questions about the potential impact of these user comments down the road.

What does this mean for you?

For now, it appears that user-generated comments being appended to search results is limited to content related to live sporting events. But, as is the case with many features Google tests, it could very well expand from here. If we see a day where user comments begin to appear for branded searches, the ramifications on brand and reputation programs would be substantial. Our team will monitor the spread of this functionality closely – we don’t expect it to impact your program in the near-term, but knowing that it may be on the horizon represents a huge opportunity to act as early movers and prevent abuse.