View Full Version : "Future of Search" Roundtable at SEW Live Atlanta

Chris Boggs
07-01-2005, 04:53 PM
Hi all,

I had the opportunity (thanks Elisabeth :) ) to lead a roundtable at SEW Live in Atlanta on 6/28/05 titled "The Future of Search." The following will summarize the topics that I presented as being of possible interest.

In order to keep the thread number down, I have limited the topics to this post instead of parsing the subject into different categories. If we find that many people are interested in speaking about one or more of these particular topics, we can split the thread as needed. Feel free to start your own thread if you feel any particular topic warrants it. If I recognize any topics that already have their own thread(s), I will link to them from my description. Of course almost all of the topics fit this bill, so please understand if I only link to a few more recent ones.

Although I asked everyone for more possible topics, no one seemed to step up with any ideas except one gentleman who brought up the subject of "folksonomy" described (http://atomiq.org/archives/2004/08/folksonomy_social_classification.html) as a system of social classification evident in products such as "Flicker" and "Furl," among others. This was an interesting topic and brought to the table a few valid questions:
1. Would folksonomy affect future search engine rankings?
a. Consensus: "Possibly.” One comment was made that there seemed to be too many tagging options in a product such as Flicker to ever make it that pervasively popular.

2. Could a site be optimized to attract such users?
a. See “personalization” below for more on this.

The topics I presented covered three basic areas: search in general, verticals and personalized search, and algorithms. Also I threw in a couple of miscellaneous topics.

“Search in general”

1. How fast will search engines change? How often?
a. The answers to this were pretty basic, with most agreeing that the current pace in policy shifts and algo updates would remain the same. No one seemed to think that SE’s could ever entirely re-index on a daily basis.

2. Will directories maintain their popularity and importance in terms of the ability to help in organic rankings?
a. Most agreed that directories are going to continue to gain popularity, but that their effect on SE rankings will probably diminish as more were used for the purpose of helping rankings. The “big guys” will probably stay. One gentleman had never heard of DMOZ. This seemed surprising.

3. Will AskJeeves and other second tier search engines gain share from the “big three?”
a. One person said there was really only a “big two,” as MSN couldn’t be considered “there” yet. Another person asked why try to build new SE's? One lady spoke up and said the simple answer to that is that inovation is the key to any industry's survival. Another made perhaps the most valid point: in 1999, could anyone have predicted the popularity of Google’s product? Another person felt that there was too much advertising on AskJeeves.

4. Will PPC listings take up more “real estate” in SERPs in the future? Will they eventually knock Organic listings to second page or at least below the fold?
a. This was a very popular topic. Many people felt that they wouldn’t take any more listings, most feeling that it was in the best interests of successful search engines to continue to present “deserving” content. One person mentioned that with the addition of Google add-ons, most organic listings were already below the fold. Others described that many of these “deserving” sites were becoming ranked by black hat SEO and had no business at the level they currently enjoyed. Consensus: no fear of organic listings completely gone from first SERP, especially with rising cost of PPC.
(Excellent current thread on this topic here (http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?t=418) )

5. Will LSI really become a major part of the determining relevancy for use in rankings?
a. This seemed to be “over the heads” or simply uninteresting to many. (Sorry Xan)

(next topic section in following reply)

Chris Boggs
07-01-2005, 05:27 PM
“Verticals and Personalized Search”

1. Local: Will “geo-targeting” become the norm in SERPs? (Will non-geographically modified searches eventually return local results if applicable?)
a. Many felt that these types of IP-based results were already being used. One gentleman that was there was describing his local search engine and claimed that his system was designed sort of like this. Unfortunately I forgot the name of the product or I would mention it here (D’oh!). Perhaps he will post it here or in the “Other SE’s Forum.” There wasn’t too much discussion on this topic, but those that chimed in felt that it was possible that this would become more “the norm.” I felt that if that was the case, then the work we are currently doing with clients to target locally-modified phrases would pay off even more in the long run. Others agreed.

2. How will “personalized search” (based on defined categories by the searcher used to refine searches to include or omit certain types of sites) help or hurt SEO effort?
a. The idea of folksonomy affecting rankings came up a few times. The consensus was that the increase in personalized and refined searches would not really affect SEO. Sites that rank well for what they do by providing good content and linking would continue to do so in refined searches.Some agreed that there may be a need to create multiple sites, based on the idea of the Yahoo! Mindset product currently in BETA and being discussed here (http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?t=5938) . If sites were to create multiple version in order to target different “restrictions,” however, duplication issues could spring-up.

3. What other verticals will grow like Travel?”
a. Not much interest in this topic at the table. A little related to directories.


1. Will PageRank ever really work?
a. Surprisingly no one felt like talking about this one.

2. Will TrustRank overtake PageRank?
a. Not much knowledge of this topic, so it was kept to my brief description, derived by reading the document found at this thread (http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?t=6372) .

3. Will historical data gain importance, based on the Google Patent app?
a. I posed that it may become unfair for new URL’s to compete in a highly sought after arena, and that people may eventually be driven to buying “established” URL’s. Some are already doing this. Once again, not much interest here.


1. Can Podcasting eventually be optimized?
a. This fit right in with Stacy Williams comment that “search is ubiquitous” (see recap of panel discussion here (http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?threadid=6565)). Currently the technology isn’t there for the Podcasts to really be “indexable” by search engines. There are a few directories currently available, which seem to be the only way to do this. See more information about this subject by following rustybrick’s coverage of WMW here (http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?t=6451)

2. The number one “glazed eye-producing” question I asked was “Does anyone feel that a large player will step up and purchase NASA’s “Perilog?” (See more info by following Xan’s link in the third post here (http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?t=6014) (also a good read about the alleged ability of search engines to make sense of semantically-related content.)

THAT’S ALL FOLKS! Please feel free to comment…