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The End of Search?
Is the way people use the web changing?
cwnet




msg:4050961
 6:54 pm on Dec 29, 2009 (gmt 0)

Could it be that Joe Surfer doesn’t search anymore? Or, at least, a lot less?

Looking at my stats for 2009, I am under the impression that more and more visitors are coming to my website via ‘recommendations’ through FB, Twitter and the like while SE referrals are on a steady decline.

Given that rankings are stable (as far as I can see), the total amount of visitors is rising and pageviews per visitor are declining I start to believe I am seeing the beginning of a shift of how people use the web.

Instead of having a need for information and going to a Search Engine to find a website that provides that information (and maybe browsing the website while there), could it be that more and more people rely on their social networks to point them to web resources?

And, that those recommendations point directly to the very page that has that information resulting in a satisfied user who does not browse further but goes directly back ‘home’ (to their social network).

Could it be that recommendations from real people are actually more timely, precise, accurate and generally more trustworthy than algo-driven search results?

And, that services like FB and Twitter are giving the general population the tools to exchange those recommendations with trusted ‘friends’?

If so, what are the implications for webmasters, search engines and the web at large?

Is this the reason why, for example, Google is trashing its search engine by placing Paid Listings (Adword Ads), Wikipedia, YouTube, Tripadvisor, Image results, News results, My Space and soon live Twitter results (the real reason for caffeine?) on the first result page effectively bumping generic search results to page two (out of sight)?

Is 2010 going to be the year that marks the beginning of the end of Search Engines as we know them?

 

smartwork




msg:4051048
 11:16 pm on Dec 29, 2009 (gmt 0)

Could it be that recommendations from real people are actually more timely, precise, accurate and generally more trustworthy than algo-driven search results?

I don't think there was ever a question that recommendations from real people equated to more perceived trustworthiness for many online shoppers' minds... especially for those living in a world where they are timid of the unknown and view the Internet as something that will gobble them up. As for timely, precise, and accurate... I think those have more potential for break-down when it comes to real people.

If so, what are the implications for webmasters, search engines and the web at large?

Leaving a lasting positive impression with customers/visitors will perhaps become more important with branding than it was in recent years.

Trucker




msg:4051594
 7:03 pm on Dec 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

My stats are the opposite. Organic Google traffic is up over 48% over last year. My Bing traffic is up 100% over last year! ;)

Staffa




msg:4051713
 10:31 pm on Dec 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

And, that those recommendations point directly to the very page that has that information resulting in a satisfied user who does not browse further but goes directly back ‘home’ (to their social network).

I see this regularly on two sites where a visitor coming from a SE search, lands on a relevant page according to their search term(s) and moves on again.
OK there can be an explanation that it was not the exact widget they were after but on that page there is also a clear link to more related pages which they do not follow and check out which makes me wonder if a percentage of internet surfers actually knows that a site usually has more than one page that they can browse.

creative craig




msg:4052117
 4:07 pm on Dec 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think that its a little too early to start ringing the bell on search just yet - no doubt social media has made a huge difference in the search landscape but I think social media is still in the boom phase there will come a time when it levels out, I think then we will see a truer picture.

Could it be that recommendations from real people are actually more timely, precise, accurate and generally more trustworthy than algo-driven search results?

All reviews/recommendations/thoughts should be taken with a pinch of salt - at least with my friends ;) Most of them can't even give me an unbiased film review let alone which airline I should fly with or which TV I should buy!

Slinger




msg:4052293
 7:58 pm on Dec 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

Heres a thought...Im seeing quality spots on page one of the SERPS being eaten up with Tweets from Twitter. Im seeing News pop up live Tweet posting in Google taking up valuable real estate in the search results. a "Trending Topic" and Google/trends/hottrends are now being injected into Page 1 results. Guess what? The Tweets can be anything from valuable info to mindless garble. So lets say you just spent thousands of dollars and work-hours getting your site on Page 1 of Google and now you being bumped by a 9 year old making jokes about their pet hampster who happens to use your keywork in his tweet.

I think its rediculous what is happenning in the SERPs. Im a serious Twitterbug myself and so Im not bashing Social Media. Im saying, hey, how are these tweets more important than quality websites and all the space its taking up in the SERPS now. Its way to much.

The Search Results are becoming infected with Tweets and guess what folks...most of the static tweets are just Twitter BIOS taking up your old spot on page 1 in Google.

Its really doesnt make sense! Heres an idea...why not put all the Twitter stuff in the left column along side the normal results. Great idea huh?

oodlum




msg:4052893
 1:49 pm on Jan 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Good news for the (product is too embarrassing to ask friends/family about) sector

explorador




msg:4052897
 2:01 pm on Jan 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Could it be that Joe Surfer doesn’t search anymore? Or, at least, a lot less?

What users think about "searching info" has changed a lot. I have several years (like 11) managing websites and the last two years I've seen a drastical change in surfers and search for information.

For years I've published and shared lots of information and people came, searched, read and leave the sites very often sending me emails with congrats and thanks for the info on the sites. Since a while ago people just don't really "search" or read. I've got lots of emails asking for information already writen on the pages from the message was sent. I often answer and I don't get a "thank you" as before. In fact many times the best answer to my readers question is "just read the page where you sent this message from".

It seems to me in many areas surfer quality has decreased and they just want to search "how to get free widgets" and find an address, phone and map and nothing else... just a listing, a how to, a tutorial. Not interested on finding a website and read, just a magic machine.

I think this is very related to the subject.

piatkow




msg:4052923
 3:51 pm on Jan 2, 2010 (gmt 0)


In fact many times the best answer to my readers question is "just read the page where you sent this message from".

That's nothing new. My phone number is published in one place, next to my address. Guess how many people have phoned over the years to ask my address?

One think that I have noticed is that for an informational site, I have had a "buy us a drink" page. I used to get the price of three or four drinks a year by way of appreciation. Not a significant income stream but a nice mark of recognition - not any more.

trader




msg:4052946
 5:32 pm on Jan 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Don't necessarily agree about search declining. However, imo, people are realizing most every keyword phrase, product, service and term now resolves to a site so as time goes by they are typing-in with more frequency the keywords they are looking for directly into the browser window or in the search box.

ogletree




msg:4052956
 5:57 pm on Jan 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

No that just means your website is becoming more successful. People were already doing this before facebook they just spoke to each other or sent emails. The goal of any online business is to have search traffic be one of the lowest types of traffic. One of the reasons that the newspapers are not afraid of blocking search engines is because most of their traffic comes from direct type in and non se referrals.

What you should do is work toward ranking better by getting more links and expanding your keywords by adding more and more content if you want more SE traffic. Find out exactly why your se traffic is going down. It may be down because you have lost ranking. Look at your stats and see what terms people were typing in when your search traffic was higher and compare that to now.

cwnet




msg:4053155
 8:42 am on Jan 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thanks to all for your thoughtfull replies.

Google Trends seems to backup my thoughts of less search activity (at least for my niche).

I tried the top 100 keywords and keyword strings that people use to find my site and roughly 90% are reporting that search volume has declined by roughly 50% over the years.

If this trend continues, Google will become an insignificant source of traffic for my niche within a few years. Not only for my website but for the whole industry I am in (a multi-billion industry I may add).

ogletree: you may have a very good point when saying 'your website is becoming more successful'. If I read this as my website (and others in my niche) have achieved to convert a lot of search visitors into brand visitors and combine it with the information from Google trends, the conclusion is that Google has lost roughly half of their visitors to us. Those that used to search Google to find us and now bypass Google because they know they find what they are looking for on our websites.

Am I hallucinating? Is anybody seeing the same?

piatkow




msg:4053195
 11:04 am on Jan 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Repeat visitors will probably bookmark you and come in direct. If search engines generally (at the moment that is synonymous with Google) become "insignificant" it would suggest that your business might be resting on its laurels and relying on existing customers.

cwnet




msg:4053210
 11:56 am on Jan 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Well, there may come a point when actually only existing customers (visitors) is all there is

There is an end to the number of people who could possibly be interested in the offerings of my and in fact every website.

Once all those people visit my website anyway, and, Google does not deliver a meaningful number of new visitors anymore, what is the point in allowing Google to crawl the site?

I clearly have the feeling that my website and my niche are going into that direction - search engines becoming obsolete because everybody interested in the subject knows where to go without the help of Google.

Again, according to Google's own Google Trends, search activity for 'my keywords' has dropped by roughly 50% over the years. If this does not indicate less people search Google to find information about my niche I do not know what would.

maximillianos




msg:4053214
 12:58 pm on Jan 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

We are seeing the opposite. 15 percent increase in search referrals this year. I guess your search traffic is now coming to my site. ;-)

piatkow




msg:4053616
 9:43 am on Jan 4, 2010 (gmt 0)


Well, there may come a point when actually only existing customers (visitors) is all there is

That would suggest either you are in a declining industry or that your niche requires active promoting as a whole. Maybe some industry body should be running a "think widget" campaign.

OddDog




msg:4053682
 12:07 pm on Jan 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

Not the end of search, but search is being done in differnet places to regular search engines.

Nielson study indicates that 18% of all searches are now done inside social networks. Thats 18% already, adn its a figure that is exploding.

As a personal observation, more and more oif my friends know have there social network platform of choice as there home/start page, when beofer it was google.

That shift is very very important.

Makaveli2007




msg:4053733
 2:35 pm on Jan 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think social media will hurt search (no idea how much, though).

I think the online marketing/webmaster type of "social community" we're in is sort of a glimpse into the future of the internet (once people become more web-savvy...and social media rising).

I do not really need search to find the information I need in the field of online marketing as I'm so well-connected (so are most of you I assume), that I will usually do an internal site search on the websites I've learned to trust (and learned to understand that they offer a ton of valuable information)...as OddDog mentioned...

or I ask on one of the many forums I belong to, etc.

Of course, this could only become true for fields that have a community ... and not for the newbie segment of the market (you need to start somewhere, and search is the obvious place if youre not connected, yet)

Not saying search will die, of course...just that in certain segments search might become a bit less important and social media/WOM a bit more important.

And not sure if any field will be as extreme as the online marketing/web stuff community, in the foreseeable future....but you should get the idea:

When was the last time you did (had to do) a search in order to find information on online marketing or web-technology related stuff?

maximillianos




msg:4054466
 3:52 pm on Jan 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

When was the last time you did (had to do) a search in order to find information on online marketing or web-technology related stuff?

This is an interesting point that some folks don't realize. Even when you are not going to search engines, you are still using search engines. Take Webmasterworld for example. I come here for web related info, if I do a search here, it uses Google to search the site (with ads served). Hence, Google has not lost a search in this case.

Many sites out there utilize the search engines for their own local search. With this deep integration across the web, search will not be going away any time soon.

Makaveli2007




msg:4055558
 11:04 pm on Jan 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

I didnt think of that part, however how high is the percentage of websites using google as their internal search engine (roughly)? Personally, I would have imagined it's not overly high. I might be wrong, of course.

Persoanlly what I find the most interesting part is..if social media becomes more important, and search engines less important...than how will that change how webmasters get traffic?

I think it wouldn't really change all that much (or well it would change quite a bit, however many things would be similar). For example WOM marketing should become more important if social media (such as twitter,etc.) become more important.

So how are you gonna get WOM promotion in these channels for your website? I think it would be very similar to link building (which has long been an important part of SEO). You'll need to create content that gives someone a reason to want to share it with their audience (someone with a twitter profile with wide reach for example)...in the same way that getting someone to give you a link basically comes down to creating something that gives someone a reason to want to share that content with their audience.

In WOM, it seems that one important factor is creating a product that has a high potential to spread (anyone read tipping point?;))...or content that is like that....in other words "Useful" content. And it better be unique/original, too (not something that already exists a ton of times).

So I sort of think that even if social media becomes a lot more important, then creating WOM campaigns will become more important, however someone who knows link building inside out, shouldnt have too much trouble learning how to do that (as it kind of overlaps).

subhankar ray




msg:4055570
 11:29 pm on Jan 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

Life in Social media is far from reality - everything is hunky dory feeding narcissistic egos (which is not always bad though..)

While search is real people looking for real solutions - asking personal questions about medical conditions or needs they will never utter at a social media site. This is why we need more indexes, more search engines so that people can see diverse solutions (well, I am biased)...

cwnet




msg:4055610
 1:13 am on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

mmh...link building on twitter?

Let's call it Tweet Building...set up thousands of user accounts all following each other...all tweeting computer generated crap all day long...BUT, every hour or so tweet a link to a website which gets re-tweeted by all your 'users' and have Google place your VERY important tweet on top of the SERPs in real-time...

there you go...SEO 2010!

cwnet




msg:4055612
 1:17 am on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

The above idea is pending patent...PM me for licensing options ;-)

Makaveli2007




msg:4056385
 1:04 am on Jan 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

"While search is real people looking for real solutions - asking personal questions about medical conditions or needs they will never utter at a social media site."

Actually, I would rather ask a question about a medical condition in a medical community with an expert (aka doctor) than asking a search engine.

I think it all depends on how you define social media. I think of forums/communities as social media, too.

I think you're equating social media with low quality in the same way that people are equating e-book with low quality (but wouldnt mind paying for the exact same content if its a membership site ;))

geekie




msg:4057074
 1:04 am on Jan 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

I saw the same thing on a site I ran for ten years. Direct type ins increased as the years went by, especially the last two years and my traffic exploded the last two years. It was word of mouth, way better than any search engine. I think eventually all good quality sites with some years behind them will see the same thing. Once you trust a site or your friends and neighbors trust a site, you'll stick with it. And searching isn't really a lot of fun, especially now. I tried to buy a pair of boots on line a couple of weeks ago and it was one of the most frustrating experiences I've ever had, I'll never use Google to shop again. 90% of the sites were useless and the ads followed me -creepy.

phranque




msg:4057328
 2:35 pm on Jan 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

welcome to WebmasterWorld [webmasterworld.com], geekie!

dpd1




msg:4057550
 12:26 am on Jan 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

I agree... True quality PR and customers come from word of mouth. Most of my business comes from that, but my participation in those circles is key. That's something that many site owners don't want to do... They don't want to get their hands dirty. They want to find the perfect way to manipulate the system and just wait for the traffic to show up. That probably works, but when I look at the amount of garbage that now shows up in searches, I have to wonder... how much longer will it work. It seems like it's an exercise in futility as it is right now. More and more I see people asking in forums, questions like "Does anyone know a good place to get ____?". Obviously those people could just go into Google and look, and a while back they probably would have. But why are they not now? That tells me people are being turned off by search results now. And when you get a bunch of link farms, 50 directories that don't lead anywhere, and ads for stuff the site with the ad doesn't even sell... who can blame them.

Josun




msg:4058103
 4:28 am on Jan 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

The share of "video" search (significantly via YouTube, going to Google family) is expanding at the expense of "text" search as people feel tired of reading and reading on the limited-size screens. Why not sit back and relax while getting the same information without touching the keyboard or scrolling? Or, ask somebody (even if you don't know him/her well). So, future of search will depend our search behavior and the quality of search that we intend to have. Common denominator is at work everywhere! What quality answer (text-messaging) can you expect by asking about the restaurants at a town you are passing by? On the other hand, I read and understand/appreciate the comments of the people at amazon.com. These are the people who have read the book, at least, and are familiar with the subject to make a comparison.

In a fast changing environment, one or two of the social media companies may become competing search engines of the future. That's why they started as picture-sharing, video-sharing, and text-messaging sites and now they expanded to cover all (audio, picture, video, etc.). Again, I believe, our search behavior and search quality expectations will determine such future.

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