There is so much buzzing in the search industry from @arrington writing about why he thinks search still sucks and JCPenney being busted for paid linking. And, just weeks ago Google busted Bing for copying search results…or did they? Whew, I felt like that was one big run on sentence without no end in sight. And, to be honest, the story of search does not have an end in sight. This is a positive for innovation.
But, with all this circulation of posturing and calling people out, is anyone asking or answering the real questions? Is anyone talking about the innovation of search products and what is really needed out of the search industry. Yes, spam is a big problem, but, let’s be honest, the amount of spam in search is still no where near the amount of email spam that I get daily. It’s a never ending problem and always will be a problem. Alta Vista had the problem, Yahoo! Search did, and Google always has. Search Engines, will always be fighting “spam.” But, is it as bad as the 300+ emails that fill up my spam label in Google Apps? No where near as bad, so, why aren’t we talking about that? Probably because it’s not the fun thing to do. Even though search companies have announced they are using browser and toolbar click data while also using tweets and likes as part of their ranking factors, we still hear the complaints about how spammy search results are.
It’s fun to call out Google and even funner to call out people who attempt to monetize web products, like affiliate marketers and Demand Media for their “low quality content.” Affiliated, Demand Media, and many other content sites found opportunities in the market to create content at scale in order to drive traffic and grow a business. Is that so wrong? They aren’t sending you emails with ways to “enlarge yourself” or find pills cheaply. It is very easy for people to stand up and say Google is not doing a good enough job against spam, that Demand Media has tons of crappy content, and affiliate marketers are the skum of the earth. I know some amazing people and some of my favorite people that I’ve met through the years that are affiliate marketers, and let me tell you, they are no where NEAR as despicable as Bernie Madoff. So, maybe it’s time that people stop bitching about this, and start doing something useful with their lives.
The one question that is getting lost in all the crazy press and criticism is, how will search innovate and who is doing it? Sure, there was a massive debacle called Cuil and boy do we not want to see that again. But, how is Social Media playing a role in search. We’ve seen Google and Bing alike add layers to the SERPs with Videos, Images, Real-Time and results in your social circle. But, I still feel like we are still pretty plain when it comes to the search results page. Are we very far away from where we should be when it comes to innovation of a search results page?
Or, are we closer than we think? We’ve really seen the power of networks become so important over the last few years with sites like PayPal staying quite strong and Facebook growing at exponentially higher rates than any other company we’ve seen. Does that mean that we are far off from leveraging the power of network effects within search and the results pages? Currently search players are information networks, so, there is no growth at exponential paces. But, I think a company like Blekko has the opportunity to weed out spam through the power of networks. Using networks to define more personalized results and bring in your social circle into the SERPs. Blekko is already doing this buy leveraging “likes” to define results based on the likes you have via your facebook network, and, I’m sure there is more to come.
The fact of the matter is though, after spending 8 years now in this industry, I’ve come to learn that there is nothing that can’t be gamed. As SEOs, we are known to “game” search results, as social media professionals, we are known to game user streams and social media news sites, and finally, I won’t get into email, but that one is very obvious. So, rather than seeing anymore posts about why search is broken, I’d like to see people talk about what searchers really like, what new things searchers are looking for, and I’d like people to cover the interesting new things that search startups, like Blekko, are doing.