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Old 05-16-2008   #1
Mike Grehan
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Search: The next five years.

Well, itís been a very long time since I last visited these forums. 2005 I think!

So, for a guy who never does forums... What are you doing here, Mike?

Good question :-)

Iím kind of making a place holder for a thread I really want to start on Monday after my ClickZ column is published. Once people have had a chance to read it, then itíll be quite clear why I wanted to open up a discussion over here.

Just a little advance about the column. I had to write a piece about the future of search over the next five years for something else last week. And that, tied to a couple of other projects (including the new book Iím writing) lead me to write my ClickZ column entirely about the future and how search will change.

All my usual topics, including the diminishing value of SEO and the switch to digital asset management and optimization. And the changing face of conventional public relations.

On page techniques from 1994 to 1998. The birth of Google and the switch to link building as opposed to keyword stuffing. Universal/blended search results and social media marketing... All included.

Just to be clear, what Iíd like to do is invite as many readers and forum members to get involved in a lengthy dialogue not just a short SEO is dead debate, as that has had its day.

So, back here Monday to pick it up live, as it were.

Nice to be back I see the old place has a had a lick of paint...
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Old 05-16-2008   #2
Kevin Newcomb
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Re: Search: The next five years.

You're a tease, Grehan.

You come in here and get us all excited about a deep and meaningful discussion, and then tell us we have to wait until Monday? No fair.
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Old 05-16-2008   #3
Mel66
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Re: Search: The next five years.

Good to see you here, Mike. Can't wait to read the article!

Melissa
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Old 05-16-2008   #4
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Re: Search: The next five years.

Good prepublicity... are we testing how much of a spike in first day reads you can get by prepub on forums?
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Old 05-16-2008   #5
Mike Grehan
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Re: Search: The next five years.

Excuse me Mr Aussie[NewYork}Webmaster...

Quote:
Good prepublicity... are we testing how much of a spike in first day reads you can get by prepub on forums?
I haven't posted here for three years... You're one of about two people here who knows me! So, my open rate increases by at least one!

I had to have somewhere to link to in my column. So I needed a place holder - get it?

You owe me beer, mate. Next SEMPO New York gig... Damn! The beer's free there
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Old 05-16-2008   #6
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Re: Search: The next five years.

lol I see the light.... I will gladly buy you a beer any time.... if in NYC next week am having dinner with Matt and Kevin
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Old 05-19-2008   #7
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Re: Search: The next five years.

Here's Mike's column: The Future of SEO. It's a look at search as it was yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
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Old 05-19-2008   #8
Mike Grehan
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Re: Search: The next five years.

Okay, so Iím at a conference in London and pretty busy with the usual stuff. We actually just had a great conversation in the bar about the future of search and where itís all going. Itís fascinating to get the views of people who arenít into search all day long, like many in this forum.

Anyway, my ClickZ column is over here. As Kevin mentioned above.

If you canít be bothered to read it all, no worries. Basically, Iím throwing out some of my thoughts, and Iím just interested if they make a connect with anyone in this forum.

I have a passion for trying to get a better understanding of information retrieval on the web. The classic approaches of Gerard Saltonís vector space model and the Kleinberg/Page adoption of social network analysis/citation analysis has been the mainstay of search for a while. But in a new era, an era where itís not a bandwidth issue and connections are always on, search engines can now provide so much more meaningful and relevant data in their results (and a much richer experience).

Just analyzing text on a page to try and discover the ďgistí of a page limits the results to static, text based documents. And itís difficult to determine true authority, even with weighting. As Iíve mentioned before, if a music student writes an article about Beethovenís fifth symphony and a world class composer, such as Andre Previn writes an article: whoís is likely to be the most authoritative?

For me. I reckon itís going to be Andre Previn. But if the keywords in the document are pretty much the same, how would a search engine, purely looking at text, know?

So we look to linkage data. This is important, but itís a little elitist, in that, if a link counts as a vote, then only people with web pages can vote. What about the millions of end users who have a voice and opinion but donít have web sites Ė how do they vote?

Itís only been with their clicks and their behavioral patterns. But now that social media sites provide an opportunity for end users to cast their votes via bookmarking and tagging and rating, all of a sudden there are some very strong signals going on well beyond the community with web sites and the ability to let Google know who theyíre linking to.

And this is such an interesting advancement in social network analysis. Now people without web sites can upload photo sets to Flickr and tag and share them. They can do the same with videos at YouTube. They can go to Google Base and open an account and start using the local business center to promote their small business with maps and donít need a web site.

Yahoo! and Google finance offers a way to let large businesses get a stock quote listing with their results. Popular video clips are popping up in all search engines. There are now myriad ways of sending signals to search engines. And they go well beyond some very dated keyword density analysis, basic submissions to vertical directory sites and starting a blog.

To recap. Should search engine ranking algorithms continue to be based only on the data they have about people who happen to have web sites and therefore have text pages and can link to others. Or is the voice and opinion of the end user now being heard much more clearly?

Do I really think that a number one result at Google for the term Ė blue widgets Ė is a fair result if only people who have web sites can vote for its top ranking position? Or should the millions of people who use blue widgets and donít have a web site also be able to have some influence on that ranking?

I am sincerely interested in hearing what other people have to say and getting some genuine, constructive feedback.

And to the guy who just posted a silly comment at my blog about me doing this to sell my book (itís six years old, so I may be a little late using this channel to promote it) go read the column again. This is not an SEO is dead thread. Itís a ďwhat are your thoughts about the future of search over the next five yearsĒ thread.
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Old 05-20-2008   #9
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Wink Re: Search: The next five years.

Hi Mike,

First of all a great initiative to start this discussion. I think it's keeping us Search marketeers busy for quite some time know. I must say that I don't have the answer (yet). But I believe that it will become key for us to convince our clients on the importance of having a full exposure on the web.

A lot of (large) companies still believe they can push the market with huge budgets, without listening to their (potential) clients.
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Old 05-20-2008   #10
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Re: Search: The next five years.

Can you define what you mean by Digital Asset Management? Seems like a term you're looking to coin for doing SEO on non-traditional pages like PDFs and video. Still seems like SEO to me.

As to the future of SEO, considering the increasing personalization, there's going to be more work and efforts by people to get around it. So in order to rank well in more countries, for instance, SEOs will try to get more links from .ccTLD sites and especially those featuring an address in the targeted country.

There are likely also going to be increasing specializations, as some people focus on ranking videos and others focus on ranking PDFs etc. More important will be specialization in certain communities; as social media takes a greater role in SEO, more SEOs will use SMM. Agencies will feature interdisciplinary teams composed of specialists in these various forms of content and community.
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Old 05-21-2008   #11
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Question Re: Search: The next five years.

Iím very new to the world of SEO so please excuse my ignorance.

Firstly liked the article as a newbie it's good to get a quick understanding of past, present and future. Cheers.

One thing Iím not clear on is you talk about visitors casting votes via bookmarking, tagging and rating. Iím taking this to mean a page that is bookmarked allot be listed higher (itís got to be good if people are bookmarking it).

Tagging and rating Iím not so clear on. I understand it as people interacting with the page? If this is so does this include performing searches, posting reviews, posting on a forum etc.

Thanks,
Mark
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Old 05-22-2008   #12
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Re: Search: The next five years.

Wow, five years out, huh? At the moment I find that a bit of a daunting timeline to comprehend. In my ten plus years in the business most of the improvements to search have been incremental, evolutionary if you will, the continued application of well-known and well-understood theory tweaked for the web.

Over the past couple of years I believe we've seen more user data being incorporated and this will continue. There will be more social network analysis of the, well, social networks. I think G's Orkut launch was a step in this direction that somehow got sidetracked. I also think there is a lot of noise in social network's where just about anybody can be "friends" with anybody else. Mining GMail, Hotmal, Yahoo mail and the various IM services would appear to provide a more reliable signal to noise ratio. Any type of user data is up for grabs, from click-through data in the SERPs to click-path data in analytics packages. <added>And, of course, user interaction with advertising.</added>

But these are all still somewhat evolutionary advances. I find the five-year timeline a bit daunting because I think there might be something revolutionary on the horizon. What form it might take I don't know. An IR theory that comes out of left field? Tech advances (organic computing, fiber optic circuitry) that make it possible for the SEs to digest the vast amount of information they've accumulated?

Who knows? I certainly don't, though I won't be surprised if and when it comes. Just hope I can roll with the punches.
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Old 05-22-2008   #13
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Re: Search: The next five years.

The title misses the point.

Search has already reached a limit, beyond which there are few improvements possible.

The current Results List is a documents list. If Google gives you some list in the form of A, B and then C ... and Yahoo gives it to you as B, C and then A ...

does it really matter?

Further, what else can you do with that, that is not already in some fashion being done? A, B' and then C ????


Further .. where is an area of any improvement possible? As long as the final output is a document results list, my opinion is that Search has topped out.

Of course, there will be some small refinements. After all, they are building better vacuum tubes today than they built in 1948 when the transistor was developed.

Where will real improvement come?

How about BEYOND search?

Right now, the fact that some SE gives you 400,000 documents in response to a complex query, suggests that Discovery and Exploration is the next big thing.

How about systems that do what humans are required to do, with the 400,000 docs.

Read them.
Decompose them.
Recompose the fragments.
Present a final list of possible answers that are proved to exist (not merely suggested in some 400,000 deep list).

Start spanning across documents, instead of getting stuck at documents.

In other words, reverse the current post search state of affairs.

To paraphrase, instead of 59 minutes of chaff and one minute of wheat ...

1 min of chaff and 59 minutes of wheat.

You want to know where the next big thing lies....?

You have my answer.

Carl Wimmer
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Old 05-23-2008   #14
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Re: Search: The next five years.

In practice, using the "customer voice" to affect search results doesn't really work. It's too easily spammed. User ratings work only when the number of raters is large relative to the number of things being rated. Movies and TV shows, yes. Hotels, maybe. Plumbers, no way. "Joe's Plumbing" will be rated by Joe, Joe's employees, and Joe's relatives.

Incidentally, IBM has user feedback into search ratings patented.

We as SiteTruth take the position that information about the real-world business behind the web site should be cranked into search rankings. As a minimum, a business has to have a verifiable real-world existence in a physical location. This is a legal requirement in Europe and is required when selling into California if the site accepts credit cards. If the business can't be identified, and the site is selling or promoting something, it probably shouldn't even appear in search results.

That's just the first phase. Once the business has been identified, there's an established infrastructure of business legitimacy one can draw upon, from corporate registrations to criminal records to Dun and Bradstreet records. A good credit rating should help search engine positioning. If a company is having problems, that should reduce its search engine positioning.

We sometimes call this "bottom-feeder filtering". This is the clear next step in improving search.
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Old 05-29-2008   #15
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Re: Search: The next five years.

Great stuff Mike! I applaud your willingness to look five years out. Most so called experts are afraid to take the chance. I envision the engines offering results the searcher controls via toggles or sliders, after the initial search takes place. It's been tried poorly before, so it wont happen fast, so I'd see it as more of a suggested refinement option. That way the searcher typing in a phrase like "margarita recipe" can either wade through the organic or PPC results, or choose to refine results according to whether they want to see a how-to video, a book from Amazon, a local bar, a definition, historical facts, or whatever. The engines need to be willing to gently prod the searcher to do some very basic refinements, rather than throwing all of it at them with a few blended options that could very well be meaningless. I'd use an Up\Down slider like this

/\
o We Trust This Completely
| Company stuff
| This is popular
| Audio and Video
| News
| They Said It
| From the Library Only
| From The Dark Side of Town
| Run for Your Life
\/

See the problem? It could be fun, it would work, but most searchers will have to be forced to do it.

Sort of like hybrid cars

-Eric
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Old 05-29-2008   #16
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Re: Search: The next five years.

sitetruth - if a physical location was required then most of the now famous web businesses would not have happened. I started at a kitchen table at an apartment complex. So did Sullivan. So did Bezos. So did Jobs.
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Old 05-29-2008   #17
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Re: Search: The next five years.

Welcome LinkMoses... please part the seo seas so we can find the promised land... couldn't resist.

Good to have another 'kitchen table' entrepreneur aboard
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Old 06-02-2008   #18
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Re: Search: The next five years.

So after travelling so much and the fact that the email alerts for this thread have not been coming through, Iíve missed a little of the conversation.

In my ClickZ column today, Iím picking the subject up again. Two areas that I really want to get some feedback on include ranking reports and the development of the search engine crawler.

For me, the idea of ten blue links following a query is probably going to become sub optimal if those links only ever lead to static web pages. Thereís so much rich content on line to provide the end user with a much better search experience.

And if the crawler really is only good at getting the gist of a page by the text it contains, what about the non text documents such as audio/video. And what about data that can be fed or submitted such as local results which may not necessarily depend on pages being crawled.

The technology which search engines use to index billions of web pages is remarkable. And then trying to get the ten most relevant results at the top is even more incredible. But what happens if some of the more relevant results are not text pages?
Iíd really be interested in hearing thoughts on new signals to search engines. Text and links are strong still, but there must be so many more signals which can be folded in.
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Old 06-02-2008   #19
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Re: Search: The next five years.

Hi Mike

I just read back through your 'Future of SEO' column having felt guilty about not posting here previously and your "sweet whatsitsname..." reference in today's newsletter. I guess I had shied away from this because, in all honesty, I don't know where search will be in 5 years and, being in the Industry, could imagine getting slated for that admission.

In your ClickZ column, you state:

Quote:
SEO will give way to a new form of digital asset management and optimization. This new SEO will place a much larger emphasis on optimizing a range of file types, from PDFs to images to audio/visual.
Apart from introducing an interesting new TLA, I don't really see what is so different. Sure, the search engines are indexing more data, in different formats, and this has to somehow get found so there is going to be a form of optimisation (search engine optimisation?).

Anyway, thanks for starting this and it'll be interesting to see how it develops.

Adrian
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Old 06-02-2008   #20
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Smile Re: Search: The next five years.

Quote:
MrMark said: One thing Iím not clear on is you talk about visitors casting votes via bookmarking, tagging and rating. Iím taking this to mean a page that is bookmarked allot be listed higher (itís got to be good if people are bookmarking it).
What Iím trying to figure is how really important end user data will be folded into the ranking algorithm along with the linkage data search engines already have. There are a lot of ways, including social bookmarking, tag clouds and rating, (say restaurants), for instance. All of which provides a great indicator to the quality and popularity of a search result, text through to audio/video.

Quote:
AdrianB said: Apart from introducing an interesting new TLA, I don't really see what is so different. Sure, the search engines are indexing more data, in different formats, and this has to somehow get found so there is going to be a form of optimisation (search engine optimisation?).
Working with a company called Acromym Media TLAs are an absolute requirement

Actually I donít think I could claim that as something I coined. Around about the same time I started thinking about this much richer experience for the end user I started talking about optimizing digital assets. Certainly Lee Odden has used the term and Iíve seen it a few other places.

For me the term search engine optimization has always been a misnomer. I donít know anyone who has optimized a search engine (other than the search engines). Just lie I donít know anyone who has marketed a search engine (other than the search engines).

The reference to digital assets is closely aligned to Googleís universal search which has really made search very interesting. But side-by-side is the social media ďthing.Ē I say thing, because we use the term in a singular manner. But I see a three tier connection: Social networks (such as FaceBook, MySpace etc.) at the core. Social media and bookmarking sites such as del.icio.us and Digg . And then social search itself which will be a by product of the first two. People being able to tap into a trusted network looking for information. And this human element then folded back into the algorithm somehow.

Quote:
Link Moses and revered search marketer extraordinaire said: The engines need to be willing to gently prod the searcher to do some very basic refinements, rather than throwing all of it at them with a few blended options that could very well be meaningless. I'd use an Up\Down slider like this
I have a feeling that, looking at the way universal search is incorporating those verticals into the SERPs, certainly with a little more ďpersonalizationĒ involved Google and other search engines will be able to determine whether you prefer news results, or video or blog posts etc. I entirely agree with you that end user preferences will start to play a greater role in the way that results are presented.
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