New From Google: Co-Op

I’ve been in Mountain View for Google Press Day, taking in (and trying to organize and make useful) all the world’s information about the search giant. This afternoon, the company unveiled a number of new products with potential (current or eventual) implications for marketers. The next few posts will outline some of these products and my thoughts about them.

Google Co-Op: This initiative taps into the “tagging” phenomenon and allows user-generated content to influence search results. A subject matter expert — who could be an individual, a company, or a non-profit organization — tags (Google calls it “labels”) search results that apply to their particular area of specialty. Then, Google users can “subscribe” to people whose tags they are interested in viewing. After that, the tags appear at the top of search results for relevant queries. Google also “auto subscribes” the entire Google universe of users to the tags of people it has determined (through Google Voodoo) are authorities. The buzz over “Google Health” this week comes because Google asked certain hospitals and other entities to tag health-related content, and is auto-subscribing everyone to those tags.

The idea is to enable Google to tap into users’ expertise. It’s not easy to tag these things yet, though. (In case you’re imagining del.icio.us-like functionality.) You could potentially put a URL into one box, and the tag into a second and then press “enter,” or you can upload an XML file with your labels. Search engine marketers, step right up… Co-op is supposedly live right now, but I can’t get it. Folks here say it’s being rolled out and should be operational for everyone around 6 p.m. PT tonight.

UPDATE: Besides the “labels,” Co-op also lets people, companies, etc. create “subscribed links” that appear at the top of search results. Barry at SEW Blog has already been playing around with these and offers a pretty good example of how it could work for companies.

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