Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Search Engine Land: What’s Happening Out There?

Danny Sullivan, editor-in chief of Search Engine Land, presented today's keynote address.

Danny maintains "there ain’t no Google killer" on the horizon. A new search engine, Cuil, recently played the “biggest is better” card when it was released. Danny said that Google and Yahoo! had agreed to back away from this type of size claim, which is why you no longer see the number of websites in the Google universe listed on its search page. He compared a search for Sarah Palin using both Cuil and Google. It was easy to agree with Danny's contention that Cuil has serious relevancy issues.

Danny's contention is that Wikipedia by law has to be at the top of Google search results. Powerset, the Wikipedia search engine that Mary Ellen Bates included on her top list yesterday, has proved that natural language searching isn’t a natural killer. It’s overkill for what most people are doing these days. You don’t need a lot of syntactical analysis for this type of search: hot photos Sarah Palin. Most search engines are matching patterns and have no understanding of concepts.

Microsoft has fumbled with Yahoo! and, as a result, Google is more powerful than ever.

Pax Googlecana

Google has 60+% market share in the United States. It's higher in many other countries (in Germany, 90-95%) but hasn't taken over in China, South Korea, and Russia. Is it all over? Does Google now rule everything?

Google Killerettes

Google isn’t the top tool of choice in everything. Google has nothing to compete with the following:
  • Twitter - hyper real-time tool to see what’s being buzzed about. Danny recently experienced a minor earthquake at his home in Los Angeles and his first thought was "I should Twitter about this!"
  • Urbanspoon - You never need to wonder where to eat again. This iPhone app knows where you are and can randomly select a restaurant based on what type of food you want to eat. It works from a huge database of reviews from newspapers and users. Chowhound offers a similar service.
  • Eventful will tell you what’s going on, from music to community events and more. It's also offers another iPhone app that knows where you’re at. Upcoming, owned by Yahoo!, is similar.
  • Yelp offers local reviews of all types. You know it's a player when you can hire someone to make sure you have a good rating. Google Maps is trying to grow a community of reviewers but it’s not a real competitor.
  • Trulia and Zillow offer information about homes for sale, local real estate-related data, etc.
  • Travel sites such as Kayak (multisite) and Farecast, which is owned by Microsoft
  • Craigslist - Buy and sell related in your local area. Still a powerhouse compared to Google Base despite being very “web 1.0ish” in appearance. Why hasn't Craigslist mapped its search results?
  • Jobs: Indeed
  • People search: Pipl, Spock
  • News/discovery: Digg
  • Video: Blinkx and VideoSurf
  • Gas prices: GasBuddy
Killerette Challenges

It's difficult to remember all the ones that are out there. People will use a site once and when they don't remember it the second time around, they go back to Google.

Bigger Challengers: Yahoo!

Yahoo! continues to face uncertainty. They have been innovating with mobile applications, BOSS (Build your Own Search Service), and SearchMonkey, which offers a way for publishers to blend information of their own into their listings.

However, uncertainty leads to brain drain. The assumption is that Microsoft will eventually take over Yahoo!, which makes for more uncertainty. The user has to ask "Should I start using Yahoo tools and get comfy with them or will they be going away?"


Microsoft bailed out of non-consumer search services such as Google Book Search.

Microsoft has always focused on ads first and search second. Compare this approach to Google, which built a search engine first and then figured out how to make money from it. The soul comes through online.

Microsoft has major branding problems. SearchPerks is its latest in giveaway attempts and they're dangling the carrot getting a free XBox controller after searching Livesearch.com for four and a half months. It’s just good marketing since they don’t have word of mouth.

Microsoft has some good stuff, but will people notice? Will it grow?

Google’s Master Plan?

There is some planning, of course. They've been working on Chrome (a new browser), Google Checkout, and Google Shopping. But much comes naturally, through a “hive mind” mentality.
Expect perhaps more focus as economics get harder — and there will be many more ads everywhere, even places such as image search and maps where they traditionally have not placed them!


Google Video now continues to host videos but can't really compete with YouTube. It's become more of a video meta search service.

Universal search mixing continues.

Google Trends continues to grow, providing data about web site traffic.

Community editing on maps grows, but has spam problems.

Google does blog search clustering.

Search 4.0: Personalized and Social Search

Google reshapes your search results based on what you do or visit. Results are reordered based on your personal preferences. Pages move up, down, in or out of the top ten. You need to have Google’s web history service enabled for this.

And Now, Search Customization

Google is tailoring results based on geographic location, previous query, and web history. Some of this has happened before, but searchers are now being told and Google is likely ramping up for more.


Google will continue to dominate the search space. There's no margin for people who want to start up to compete with Google. There's a degree of vaporware or a “Googleware” chilling effect for those who try. However, mobile and vertical (industry-specific) applications do offer new opportunities.

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