The Latest in Web Site Search Technology
The major search engines (Google, Yahoo, Ask.com, MSN, etc.) are under constant pressure to improve natural search and results ranking. They are elbowing one another for market share and the opportunity to charge their advertisers more. Consumers are rapidly generating content to add to the prolific waves of that which business has generated.
“Thanks to the proliferation of social media, consumers are creating more and more content and updating it frequently, so the sheer mass and scale become issues,” said David Berkowitz, director of emerging media and client strategy at 360i, a search engine marketing firm.
“A growing volume of content is in some multimedia form — images, movies, podcasts — and those are harder to index than text,” he said. “Search queries are becoming more demanding, prompting the need for better search tools that understand the semantics both of queries and content.”
At the same time, all expect results to be highly relevant and rapidly delivered.
“There’s a constant cat-and-mouse game with search technology,” he said. “As the technology improves, consumers find new ways to use it, and they set their standards higher.”
To answer the call, Google’s universal search initiative includes news, video, local listings and book listings in the body of search results rather than set off as specialized sections. Ask.com’s Ask 3D features an array of specialized and vertical search listings to complement standard search returns.
Powerset, a start-up that is being secretive about its up-and-coming offering, is said to be analyzing the semantics of search queries.
And Google is joined by audio-video-exclusive search players Blinkx, ClipBlast and EVERYZING in relating video content to a searchable format.
Consumers are lapping up this technology — as are businesses. In legal filings, former Wal-Mart employees allege the company used a tool being worked into some video search engines that flagged photos and video clips viewed by Wal-Mart workers if there appeared to be significant flesh color in the visuals. In at least one emerging Web search offering, these images will be assumed to be mature content.
“By some standards, it’s amazing what search technology accomplishes today,” Berkowitz said. “By other standards, it seems infantile compared to the potential for what it can deliver. It has become good enough that we can more easily envision how amazing it will get, and that’s a great sign for the industry, even if it causes some frustration over the short-term.”
Jim Kuschill, founder of Perfectly Targeted, a marketing technology consultancy in Cincinnati, can hardly wait.
“I’m finding it harder and harder to locate sites that have something useful on them and are not simply advertising redirection sites,” he said. “I’ve not found anything useful in terms of extracting meaning from content, and as the Web ages, the content ages too, and it’s sometimes hard to get information that is current.”
Kuschill said Google’s success and unshakeable standing among search engines has moved it beyond a concern for some search shortcomings.
“Likely, we need to wait for the proverbial ‘two guys in a garage’ for the next major improvement,” he said.
Increased productivity for work-related searches, better access to information that improves one’s quality of life (searches related to health, parenting and relationships) and exposure to opportunities that make life richer (travel, culinary and entertainment searches) are just some of the promises of new Web site search technology, Berkowitz said.
“It all sounds a little utopian, but that’s what’s at stake here,” he said.
Kelly Shermach is a freelance writer based in