Adolescent Search Engines: They are growing up so fast!

teens.jpgSearch engines are just like teenagers. Don’t believe me? Consider this analogy.

Let's say you have a teenage kid with a handful of friends. He knows them very well and even remembers their phone numbers by heart. He’s bright and it doesn’t take him long to become very popular at school. Now, he has dozens of friends. While extremely intelligent, he doesn’t have the memory to recall all his new friends’ contact info. Now he uses a paper address book to keep track of them, looking them up by their initials.

Later, he discovers social media sites on the Internet and gets addicted. He gains hundreds of friends all around the world. He genuinely wants to stay in touch with them but his paper address book is no good and he upgrades to a web-based electronic one. Now he can find any friend by simply typing in the first or last name. After joining several social networks and starting his own blog, he has several thousand friends. Suddenly he is faced with another unforeseen challenge: many friends have the same name! He needs to use a differentiating piece of information, their country or city for example, to tell them apart. But in several cases even this fails; he has three friends in Korea named John Kim, and two of them in Seoul! He has to tell them apart by age.

Now imagine that this kid is a search engine and his friends are our web pages. Instead of a few thousand listings, search engines have to sort through billions to find what is being searched for. This is when things get really interesting. 🙂

Search’s adult dilemma

We all know that search engines use keywords to differentiate documents, but do we understand why using keywords in the body of a web page is not enough to differentiate it when there are several million web pages with similar characteristics? Just like in our social teenager analogy, the more listings there are, the more differentiating information search engine needs to tell them apart. So far, search engines are depending on info from incoming links, the information that is outside or “off-page.” But will that be enough in the future? Are links going to cut it?

My personal opinion is that search engines will keep looking for outside quality signals besides links. I mentioned some of them in a previous post, but when I reflect on this, I think that even those will not be enough. Site owners and content writers will ultimately need to learn at least basic SEO. They will need to help search engines by creating content that stands out and, at the same time, easier to find and navigate.

At some point, there will need to be cooperation between all the moving parts. It is easier to organize what has at least some basic organization than what doesn't have any in the first place. Search engines will keep trying, but should we leave all the heavy lifting to them?

What do your think?

2 replies
  1. Mutiny Design
    Mutiny Design says:

    As discused on your 'previous post', I think Google's best card to play would be to create personalised search results. There could be some issues with this though, since some queries are pre-prepared it would cause more strain on their servers. Also, the majority of people who use search engines don't have much or any footprint (my paresnts for example) for Google to track because they don't use Google Analytics or any other pies Google has its mits in.

    Possibly the biggest problems would be if the money, time and effort put into optimising your site would not give a good ROI as the search results are so personalised. If that was the case a lot of people may end up switchign to Yahoo.

    As mentioned in your previous post, I believed that the ammount of traffic a site was getting could be something Google could use as a quality signal, but on reflection this is actually harder to quality check than links. If traffic was a major factor it would be very easy to have your site crawled by different IPs. Whereas now we have Text-Link-Ads and link exchange, this would lead to buying Crawl-My-Site and traffic exchange networks.

    • Hamlet Batista
      Hamlet Batista says:

      Mutiny – You have really good points there. I agree with you. For every action on Google's end there will be a reaction on our end. That is what makes our work so exciting. Isn't it?


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