The Future of Search
In recent years, it's become fashionable to declare that we're facing the end of search as Google's algorithms mature and newcomers like Facebook challenge the status quo. Many observers claim that keyword-based SEO is no longer the defining aspect of search and that inherently social platforms like Facebook are the future of search online. While it's tempting to accept this simple assessment of the state of search and its future, the reality is a bit more complicated. In truth, the evolution of search is ongoing and we're really just starting to explore the potential of the industry.
Emerging Algorithms, Diverging Approaches
According to Larry Page, Google's CEO and co-founder, a perfect search engine is “one that understands exactly what you mean and gives you exactly what you want.” Most of Google's efforts in the past year or so have been directly targeted at advancing that goal through algorithmic wizardry. The tag team of Penguin and Panda shook out some of the SERPs chaff and made actual meaning more important than exact-match keyword tactics. It's now more important to use genuine content marketing techniques, such as infographics, to help rank for competitive phrases. In addition, Google's Knowledge Graph has made contextual relevance more important than ever. Nowadays, quality content talks and poor content walks for the most part.
Some astute pundits have pointed out that Google's edge at this point is less technical and more momentum-based. The science of search is well-understood, and Bing is making moves to capture market share by emulating Google and improving on any perceived weaknesses. Sergey Brin even admitted that Bing's image search is fairly competitive with Google's. Microsoft has to stand out to attract new users, and they've been doing just that in a number of areas. If current statistics are accurate, then Bing has been gradually increasing its market share ever since its launch and, most recently, Google's share dipped below 90%. Search has become a bit of a commodity, and it's taking more and more effort to differentiate any given major search engine from its rivals.
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Aside from the developing duel between Google and Bing, the most exciting aspect of contemporary search is the rise of alternative search engines like DuckDuckGo, Blekko and Start Page. These engines patronize a niche demographic that values privacy over specificity. For a variety of reasons, you can expect to see more of these niche search providers pop up in the coming years. It's not entirely about avoiding the constant tracking that comes with using Google and Bing. Another major reason is the desire to obtain more personalized results that can't be easily had from the dominant search engines.