In May 2006, among other announcements, Google announced Google Co-op. This article is a continuation of a previous article, “Google Co-Op Overview”, which provided a high-level overview of Google Co-op. This article will go into one of the components of Google Co-Op, Themes, in more detail than described in the previous article.
Google Co-Op is important to users for several reasons. Google Co-Op allows users to provide information that will help Google improve search results for everyone. In addition, Google Co-Op allows an end user to personalize their search experience so that the most relevant and reliable information appears at the top of the user’s search results. Users achieve this by subscribing to “trusted” sources of information. Information from these trusted sources will appear at the top of a user’s search results for relevant searches.
Google Co-Op is a beta testing service now offered by Google. Anyone with a Google account can participate. Although still in its infancy, the Google Co-Op represents Google’s efforts to embrace the concepts of social search and the social web in an important way to improve Google’s search results. Google Co-op consists of two things:
1. Themes, which are simply a way to tag web content
2. Subscription links, which are a means for users to subscribe to content on a particular website.
Topics can be broken down into two things:
1. The ability to create a complete classification or labeling scheme
2. The ability to simply tag web content, what Google calls annotations.
The rest of this article will focus on the annotation aspect of Google Themes.
Jotting down URLs is perhaps the easiest part of Google Co-Op to understand. It also requires the minimum amount of technical skills to implement. A “topic” is simply how Google defines an “area of interest”. Topics are a labeling or categorization scheme. Topics allow users to provide tags (which may also be called tags or categories) for information on the web (represented by URLs). Tags can be provided for an entire website, parts of a website, or even a specific web page. These “tags” provide some clue about the topic or topics of a particular website or page. Essentially, they provide more information on the website topic.
Anyone with a Google account can tag websites. Google refers to the process of providing website tags as “Annotation URL”. An annotation is simply the association of one or more tags to a URL. For example, a travel site might have the “destination_guide” tag.
Users can use the tags for topics that Google already has in development, including: health, destination guides, cars, computers and video games, photo and video equipment, stereo and home theater. Users can also develop their own topic tags. For example, if a user has an interest in “wine”, you can develop tags for the wine theme, which can include “wine_regions”, “wine_types” and so on. They can then use these labels to tag sites that deal with wine.
An end user can submit their annotations to Google in one of the following two formats: 1) in a tab-delimited format (which can be created with Microsoft Excel or any spreadsheet); or 2) in an XML file. Perhaps the easiest format for most users to manage is to simply create a spreadsheet where the first column contains a URL or URL pattern and subsequent columns contain labels, one label per column.