Trouble Ahead With Real-Time Search
Google announced the roll out of real-time search results into its algorithm yesterday, solidifying what most anyone should understand by now—real-time content is a commodity and is here to stay. Now that Google has joined the ranks of search engines succumbing to the obvious shift in user intent, the debate is over and we can get down to planning just how we will monetize this new facet of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). How to SEO for it? How to advertise within it? And how to potentially turn everyone off on these results for good.
I’m afraid that with real-time results finally making it into the “big leagues,” traditional search marketing may steamroll over this authentic user-generated content only to devalue it completely out of authenticity. Authentic user-generated content has turned the search engine world on its ear. Now the engines are combating this by layering these elements into their results. This may be a dangerous day for all parties concerned, and I feel the potential to kick the user experience in the shins is as strong as the excitement surrounding a significantly stellar transformation of the search space.
But rather than brooding over the cloudy visions within the crystal ball of search monetization and the potential to crush authenticity, something far more immediate seems to be ringing a warning bell in my ears—the complete disconnect between getting authoritative, trustworthy results from a search engine along side the newest, freshest stream of conscious flowing out of the gigantic mouth of social media.
While I am all for real-time search results and their ability to keep me up to date on current events and trends, there seems little means for a search engine to evaluate the good, bad, or indifferent when deciding which particular blip of micro-blog to serve me on its page one results. And I have little interest in simply seeing the most recent real-time “anything” being said on anything I might search. There isn’t any metric available to adequately evaluate the “authority” of a micro-blogging twitter user. Don’t be fooled. It isn’t the number of followers. It isn’t the balance of followers to follow-ees. And it isn’t even the ratio of user lists you show up on. Real-time search results are pretty much just that—the latest spew out of the cloud of “current” content. I’m less interested in the “most current” stream and more in the “most valuable” current stream. Finding that subset takes some significant self-filtering in the search space.
Searchers segment themselves nicely between those doing research, those doing commercial buyer activities, and those looking for the latest news. Unfortunately, when I search “Britney Spears” it isn’t really clear to the engine which of those three searchers I am. Is the solution to serve me everything? I see myself needing some massive lever I can flip before doing a search that states my intent to the engine before I hit search. That way I don’t have to suffer through those pockets of content for which I have no interest.
Yes, it’s cool that engines are now going to give me a slice of photos, videos, tweets, products, web pages, and blog posts whenever I go surfing, but is an all-in-one solution SERP really the best SERP I could ask for? I doubt it. I don’t discount that this is a major upgrade. Ranking web pages alone is far from a complete user experience picture. The engines’ evolution provides confirmation that there is value in diversifying the results page. But might it be becoming too homogenized at the same time?
Might real-time search be truly valuable only when I can have it show me results from my circle of trusted content sources? As it stands, while exposure to the very most recent chatter about worldly subjects is useful, I’m not sure it is nearly filtered enough for my page one results on a search engine, at least not all the time. User generated content is too susceptible to being over run with unqualified rambling. It’s already impossible to sift through my own twitter network stream. Imagine when search results are showing the entire world’s stream on page one all the time. Ugh.
2010 is going to be a very interesting year in Search Marketing to be sure.