Friday, June 19, 2009

Innovating Search at Warp Speed

Innovating Search at Warp Speed
When I got into search and SEO a few years back, the focus was on creating a great web page or site and to build that up over time through links, conversions, improving copy and promoting the hell out of it.

Today this is the last thing that I would recommend to a new site. The reason is we are focused on the now, or rather on time. Let's take the recent Iran election as a quick example. If I typed in "Iran elections" into Google, what do you WANT it to return?

You want Google to tell you what is going on in real time over in Iran. You wan the latest news stories - even yesterday's news is really irrelevant due to how fast things develop. If a site that had been optimized over the last few years for the key phrase "Iran election" came up at the top of the rankings, you would be disappointed and would need to keep looking.

Knowing this, Google, and more than a handful of new search applications are moving to a real time web. Perform that search for Iran election (even though as I type this it is now a few days old) and you will see blended results:

Google Search for Iran Elections(Click the image to enlarge)

Iran Elections search on Google(Click the image to enlarge)

The top photo shows recent Google News selections. These are time updated and crawled to show you the most up to date news on the key phrase. You can also see that organic results from Wikipedia display headlines for the 2009 election. The number one result from is from June 15th, 2009 and #2 The Guardian is from June 14th. This gives the searcher the most relevant "new" information on the topic.

The bottom photo shows you blog posts that are being spidered for the terms and are also fresh posts. Lastly you see related searches. These terms are derived from searches that others are making in real time on Google.

Now take into consideration all the Social Media stuff and ways to search topics and keywords on these sites. A Tweet from yesterday, even if super powerful and helpful, is no longer relevant. An article that hit Digg's homepage on Monday is long forgotten by Friday.

How does search keep up?

One cool thing that Google has done is given its searches "search options." On Monday I am going to be giving you guys an awesome video that walks you through Personal and Company branding implications for these "search options." Sorry to make you wait, but the video is awesome and has some cool backend stuff.

What about other engines?

One of the most relevant search engines in today's world is Twitter Search. Josjua Odmark from Search Engine Journal wrote this about Twitter Search yesterday
We all know how important keywords are in content thanks to Google. Twitter is teaching us how important these keywords are in our Tweets. Relationships are created via the keywords that are in the Tweets and people are finding Tweets based on those keyword searches.

He also listed some problems with Twitter search, some that can even be implied into other engines:
  • Punctuation - not returning results that have ! and ? at the end of words. Hopefully this will be fixed soon.
  • Absolute Matches - Singular and plural forms of words are counted as not the same. Although a trick would be to search for the plural and the singular would be returned as it is part of the plural word. Thus searching for iPhone will not return iPhones but a search for iPhones will return iPhone because it is part of the root.
  • Word recognition and typos - Twitter search does not make the distinction between health care and healthcare being the same. It is not getting Google smart and showing "did you mean" when you mispell a word.
  • Timing - While you want relevant searches, Twitter only returns the Tweets based on phrase and time. Spammers are taking advantage of this, by putting keywords and phrases into Tweets while promoting affiliate products and the like.

Where do we go from here?

So Twitter Search is certainly not the answer (yet) as the web has so much going on outside of Twitter - videos, photos, news, products, articles, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I found a real time social search engine courtesy of my trusty old source Mashable yesterday - Collecta. This shows results in real time for stories, comments, updates and photos. This gives you a good picture of what is going on right now on the web. Here is a sample search for Gen-Y. You can see it picked up 23 results in the last 2 minutes.

Performing a search on Collecta for Gen-Y(Click the image to enlarge)

What about Bing?

So I am not going to say I have played around in Bing like I live in Google, but I did a few searches and here's what I saw. I performed the search for Iran election and below is the screen shot.

Bing search results for Iran election(Click the image to enlarge)

You can see that the related searches on the left seem relevant. The news results at the top are very real time (indexed only between 1 and 2 hours prior to this search). The organic results show a mixed of long time trusted links and new sites. The one I find interesting is They are a new Meme tracker that popped up during the election process. I think this is a great real time source for information.

Not bad Bing, not bad. (I feel like I am talking to Chandler from Friends everytime I talk about Bing).

So Where Does This Leave Us?

Honestly, for the average person - not much of this is relevant today. The search engines do a fairly good job of displaying a mix of "real time" data and highly optimized content (you know - old school organic, great content and on page stuff, incoming links and Google trust factors). For the techie and geek people, we can expect more experimentation from the Search Engines and new applications and add ons to enhance our user experience.

For SEO types and site owners, the formula is the same, but magnified. If people are looking for content in real time, you need to produce content in real time. If someone wants a video on gardening, that is less than 4 minutes long that was made in the last week, well if you are a gardening site, you need to have content to match that. It means more work if you are going for organic rankings.

Don't panic or go on a content rampage, but some things to consider may be:
  • Instead of releasing 10 videos in the same day, spread them over the next 2-3 weeks so you always have fresh videos.
  • Properly tag, title and describe things. Tell the search engines what your stuff is about.
  • Look in your analytics and see when search engine, twitter and social media traffic is coming to your site. If you see a lot of Twitter traffic coming in the early morning, it would be wise to Tweet at those times with your keywords.
  • Get on a regular schedule. Makes it easy to manage.
  • Build stronger brand awareness. This way they are doing branded keyword searches rather than generic searches. Much easier for someone to buy from you when they search for "your company name" vs "what your company dies."
  • Give your clients/customers/web viewers ways to share your content. Even on static or product pages, let your people share your videos, content, etc and Digg it, embed it and email to a friend.

Search is getting smarter and in turn you need to get smarter too. There is much to gain from search and social media traffic and they are quickly blending together.

Question to ponder:
What do you think of the current state of search? What would you like to see? How is social media effecting your traffic from search engines?

Remember to check back on Monday where we have an awesome video on using the new Google stuff for Personal and Company branding. I think you are going to like it.

-Greg Rollett


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