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The Evolution of Search Engines

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The Evolution of Search Engines

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Introducing the Search Engine

The first search engine was introduced by Yahoo in 1994 and as soon as Yahoo was released, search engine optimization (SEO) began. Search engines, like Google provide the "address" of the web site that contains the information or products you are looking for. Prior to 1994, we were all wandering around the web without a road map or an address book. Today, search engines continue to evolve and present opportunities for business owners, as well as challenges for marketers.

The Evolution of Google

Google will continue to evolve and Google Plus is a large part of that evolution. In the beginning of Google, there were ten links of search results on one page. If you look at the evolution of Google, you will see that it has changed dramatically. Four years ago, for example, Google started personalizing search results. The search results could be biased by prior queries and your physical location. They attempted to go from "one-size-fits-all" to "where are you and what did you just search for". Google is moving towards search results at a personalized, individualized level. How does Google do this? Google has specific programs in place that provide them with the knowledge of what you as an individual want, what you searched for, and who your fiends are (Google Plus). In addition, they know what your friends like, therefore what you like, including what posts that show up on Google Plus that you like. It is anticipated that over time, when you login to Google Plus, Google will know where you are and what you are doing when you perform a search, such as, are you on a plane or in a coffee shop? Google will use all these variables to create personalized search results specifically tailored for you, based on your history.

How does Google do this? The best way is to watch you (paranoid yet?).

Google Plus and Search

Google Plus has not had much of an impact on search ...yet. People love Google Plus because, in part, of the ability to classify friends separately from colleagues, acquaintances, and business partners. But most people are still on Facebook. The impact on search is dependent on "do I turn to my friends and community for input on products I am about to buy". So, if most people are still on Facebook, then the impact that Google Plus has on search has not yet had an earth-shattering effect. But never under-estimate Google and their impact on future Internet evolution. Social media keeps people from completing many impulse purchases, and this is a large part of the reason why social media is so important to marketers.

Google Encrypted Search

When you are logged into Google Plus or Gmail, you are logged in securely. When you do searches and click on a Google results page, they are going to intercept that transaction on the web, that query, and camouflage that keyword component. We are supposed to believe that this is being done for our own sake because it is a privacy advantage. Apparently, however, this is more to allow Google to "see" what we are searching for because this makes Google more "within the loop". Because you have to be logged in, this allows Google more of an opportunity to collect the data that people are searching for.

Google Webmaster Tools and Analytics

Google Webmaster Tools will receive search data by the intercept, but regardless of how they get the information, Google Webmaster Tools will allow a user to see their top 1,000 keywords that were used to find their site. So, as an SEO, people can login to Google Webmaster Tools to see these analytics. This will affect analytics companies, especially third-party analytics companies, because they are not going to be able to report organic search traffic nearly as well because the market showing keyword search history is shrinking.

Ads Affect Search Rankings

Too many ads on a site can impact its Google search rankings. Google clarified that, if a site is devoted with a majority of ads above the fold (the part of the page that you see before you scroll), Google considers your site to be "low quality" and not providing information. So, a site that has too many ads above the fold, most likely has recently been affected by lower rankings after the last Google algorithm update, called Panda.

Local Search and Local Paid Inclusion

There is a group of people—old timers on the Internet, if you will—that remember "Yahoo Search Submit Pro". With Yahoo's Search Submit Pro, you could pay them to get into the index. There is a premium local entity that seems to be forming with a similar premise. It is a premium property account that will allow you to appear at the top of local results. The premium accounts have additional features, such as call tracking where you can appear at the top of local results with a phone number, for example. If people click on that phone number, there would be a fee paid to the search engine. The concept is similar to Yahoo's Search Submit Pro and it will become more poplar and widely used by companies. People click more in the organic space and this includes "places", which are local results. Paid inclusion is a way to monetize this, both for search engine companies and for businesses wanting to receive more traffic to their web sites.

Low-Quality Sites and Google

Google attempts to determine if a site is high quality and worthy of ranking. Many low quality sites lost most of their traffic during the most recent Google algorithm update, while high quality sites received increased traffic. This is due in part to the fact that high-quality sites have achieved a higher trust level. Sites are not measured on a page-by-page basis, but instead are measured on a site-level basis. Linking and the quality of your inbound link network is a big component of the quality of your site and how Google determines whether your site is worthy of traffic. Google determines your web sites' overall "quality" and uses this judgment to determine if your site is reputable.

One of the factors that determine if a site is "low quality" is whether or not it is a "scraper site". These are sites that would go out, take content from other sites on the web, assemble it to build a web page, and then have that web page compete against these other sites, essentially due to the content. Google does not want to have sites that are not subject matter experts rank high in search results. Duplicate content is something that is filtered out of the index.

Google is in the business of making money. It is a money generator. The reason people use Google is because they trust the results, and as such, there is an obligation by Google to present relevant, quality, content. Google is continually focusing more on that, which in-turn, eliminates opportunities for spammers.

The Evolution of Bing

Bing is becoming a more searched on property. Google's market share hasn't changed, but Bing's market share has increased only because Yahoo and AOL's market share has shrunk. The technology of Bing has a strong association with Facebook and is the default search engine for Firefox, therefore, a great many people on the web are going to be using Bing more often. The problem is that many people still do not know to use Bing. The number one searched term on the Internet is "Facebook", followed by "YouTube", then "Google". This will help Bing because by putting search into a browser or a social network, Bing's use will continue to climb.

The Evolution of Yahoo

Yahoo will remain a search property. At one point, search engines used to take their index from other engines. Yahoo is not out of the search or algorithm business but, rather, they are out of the spider business. They are allowing Bing to do the crawling of web sites and the database— the index—is used by Yahoo, where they put their own layers and algorithms onto this index. Yahoo is not dependent on Bing's index, but rather Yahoo is going to emerge as a stand alone entity. Yahoo is just like Google–they make money on ads so they need to have relevance in their search results, so that people using their site for search will click on the ads. It might be a while before Bing and Yahoo become equivalent. But Yahoo will continue to be a leader for some time to come. But in different parts of the world, Yahoo is used more often than Google, for example, in Japan. This is because of the language parser is more compatible.

Look ahead to SEO News and Strategies

In recent years, we have seen turmoil in the search landscape. With Google, for example, we have seen significant changes in penalties making search engine optimization change substantially. For example, competitors that in the past did not perform well, are now performing worse. Conversely, web sites that have high quality inbound links and a large amount of original, quality content are now performing better in search results.

Social Media for Finding Web Sites

Social media has been the bright shining light for gaining traffic in recent years. Google Plus offers significant change in the social media arena. And the evolution of search may, in part, show that people are shifting towards Twitter as a way to FIND web sites. People research web sites and find web sites through Twitter. After the social era started, we began to find that people were going to their social community to find products or services and ask "what do you like". People have shifted to social media as a recommendation component. Then, when they go to the web, they search for brand name reviews, read the reviews, then go to the web site to buy. But in the most part, web sites are not the starting place to research a brand like they used to be.

The new sequence is as follows:

  1. Visit Twitter to find a web site.
  2. Visit your social community to find answers to questions that arise after Step 1, above.
  3. Visit the web for brand name reviews.
  4. Visit the company's web site to buy a product or service.

Cyber Monday versus Black Friday

Recently we have seen a massive shift where Cyber Monday outperformed Black Friday as a revenue source, so the writing is on the wall that businesses need to be on the web. The majority of businesses are very small, so these are the types of businesses that need a web site in order to compete locally.

Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing

Once you start you never stop. You can only improve upon it.

Quality content, original content, local visibility, and a web site with personality is important for a business to grow. With valuable search engine optimization, pay-per-click campaigns and Google Analytics integrated pages, companies can increase conversions. To optimize the Internet's opportunity for conversion, social media profile pages for web sites—both a Facebook page and a LinkedIn page—need to be connected to a company's web site. Additionally, press releases and articles as well as submission to local directories increase brand awareness.

For those that have made their living on the web, we all owe it to ourselves to grow and evolve our businesses.

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  • Stephanie RosendahlAbout Stephanie Rosendahl

    Stephanie is a pioneer in the Internet business world having started her first hosting company in 1997.  Ms. Rosendahl is the founder and CEO of Website Hosting firm - GreenHostIt.com, green hosting provider of choice for companies building for Internet Scale. Green Host It offers premium WordPress hosting powered by Texas wind.

     

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