Search Engine Industry Maturing.
This has been yet another week of tremendous change in the search sector. Several announcements competed for space with each other over the past seven days, each of which adds to the growing tapestry of services that comprise the search-marketing metaverse.
The search engine
marketing industry has evolved as users began to take
advantage of new features, tools and innovations offered
by search engines. An example of previous evolutionary
periods would be the emergence of pay-per-click advertising
and the attendant rise of search-marketing firms specializing
in AdWords and Overture.
As long as there are methods for finding and retrieving information in digital databases by using keywords or similar identifiers, there will be a search-marketing industry. How that industry operates in the future depends on how the search engines operate and how consumer-tendencies evolve.
Will the Butler
The biggest story was the $1.85-billion acquisition of Ask Jeeves by InterActiveCorp (IAC), the online vertical-sales empire built by Barry Diller. Ask Jeeves is considered the fourth most influential search firm however it remains firmly in the shadow of the Big-3 (Google, Yahoo and MSN).
IAC owns many of the largest Internet properties including, Hotels.com, Expedia, Ticketmaster, CitySearch and Match.com. It also owns the Home Shopping Network and is finalizing the purchase of the massive US catalogue retailer Cornerstone Brands. The addition of an Ask Jeeves powered search box to every one of IACs websites is expected to be the first obvious effect from the acquisition.
Another almost instant effect is the sudden increase in the relevance of Ask Jeeves. The sheer size of IAC and the number of additional services that can be offered under the Ask Jeeves brand will almost certainly increase their user numbers, which have held steady around the 5% mark for almost two years. The addition of a fourth entity to the current Big-3 would add more diversity for search engine users as Teoma (the actual engine that powers Ask Jeeves) uses a unique and very accurate ranking algorithm.
As Ask Jeeves becomes more relevant to search engine users, it will in turn become more relevant to search engine optimizers. This is encouraging because like MSN and Yahoo, Teoma places far more weight on site-content and relational linking than it does on the sheer number and relevance of links like Google does. With three of the largest four search engines more interested in what a site says than what its link partners do, the art of SEO copy-writing might replace the artful dodge of link-spamming as the trick consumers associate with SEO.
Estate Through Better Technology
The activity of the first three months of this year has started to change how most users relate to search. The Internet is fundamentally a user-driven environment. While the possibility exists that a thousand geniuses hunched over their keyboards might produce something as powerful as a Shakespearian script, that something is useless if Internet users dont adopt it. When Internet users do choose to adopt a new technology or product, they tend to do so in droves, thus fundamentally changing the environment. A recent example would be the rise of the Bloggosphere. Three years ago, most journalists had never heard of bloggers. Today, so many bloggers consider themselves journalists the face of journalism has changed.
For search marketers,
environmental changes borne by the mass adoption of new
technologies can be both boon and bust. Historically,
the rise of Google changed the practices of the search
engine optimization sector by forcing link-building as
an increasingly complicated component in most campaigns.
The rise in popularity of Blogs gave search marketers a lot of new real estate to play with which, in turn, forced Google to lower the importance of Blogs as an information source in its index. Google is only one example of how a chain-reaction of change affecting the search sector can cause a chain of events effecting the larger Internet environment.
Another example is the pending emergence of audio and video files as components of search. Each of the Big-3, along with AOL and Ask Jeeves is interested in capitalizing on commercial video and/or audio content. This is a realm where two forces dictate the actions of the search engines. The first is trend - lines being drawn by Internet users including a rise of interest in pod-casting, video-conferencing/education, and image/video sharing. The second force is the ability (and willingness) of advertisers to adapt their online-marketing channels to meet new technical challenges.
The days of a
website being a picture that contained a thousand
words are long over. Todays successful websites
can be found using a multiple number of search-tools such
as; image search, local search, video search, audio search
and organic search. A successful search-campaign also
involves making sure a reference to the site is virtually
forced on users through contextual advertising programs
such as Overture and AdWords. The establishment of a corporate
blog for clients is the last step of a highly sophisticated
search marketing campaign.
By offering better technologies, search engines offer marketers much larger tracts of real estate to work from. User adoption of many of these technologies pushes search marketers to figure out how to best use them as well.
Moving to Mainstream
Ultimately, the effect of user adoption of new technologies makes the Internet an increasingly important tool in most peoples real-life experiences. Many grandparents who witnessed the birth of the automobile and air-travel adopted Email to stay in-touch with grandchildren who often live hundreds of miles away (another example of social change borne by the mass adoption of technology, several generations ago). Many suggest if the grandparent phenomena didnt manifest the way it did, AOL would never have grown, CD-duplication might not have evolved so quickly, and makers of real drink-coasters wouldnt have gone out of business. The point is a massive group of users made AOL important by becoming early adopters of the service. AOL became mainstream because a huge chunk of the market adopted AOL. A similar phenomenon is happening in the search engine marketing industry.