Search is 16 years old and it is changing - in fact, we are entering a period where search companies are going to push and be pulled.
They are going to push for more money and regaining traffic lost to social media and be pulled into the new ways in which consumers what search and search results.
This push and pull is going to change the dimensions of search and the ultimate destinations to which consumers are sent.
Google Instant is part of this change. It will generate more money for Google, generate faster answers for customers and prepare consumers for the next revolution in search.
That revolution will be search going from single answers based on single measures of authority to multi-destinational answers based on multi-dimensional sources of information. Let me explain.
Search is as old as the modern internet – say 16 years. From the days people first discovered Mosaic, Netscape Navigator, Yahoo, Looksmart, Excite, Altavista and eventually the king of search – Google.
But search is getting old. Internet search says that there is one site, one location that can answer your query.
Type in “what time is it in New York” and internet search will give you the number one site with the exact answer.
Same for “how many inches in a meter”, “where is the Eiffel tower”, “how many people live in Seoul” and every other closed question that has a limited number of answers.
But type in an open ended question and current search struggles. Search for “what is the best movie of all time”, “who is the greatest of them all”, “where should I go next” or “who do you love” and it becomes clear there is not one site with the answer.
The future of search is one that answers open ended questions.
Where we can draw together information from more than one content location (multi-destinational search) and prioritize it based on different trust or ranking metrics (multi-dimensional search).
Where search brings together the answers from different existing pages (destinations) as well as different perspectives and sources (dimensions) such as the instant responses of experts, the instant responses of our sociograph and the instant responses of a searcher’s tastegraph.
With Google Instant, however, results appear as you type. The search results update as you search rather than waiting for you to complete your query and hit “Google Search” or “I Feel Lucky”. I believe Google has done this for two reasons.
Firstly to make more money and secondly to prepare users for the multi-dimensional and multi-destinational future of search.
In relation to revenue, Google Instant has the chance to make Google a lot more money in the short term than the traditional search process.
The most expensive words in search (at least travel search) are in the head terms. Phrases like “hotels in [major city]” and ‘flights to [major city]”.
Type in something like “Hotels in London” or “Flights to New York” and you will see what I mean. You will see the battle ground of the biggest and most cashed up travel companies in the world.
It is arguable that as head term bidding costs have risen, head term paid search marketing has moved from a direct marketing activity to one more akin brand building and long term customer acquisition.
As a result the paid search battle has expanded rapidly from high cost head terms to the lower cost but harder to target body and tail terms.
The paid search battle has expanded form “hotels in [major city] to sub divisions of minor destinations such as “hotels in [suburb of secondary city]” and to refinement of head terms such as “[type] hotels in [major city] with [special requirement]” such a as “luxury hotels in new york that take pets”.
With Google Instant, as soon as customers type in “hotel” or “flight” or “cruise” the result will appear and paid search clicking will start before the consumer has a chance to qualify their request.
Instead of customers typing in a full long tail search term and then clicking on the cheap(er) paid advert, they are likely to click sooner on a more expensive head search term.
Under Google non-instant a customer would type in “hotels in Bondi with a swimming pool and view”, wait for the results then click on the link. Under Google Instant, the second they type in the word “hotels” results will start to appear.
Any percentage of long tail searchers that abandon a long tail search to click on a head term paid advert is more money for Google. Great move.
But Google Instant is not just a revenue generating move, it is also part of a search training exercise to get help prepare consumers for the transition to search 3.0.
For the transition from the type, search, wait, review and proceed method that is the current search model to a constantly developing and refining approach that will be the hall marks of the mutli-destinational/dimensional search model.
To answer open ended questions we need to collect information from more than one place/destination. We need to be able to see how different content locations (sites, updates, blogs, news feeds, discussions etc) are dealing with the same piece of information.
To see this is a way that makes it clear which is the most recent piece of information and how each piece of information relates to the other. This is the multi-destinational element.
As well we need a new process for attributing ranking. The current page rank algorithm derives authority and ranking from links. Inbound links and outbound links are like votes of authority.
Each vote (link) is not equal. The higher the authority of a page – the greater the value of a link from that page. In future search authority (page rank) will need to come from more than links.
There are new methods on the Interwebs for marking a piece of content or information as important and valuable. The “like” button, a re-tweet, a URL shorten, a Digg, a reddit vote, a stumble upon, a youtube view, a status update and many more.
In the social media world there are scores of ways to give authority to a piece of content without giving it a link.
In my own case I am writing more and more content than ever before but because I am writing it on Tnooz, Twitter, Linkedin and other places – not just the BOOT – my BOOT page rank has dropped from six to four in the last year.
[NB: Our apologies. Ed :( ]
The future of search will change the measures of authority to take into account that you can “vote” with more than a link.
Google knows this and along side the changes with Google Instant has been putting stars and voting buttons on links in search results.
They have added bounce rate to the measure of relevance. And offered more and more ways to see the search results in different formats and different sources.
All aimed and training the consumer to prepare for the next revolution in search.
Search is changing – so expect more. Keep an eye on the new dimensions for authority and incorporation of more than one destination in the answer.
If you want more background on Google Instant I suggest reading the following links