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Top Five Stories in Search for 2009

Posted in: Blog, Search News by bmclaughlin on January 7, 2010

There were many changes in search engines last year that will make for an interesting 2010.  What will happen when Yahoo! abandons their search engine efforts?  What can we expect from the big changes at Google?  Let’s take a look at the “Top Five Stories in Search for 2009.”

A Real-time Revolution

Both Bing and Google made deals with Twitter late last year to incorporate ‘tweets’ into their search results.  Bing came out of the gates first with a special Twitter search that was separate from its search results.  Google followed shortly thereafter, but selectively incorporated live Twitter results into selected searches.  It seems the much-anticipated real-time web is just around the corner, and we can’t help but wonder: how is real-time search going to affect search results as we know them today?

For users, it can provide timely information before websites have a chance to publish content and have it indexed by Google.  For marketers, Twitter can become an even more powerful tool for gaining exposure.  For the search engines, the real-time web can present new challenges in combating spam.  Needless to say, it’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Google Caffeine

In August of 2009, Google announced the first major change to their algorithm in six years.  Although there will be no user interface changes with Google Caffeine, it will aim to greatly improve search performance as well as increase search accuracy for users.

We were able to access a platform for testing Caffeine, which proved their claims of a larger and faster index to be true.  However, the index was not updated frequently enough to make any valid comparisons as to how their ranking algorithms may have changed.

Will Google Caffeine perform as well as expected?  Will Google sweep the playing field once again, or will Google Caffeine quickly be decaffeinated?  2010 will prove to be an interesting year in the search engine wars and will surely keep marketers on their toes.

The First ‘Decision Engine’ Launched

On May 28, 2009, Microsoft announced the release of Bing, their new search engine.  Microsoft’s goal with Bing is to take search to a completely new level.  Bing strives to make search easier and friendlier for its users, and it seems to be succeeding so far.

Bing offers many great tools to help customers make better decisions.  The tools focus on helping to make purchase decisions, as well as assisting in planning trips, researching health conditions, and locating local businesses.

After a heavy marketing campaign on television and the web, Bing quickly gained 10 percent of the search market by the end of 2009.  Bing has been aggressively adding features and continued their marketing campaign with the hopes of carrying this momentum ahead to 2010.

Let’s make a deal

In 2009, a huge 10-year agreement was struck between Microsoft and Yahoo.  As part of this agreement, Yahoo will abandon their efforts as a search engine and Bing will become the new engine to power Yahoo search results.  While this deal is still pending approval by antitrust officials, it will likely be able to move forward given the relatively small market share these two companies have in comparison to Google.

When and if the deal is finalized, the combined market share will make Bing a major competitor to Google.  Not only will this really heat up the search engine wars, but the competition will also stir things up in the search engine marketing arena.  It is very likely that more advertisers will flock to Bing, and the increased competition may drive down click prices at Google.  This deal looks to be a huge win for marketers and will give them more choice in the pay-per-click advertising space.

Time to get personal

Personalized search is nothing new in the world of Google.  For quite some time, registered Google members were opted-in to allow Google to personalize their search results according to their search history.  In late 2009, Google announced their plans to take personalized search to a new level.

Now, all Google users will experience personalized search, regardless of whether they have a registered account with Google.  The intention is to provide Google users with more accurate and relevant search results.  The reason for this being: the better Google understands how a person searches and what they have searched for in the past, the better they can understand the intent behind their search.

What does personalized search mean for the future of SEO?  For one, measuring rankings is going to be extremely difficult and inaccurate.  Every user now has the potential to see results ordered differently, which means that measuring shifts in rankings for targeted keywords will no longer be valid.  This change will require analysis and measurement of website visitors from search in order to truly evaluate the performance of SEO.  Additionally, while results will obviously be re-ordered, the way Google ranks sites may be even more focused on how well users engage with the site.  An increased emphasis on meaningful content, fast load times, and website usability will be required of websites if they want to succeed in personalized search.

What will 2010 bring?

With corporations joining forces, search engines restructuring, and search results getting more personal, 2010 is sure to be an exciting year in search.  However, the fundamentals will remain the same:

  • Continually create quality, meaningful content.
  • Promote that content through search, social media, and traditional means.
  • Measure and analyze website performance.
  • Update and test the website and associated advertising campaigns based on performance analysis.
  • Rinse and repeat!

Stick to these fundamentals and your website will enjoy continued success in this changing environment.