I had a bit of a discussion with our digital lead in the office about Google and Digg. As of early last week, talks are probably making some headway. TechCrunch had even had a stronger 'pronouncement' that the talks are in the final stages with Google paying 200Mln USD (only?) for the deal. Of course, Digg had to respond to such talks. Its CEO, Jay Adelson, denied that these talks are in place.
As of the latest news, there seems to have been a breakdown in the negotiations. Google, apparently, walked away from the deal, according to TechCrunch.
What's driven Google to this? Well, we can only speculate. But this perhaps could give us a glimpse: It seems that Google is experimenting with integrating user-votes into their algorithms to further refine the search results that the search engine churns for its users.
This entry from TechCrunch demonstrates how some early tests that Google has been conducted in the area of "social/user-votes-integration" into search results.
All these are of interest to me as a campaign planner - and for marketeers.
First, the idea of integrating a social-dimension to search results is probably a good idea from the end-user perspective. Right now, Google's PageRank and other technologies (Microsoft's Browserank, which debuted on SEOBook.Com) are dependent on "referral links".
(Microsoft's BrowseRank looks at user's behavior and the time spent per 'referring link' to ascertain the importance of the 'target link'; OK - that's putting it simplistically...)
Adding on a social component to search results is essentially "sourcing the wisdom of the crowds" - crowds, who I should add would be or are going to be very likely to be interested in the same things that any individual user is looking for.
The technologies of referring links (and other metrics gathered through sophisticated algorithms based on web-crawlers and others) will have an added, truly-interactive dimension - which means that with this, users get to have a say on what's relevant and what's not.
Will it lead to better results? I am no algorithm expert - but I would think so. If I were searching for "Ducati motorcycles" (which I have been doing for the past 2 weeks), I would want to have more relevant information on Ducati - way beyond what the corporate website of Ducati says (which always comes up tops on the list). And right now, I will have to follow every single link that the Google search results page spews out.
With this added dimension of "vote-ups/downs" from other end-users who may have searched the same keywords as I have done, it might just make my life a little easier. The ones that were voted up by people who did the same search earlier than I did would most likely be relevant to me, too. It may not be perfect - but at least it is a starting point.
The end-user, I think, will benefit from this greatly. She may lose out on a few interesting websites - but even then, she can vote-up/down on her own volition results which she may have found to be relevant to her search.
On the other hand, there are questions on "search results manipulation". If we had incidents of "click-fraud" in the CPC model - then we'll have to live with (or at least get Google to put a lid on) fraudsters who will be exploiting the possibility of artificially bumping up/down ratings.
On a cost-basis (which in these troubled times are beginning - or are becoming a more frequent point of discussion in marketing meetings - traditional or digital), costs per click or costs per acquisition are probably going to increase.
The results no longer are just dependent on Google's algorithms - with the social dimension of the search results, the crowd contributes. Essentially, people who have done similar searches as I am now doing, for exaple, will have already paved the way for me to the most relevant results - which could potentially be relevant to me, too!
Now, isn't that more valuable than pure, algorithm-derived search results? If I were google, I would do the same thing. I would put a premium to this - whilst controlling the possibility of fraudulent vote-ups/downs.
Bottom-line: Google is living up to its vision - "to oganize the world's information". And if and when this incorporation of the social dimension comes through, it would have been a step closer to realizing that vision.
For now, Google + Digg is probably not going to pull through. But it seems, Google has got its head around the issue. And it seems that they are on the right track.