Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Future of Search Engines

One of today’s hottest topics for Internet marketing is “the future of search engine technology.” I received an earful of speculation from SMX West in Santa Clara, and you can find some mention of the subject in almost every SEO blog, forum, or website. Obviously the future of search engine technology will greatly impact the marketing and optimization infrastructure that has developed in recent years, so there is certainly cause for consideration, but the basic concepts of web marketing and search engine optimization will never change. Yes, there are always old tricks or new tricks that can manipulate the system for a short while, but a real SEO campaign should stand independent of shifts in algorithms or technology.

With that in mind, there are some exciting new ideas entering the conversation about the future search experience, and in order to understand why these concepts are developing, it is important to know how people search. The three basic types of searches are find, discover, and explore searches. "Find" searches are considered short sessions that have very specific questions, such as local listings, stocks, directions, etc, while a "discover" searches have the same clear need with a less specific answer in mind. These searches might look like shopping for a new car. Yes, the searcher knows they are looking for a car, but they spend any number of hours researching and searching for the right one. Finally, an "explore" search has no real answer or target in mind but seeks only to browse various subjects. The future of search will be entirely defined by these basic search types.

Search engines are still quite weak in terms of "find" searches. When searching for something very specific, there may be thousands of results and no real way to specify further. For this reason, the idea of personal search has surfaced, where the engine would learn through various means what types of results certain users are typically seeking. So when a construction contractor searches for “windows” he will come up with glass windows instead of the operating system.

Rankings determined by user interaction are another possibility for the future. In this case, the amount of times users choose particular sites from search rankings would be recorded and totaled to prove which sites are most valuable to the rankings. There has even been talk of artificial intelligence for search engine use. With artificial intelligence, search crawlers would actually read and interpret text, comprehend video content, and even analyze photographs. With this futuristic technology, the search index could be extremely accurate, providing the best, genuine content, and it might not be that far away.

Search engine technology is an extremely exciting field, providing information from millions of sources to people around the world. The information is out there, and the engines are in place, now it is only a question of improving those engines to make access to information as simple and seamless as possible.

About the Author: Peter Hamilton is the Project Manager in charge of the Seattle office of ArteWorks SEO. His interest and experience in Internet marketing and search engine optimization is largely focused on the social media and multi-media facets of exposure. To learn more about search engine optimization, visit www.arteworks.biz.

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