Trends In The World Of Search

Learnings and take-away points from the recent Search Engine Strategies Conference.

PSFK attended the recent Search Engine Strategies Conference in New York for an opportunity to catch a panel on the development of trends in Internet search behavior and product development.

Panelists included Stefan Weitz, the Director of Bing, Larry Cornett, VP of Consumer Products at Yahoo! Search, Brett Tabke, CEO of WebmasterWorld.com, and Robert Murray, CEO of iProspect. The panel was moderated by Graham Mudd, VP of Search & Media at ComScore.

While search results pages (SERP) have remained aesthetically the same, the amount of energy and computational science behind them is phenomenal. Yahoo and Bing are both advertising their platforms and growing their focus within particular verticals, such as entertainment and travel. Moreover, all search engines are starting to accommodate for online services and the expansion of social networking sites.

Here are some of the most important take away points from this panel:

From the Challenge of Indexing to Understanding User Intention

  • Search has moved from the utility of document retrieval to the promise of providing answers and perhaps even inspiration.
  • Today’s web is heavily interactive; browsing is more like having a larger social conversation than simply an activity to extract information.
  • Search engines have been switching gears from being able to deliver indexed knowledge to being more ‘intention/task’ focused, trying to understand what people want to do with that information helps engines be more assertive in the way they deliver results.

Growth Areas

  • Speakers agreed that engines ought to be intelligent enough to take new online services and stitch them into search results pages, providing users with more immediate answers to specifics tasks like booking hotels or scheduling an appointment to play tennis or visit the doctor.
  • Users can expect to see more multimedia in search results, for paid and natural results.
  • The significance of real-time data was highlighted repeatedly. Search engines currently have algorithms that weigh and rank tweets.

Different Engine = Different Behaviors

  • Whereas Google might be more likely to direct you to other pages, Bing and Yahoo! are capitalizing on engaged users. They want to advance activity on search results pages, for example enabling users to fill out the US Census or taxes forms right on the search page.
  • Yahoo! aims to create tighter ecosystems on their SERPs. This means they’re attempting to reflect users’ interests, and build overt connections between related pages and then surface them to the user, before they ask for it.
  • Larry Cornett introduced what he called the Sketcher search iPhone App, which enables users to search through a given geography using hand gestures.

Search is evolving and each engine is taking a different growth strategy. SERPs are starting to feel like a “media experiences” wherein you can watch video or get what you need without clicking off to another website. While this is problematic for some publishers, it seems to be an effective way for search engines like Bing and Yahoo! to maintain and grow their marketshare.

Search Engine Strategies Conference

image by Jeffrey Beall

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