If you work in the field of SEO, you probably understand that Google controls everything. We constantly bend to its will and try to outthink it at every turn. Just as space travel is unpredictable because we haven’t yet experienced much of it, SEO is also a largely new frontier and we seldom know what to expect from our environment. Our environment, of course, is Google. But what if Google didn’t exist? Where would we look for sites? How would we get links? Your brain is probably boiling over with great ideas right now, and that’s the point of this whole thing—if we eliminate Google from the equation entirely, those paths that we come up with are almost completely organic.
Google is extremely popular with both the general public and with SEO professionals, but it often locks us inside of a box. At some point we’re not exploring the web on our own, and instead we are relying on an algorithm and some web spiders to explore for us. We can break out of this box and choose our own destination in a natural, organic way. Considering the question “what if Google didn’t exist?” is a great way to answer the question “where can I get more links?”
Playing “what if?” is a fun, but sometimes dangerous, game. It’s easy to get stuck down in the mire of negativity and use “what if?” to fuel your own pessimistic fire. If you use it correctly, however, “what if?” can be a great catalyst for ideas and innovation. For example, think about the popular post apocalypse genre of fiction, where a shovel might become the protagonist’s best weapon, best tool and best friend. Similarly, in a world without Google, a message board buried somewhere inside of a mediocre site with low domain authority might become an excellent research tool. After all, if all of these people are willing to brave an underwhelming site just to talk to each other and share about a topic, that means they’re passionate about it. Passion leads to great info, great leads on new sites and useful links. Google does exist, of course, but thinking outside of that box produces some interesting results.
Baidu, a “local Chinese Google”, who leads the search engine market with over 75% share (Google only has 19 percent), is also one of the biggest and popular websites in the world. Alexa currently ranks it as the 6th popular in the world, just above Wikipedia and below Live. As do most big players in the SE industry, Baidu offers various services – such as video and image storage, website building platform, online encyclopedia, discussion forums, and more.
However, in today’s dynamic world, standing still and cherishing your achievements will very quickly lead to dethronement, at the very least. That’s why Baidu is looking to expand even further, especially when the number two Chinese website, Tencent, is also gaining ground, entering Alexa’s “world’s top 10” this month, after surpassing Twitter.
Tencent is largest internet company in China, and, with Facebook being unavailable to users, it is trying to utilize the social networking niche to compete with Baidu. The “satellite” services that are being offered by Tencent are very similar to the stated above Baidu products, making the clash between the two a “hot” battle for dominance. Baidu’s response, according to Robin Li, the CEO of the company, lies within expanding its own network of users and making it more “social”. In addition of fighting Tencent, this should also serve as additional income channel for the Chinese market leader.
One of the challenges in the recent Man vs Machine Jeopardy game, which was easily won by the computer, Watson, was coping with contextual questions. I was not only about facts, but understanding what the question is about.
Another fact is that people searches become more and more specific. Once, people would just type “cheese”. Today, as the number of webpages is immense, the search has to be more specific, stating what exactly you would like to know: “cheese vs cholesterol”, “where to buy cheese”, “how was the cheese invented” etc.
William Tunstall-Pedoe, co-founder of Trueknowledge.com, claims that his website is the future of search – at least for those who want to get answers to specific questions. Instead of typing search terms, you may just enter a question (“what is cheese”) and get a brief paragraph with an answer. Additionally, you will have some useful facts about the product and further at the page you could see related links (“external answers”) . There is also a possibility to add you answer, if you think you know better and want to contribute. To the right, you will see other sections, such as “other ways this question is asked” and related questions that are waiting to be answered (“Can you answer these questions?”).
My personal hope is that since Trueknowledge.com has been founded by scientists, it should present a viable alternative to the popular Wikipedia, which, unfortunately, has numerous incorrect facts in its articles…
Recent consumer study conducted by comScore and GroupM revealed that although 64% of the users are likely to follow a brand on Facebook and/or Twitter, search engine is still the most popular initial step for the majority of purchases made online. The study shows that nearly 60 percent of future buys originate within the search engine websites, with social media coming in the third place with 18% behind company websites (24%). And of those 18%, nearly half will eventually turn to search at some stage of their research. Similarly, only 40 percent of those that use search as their initial step will use social media throughout the purchase.
Moreover, almost no users (less than 1%) use Social Media and do not use search, while the search beats the “search+social media” combination 50 to 49 percent. Only 45 percent, though, use search throughout their research with 26 percent stating that they only use search in the beginning of the process.
The study also shows that customer reviews are something customers are looking for – making the recently reported idea of “SearchReviews.com” pretty viable. 30% of the responders said reviews are the most important thing to them. Social networks were selected by 17% of the users, and video sharing finished third with 14%.
Notably, the study only researched COMPLETED buys. So, maybe social media is simply good at preventing future purchases? After all, reading a page of negative opinions about a product can drive you away from it, and sometimes the whole idea of purchasing a certain accessory can become obsolete…
Woke up this morning thinking further about my statement yesterday that Microsoft should by Twitter. I really think that if Google does not buy Twitter and it lands in the hands of Microsoft, it could potentially become a great equalizer. Bing’s real time search results would be exclusive and therefore at the very least very different from Google. Bing needs to do something, it is sort of floundering as many companies do when they are not really committed to being the best.
On the other hand if Facebook buys Twitter, Google has a much bigger problem, potential elimination from real time search. Facebook is the number one visited website in the world. Now this is great, but their problem is, their visitors are not interested in buying anything, they do not click on ads, they do not convert into $$, and this is becoming a problem for the future of Facebook. It is sort of the old school internet business model on steroids: build it,make it cool and free, get traffic, and with traffic all your problems will be solved. Now if your roll Twitter into Facebook, you do not get any better profit generation, but now you hold all the cards in real time search. Facebook could place extraordinary value on this real time data, and begin to charge search engines massive amounts of fees to access their websites and data. If the search engines do not agree to pay these outrageous fees, then Facebook can begin to build their own search engine. Even if their algorithm was not very robust to begin, with having the real time data from Facebook and Twitter would insure that they provide phenomenal real time information (that would not be found anywhere else) and can use this real-time data VERY effectively. It is a fact that no one is really Tweeting or Facebooking about the spamming Viagra website they found on page one of Google, nor the insurance website they found in BING. Therefore Facebook would be able to quickly put a serious reduction on spam, create a place in search, and provide themselves with very bright future for profitability and a serious chunk of what Google and BING currently have.
As an internet marketing professional, I really do not care who does what. I do not own the game, just play by the rules set forth by people far smarter and wealthier than I. I must say though, I really like Twitter in the hands of Facebook or Microsoft. Lets see what Google is really made of….
Beside the big and known Google, Yahoo, Bing, Blekko and Ask.com and the local leaders Baidu and Tandex, there are several other, “little” search engines – such as HotBot and DuckDuckGo. The latter was launched in 2008 and has a very, very limited market share with about 2.5 million searches a month. However, everyone is trying to gain ground these days – and if this is done on expense of Google – it is even better.
DuckDuckGo tries to gain users by emphasizing their pretty unique approach – they do no store search data. Either this is done on purpose or the company simply does not have the necessary resources, the manner is now advertised as being solely correct.
In an aggressive marketing campaign, the company specifically highlights “the Google way” of “invading your privacy”, stating that with little effort, your search history associated with computer IP and, stored at Google servers can be tracked down to you in person. Next goes your personal data, credit history, insurance policy etc.
Although the campaign (as most advertising campaigns) is not entirely correct, purposely exaggerating the “big brother” threat of in its quest of “making the privacy aspects of search engines understandable to the average person” (quoted is DuckDuckGo founder, Gabriel Weinberg), it might have an effect on certain privacy-concerned users. Will they switch to DuckDuckGo or go elsewhere? That is another question, of course…
Ask.com and Bing are very anxious to prove the world they can beat Google. Even in minor things, like Image Search that Bing was enhancing constantly over last several month. Or in a Search Engine Jeopardy contest, managed by Stephen Wolfram. Well, it seems Google competitors still have some work to do, as the Search Industry leader was victorious once again.
The SE Jeopardy consisted of Jeopardy questions randomly selected form a database of around 200000 that were fed into the search queries of various engines. The developers then looked at the number of correct answers that appeared in the search results page and also at the number of correct answers that were included in the page that search engines presented as the top result.
The results were as follows:
Percentage of correct answers appearing somewhere on the first page: Google – 69%; Ask.com – 68%, Bing – 63%, Yandex – 62%, Blekko – 58%, Wikipedia – 23%.
Percentage of correct answers appearing in the top result of the page: Google – 66%; Bing – 65%, Yandex – 58%, Ask.com – 51%, Blekko – 40%, Wikipedia – 29%.
Obviously Wikipedia didn’t stand too much chance, as it was only one website competing against “the whole internet”. Still, it must be noted that only about one-third of Jeopardy answers are already in Wikipedia…
As to Search Engines – Google has beaten the competition, although the margins are not that big. But based on these results, Ask and Blekko have to do a better job of listing the most relevant link at the top (see how their percentage dropped when they looked into the first document. And Bing is “almost there” – but still a fraction behind Google.
Yandex numbers were very impressive, as it is basically a local Russian search engine. If the test has been done in Russian (or at least, based on Russian Jeoprdy Analogue, “Svoya Igra”, which includes fewer questions about American culture and history) Yandex would probably beat Google – exactly as it does in the Russian Search Engine market.
In summary, nobody can beat Google in providing relevant information. Not just yet. So, when you want to know “What is” something – don’t ask and don’t bing. Google it!
With so many Search engines out there (beside the “Big Three” of Google, Yahoo and Bing, there are also ask.com, duckduckgo.com, aol.com and many, many others) it is pretty hard to make an impact on the Search Industry. You have to present something completely new and fresh in order to persuade searchers to use your engine. Of course, bringing the “most relevant” search results can do the trick, but who knows what is really “most relevant”? And people will probably prefer sticking to the familiar look of, mostly, Google, or some other Search engine they have labeled as “my favorite”.
A different approach is to apply to user convenience. A user-friendly GUI, new way of presenting the results, easier navigation – all these features have the chance of attracting potential searchers. And Untabbed.com has made a move in this direction. Powered by Google, Untabbed.com presents the “usual” list of search results. The nice thing is that you don’t have to open a new browser window or tab to view them (although you have an option to do that as well). When you click on certain link in the result list, a mini-window opens, presenting you the related page. The content is optimized within the mini-window, making it easy to read. Clicking another search results link will open another mini-window then another and so on. Those windows can be, of course, maximized to the size of full browser window – but with most users using bigger monitors, this is probably not necessary.
One major drawback of the new search is that when you click a link INSIDE the mini-window, it will still open in the new browser window – a rather inconvenient step “backwards”. Hopefully, this can be improved in the near future.
Several polls, conducted recently, approve that the search engines are still regarded reliable by the internet users, yet the influence of “spammers” worries many searches.
Over 33 percent of the responders to the question: “Have Google’s Search Results Become Less Useful To You?”, said that the spammers “have gained a significant foothold”. Over 40 percent responded with the “kind of” statement, making a total of over 75% percent noticing the negative influence of “noise” on Google Search. With less than 4% stating that results got better, it seems that the spam issue needs to worry Google algorithmists.
Nevertheless, almost 90% still find Search Engines (and most use Google, of course) do either “excellent” or “good” job of finding relevant information, and about two-thirds of users rate Google results as “useful”.
With other search engines trying to close the gap between the runaway leader in the Search Industry, they might well switch their attention to inventing better search algorithms. Yet, there is no guarantee that those will produce less “noisy” results. And even if they do, and Google will lose a considerable amount of market percentage – the spammers will probably quickly adjust their techniques to alter these “new-search-algorithm” results as well…
It is widely known that Google has many local rivals in the Search Engine field. Many Russians prefer Yandex over Google, Israelis use Walla and in China there is Baidu. Most of those engines are extremely localized, providing relevant search results and successfully battling with Google in the local market – especially, since they use local language in countries with relatively low English level among computer and internet users.
Almost half-billion China-based internet users are a huge marketing potential. It seems, Chinese government has recognized it, deciding to launch a new search engine, which will be the first state-owned SE in the world. After over half a year of trial version (how do you say “beta” in Chinese?), goso.cn is now fully operational and available. The idea is to implement elements of social media into the engine – such as videos, photos and comments sharing. Mobile version is expected as well.
Of course, competing with Baidu and Google is not an easy task – but with the support of the government, goso can well become a healthy search engine alternative in few years time.