A couple of things have happened in the word of search in recent weeks that were overshadowed by some of the legislature going through the US House of Representatives as well as the US Senate: speculation of an Amazon cloud search, and announcement of major changes to Google’s search functionality, otherwise known as Google ‘Plus Your World.’
Amazon Cloud Search?
Last week Sarah Lacy (formerly a senior editor for TechCrunch) broke news that Amazon was possibly preparing to launch a cloud search service. According to Lacy,
Amazon’s cloud search will compete with Google’s site search– but from what we hear, it ups the ante significantly…It allows startups to pass their data through it and get any results they want. And since many startups are already hosting their databases on Amazon, that link is even more direct. Companies can run any query and get immediate, easy results. It’s possible that the guts of this product are from the old A9 search product, according to sources. Amazon spent time getting the design right, and the people we’ve spoken to think it’ll be a game changer.
Disappointing to search engine geeks (myself included), the January 18 announcement ended up being about Amazon DynamoDB, a “fully managed NoSQL database service that provides extremely fast and predictable performance with seamless scalability.” Still — the speculation is there; will Amazon be jumping into search engine land? I’d certainly be interested to see that happen.
Google “Plus Your World”
I’m going to spend the most time here because I think this is where the heaviest controversy, as it directly applies to sourcing, currently exists. At the beginning of January, Google announced a revision to its search products:
Search is still limited to a universe of webpages created publicly, mostly by people you’ve never met. Today, we’re changing that by bringing your world, rich with people and information, into search.
When Google Plus first rolled out, lots of people (including myself) poo-poo’ed it a little bit as Google’s next failed attempt at a social network. However, given the fact that millions upon millions of people have Gmail accounts (and could therefore be easily sourced and contacted by looking at their Google profiles) some started changing their tune. Honestly, Plus profiles to me are nothing more than Profiles on crack, but that’s another story. I do believe Google+ is a good place to be — and a good place to source.
However, Google’s new revisions to search have raised some heavy eyebrows and even made it a target for even more antitrust chatter. Combined this with the fact that it heavily favors Google+ shares in its ‘results’ over more relevant search results (see examples provided by the editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land) and the fact that the new “SPYW” search doesn’t include Facebook or Twitter posts in its results (Google shut down Realtime search last summer and its deal with Twitter expired at the same time). According to CNN, Google says that due to “technical limitations that curb its ability to include competitors’ content in Search Plus Your World,” Facebook and Twitter are “shut out” of the process to be placed higher in its search results.
Just as an aside, Bing still has realtime Twitter search results, and Facebook posts are searchable exclusively on Bing.
This is part of why Mat Honan declared on Gizmodo, “Google just made Bing the best search engine.”
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My conclusion from all this?
Average “searchers” don’t like change. So that means you have to embrace it tightly.
The average web surfer won’t care much about Google’s new changes — they probably won’t even notice, to be honest. Which means it will be even more important for you to care. If you are in charge of your company’s web presence and you haven’t created a company page on Google+, time to do so. The average searcher will continue to use Google and thus be more limited in their results. Also make sure you have your own Google profile up to date so people can find you. If Google is going to favor its own stuff over other still incredibly relevant results (at least until it is slapped with an antitrust lawsuit over these changes) then you need to make sure you are where the people are looking.
This doesn’t mean that your other web presences should be neglected. Our world is constantly changing, and while Twitter and Facebook are currently partnering with Bing, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t find some arrangement with Google once again.
Further advice: keep an eye on Amazon. The company has been making lots of big changes lately — and this could certainly include getting itself deeper into the business of search.