Google Co-op was an announcement made by Google in May 2006. Google Co-op is a sign of Google's commitment to social web and search concepts. It will help to improve Google search results. Google Co-op allows users to share context, knowledge, expertise. Google Co-op lets users tell Google what web content is really like by giving labels (categories for it). Subscribing for the content of sites they value will allow users to vote on which content is most valuable. End-users also can modify their Google search results to suit their needs through Google Co-op better.
End-users can filter out spam content and content of low or marginal value.
Google Co-op is currently in beta testing. There are still some issues that need to be "worked out" as with any beta-tested service. It is difficult to use and understand Google Co-op because of the lack of documentation. This paper will briefly overview Google Co-op, including how to use it and what you will see. The topic will be covered in subsequent articles.
WEB 2.0 SITES
The "social web," also known as Web 2.0, is a way for users to share information and opinions with others. The social aspect of the web is built on sharing. Data can be shared by users about the things they value. Del.icio.us is a good example. Users can share links to their favorite information (e.g., articles they like or websites about a particular topic).
Wikipedia (the free, open-source, user-contributed encyclopedia) and DMOZ (the open directory) are two other examples of user-vetted or user-contributed information. There are many more. Social search is the same as "social search," which involves humans sharing and providing information to improve search engine results for various queries. Google Co-Op appears to be a decisive step by Google in the realm of social search.
GOOGLE CO-OP COMPONENTS
Google Co-op is made up of two things:
2. Subscribed Links
Google calls Topics "area of interest." Topics allow users to create labels or tags (or categories) for information found on the internet. This is done by associating URLs with brands (e.g., www.citytowninfo.com could get the title "destination_guide"). These labels tell Google the purpose of a URL. Google may allow users to use tags for topics such as health, destination guides, and autos. These include stereo & home theatre, computer & gaming, photo & audio equipment, computer & game games, stereo & home theater, and stereo & sound systems. You can also create labels for your topics. For example, if you are interested in wine, tags may be made for that topic. This could include "wine_regions," wines, and others. You can.
Everyone will be benefited from labeling content in many ways. Google will have a lot of information about websites that labels can provide, possibly down to the individual page level. Users can also "vote" on which sites they find valuable by labeling a website. Google will see which sites are authoritative in a particular topic as these votes build up over time. It's easy to see that Google will use this data over time to make sites that have received a lot more votes appear higher in relevant search results.
2. Subscribed links
Subscribed links offer many benefits to users and web developers. Subscribed links offer:
End-users can alter or tailor their search engine results to receive more relevant results and results from trusted sources.
End users have the potential to save time by not having to click through to the site.
End users have another way to vote on websites they consider authoritative or valuable by subscribing.
Publishers have other options to make their content accessible to end-users
Subscribed links allow publishers to make a subset of their information available for end-users. This is done by submitting the subscribed links via an XML to Google and letting users know where and how to subscribe. Subscribed links will be subscribed to by users who value particular publishers' content. Subscribed content will be displayed at the top search results for searching on the relevant terms. Subscribing to a site allows the user to alter their search results so that the content they find more valuable appears at the top of search results.
Google will likely view a site that has more subscribers as being more authoritative over time. It is easy to see how such a site will be ranked higher in Google search results over time, as stated in this article.
GOOGLE CO-OP WILL IMPROVE THE CONTENT USERS SEE
Self-vetting is an added benefit to the entire process of subscribing and labeling. Search results will show spam sites, advertising websites, and sites with marginal or unimportant content lower in search results. The social web dynamics of action means that users won't bother to subscribe or label poor quality sites in sufficient numbers to make them authoritative and valuable. All users should get better search results that are more useful.
What Users "See"
You may now be curious about how users see Google Co-op search results. The following three methods are how Google Co-op content is presented to users:
As "Refine Results": Refine results can be described as search refinements specific to the topic. These are predetermined categories that can help you refine your search for a particular case. A search for "Boston" will result in a "Refine Results for Boston:" box at their top search results. It contains the following categories: Lodging guides, Restaurants, Attractions, and Shopping, and suggested itineraries and tours & day trips.
As "Subscribed links": This box displays the Subscribed Links results. It lists the results from one or several authoritative sources that a user subscribed to at the top of Google's search results. If the user were subscribed to citytowninfo.com and searched for "Boston," then they would see the "About Boston, MA" subscribed link box below the "Refine results."
"Labels": These labels appear in search results. A label is a tag below a search result. A label might be "Labeled dining guides" after the item's title and short description. These site labels appear below the subscribed links but above Google's organic search results.
Search refinements for destination guides and health topics will appear at the top of any relevant set of Google search results. Users who do not do anything will not see them (just Google "Boston" to find "Refine results for Boston). Google automatically subscribes all users to these topics. These topics are not available for unsubscription. These two topics will be listed below in search results that publishers or users annotate.
Subscribed links to websites will show items at the top of search results for users who search using terms relevant to authoritative sources. End-users will see different search results than they would typically see. They will also see the "Subscribed Links Boxes," "Refine Results," and "Labels" of the subscription sites. Subscribing allows users to modify their search experience so it is more relevant to them and their needs.
This is Google's directory. You can subscribe to any subscribed links or to citytowninfo.com's subscribed hyperlink to see it in action. A quick search for "Boston" on citytowninfo.com will return both the "Refine results" from Google and a "Subscribed links" "About Boston, MA" box from citytowninfo.com.
Although still in its infancy and experiencing the growing pains of a beta service, Google Co-op has many offer users. It will allow Google to deliver more relevant and robust search results. Google Co-op will be a powerful and significant force in influencing people's search and the results they show.