Google’s focus on personalized search has led the company to develop a number of useful features promoting an individual user experience. In the next few days, users should see the newest Google search development rolling out, called Stars. Current Gmail, Reader, Docs, and News users will recognize the stars feature, which allows them to mark important e-mails, documents, and other content, to find easily at a later time. Because Google has implemented the stars feature in so many of its other apps, extending stars to search results is a natural move. By focusing on personalized search, Google caters to its diverse user-base and continues to improve the search experience.
Using Stars is simple – an empty star marker will appear next to every search result. Once a result is starred by a user, it appears at the top of the search results the next time the item is Googled, under a special “starred results” heading. Users can select multiple results for the topics they search, and recall them later without searching through multiple pages to find what they’re looking for. Essentially, Stars is a bookmarking tool specifically for the Google search engine. You’ll no longer need to bookmark a page using your browser – good news for users who have hundreds of bookmarked sites that may disappear with one wrong click. Starred sites will sync with the Google Toolbar as well as the Bookmarks app, creating a more streamlined user experience.
Google’s first attempt at user-personalized search, SearchWiki, will be phased out as Stars is phased in. SearchWiki had good intentions; its main draw was allowing users to move search results up or down based on personal preference. While it seems like a simple and effective feature, SearchWiki didn’t really catch on with Google’s basic users. On the official announcement of Stars, Google product manager Cedric Dupont and software engineer Matthew Watson wrote, “In our testing, we learned that people really liked the idea of marking a website for future reference, but they didn’t like changing the order of Google’s organic search results. With stars, we’ve created a lightweight and flexible way for people to mark and rediscover web content.” Stars is seemingly foolproof, and is a simple way for users of all technical levels to enjoy the features Google has to offer.
Initial comments and reactions to Stars on various tech blogs were mostly positive, but some users started to question the implications starring results would have on SEO and rankings. So far, Google hasn’t mentioned if Stars will affect search engine rankings or other analytics that are important to many businesses. When SearchWiki launched, Google said that changes made within a user’s account didn’t affect search results as whole, so it is doubtful Stars will have any impact on rankings.
In the future, we’d like to see Google take Stars to the next level, giving more advanced users the option to personalize the experience even further. A current Labs feature in Gmail called “Superstars” allows users to apply different colored stars and icons – similar to the Labels feature – to separate e-mails more efficiently. Google could extend this feature to Stars search as well, which would create a truly unique browsing experience.
Screenshot via Google