While much of the recent hype and buzz in the search space has centered on emerging players and niche vertical search engines, Google seems to be effortlessly maintaining its vast market share. But for how long? A recent survey found 62 percent of Internet users would be willing to switch search engines and 45 percent of all respondents said “better search results” would make them switch. What are these elusive “better” results users seek? In the Internet age of real-time content, desired results are less about static information and more about tapping into of-the-moment conversations around a topic.
Traditional search makes it more difficult to find this type of information because it focuses on authoritative content, such as a Wikipedia article or a brand’s home page –content that stands up to search engines’ high standards for “reputable” content. While this information provides value—e.g. YouTube trailers and the official site for Transformers 2—it’s difficult for consumer to go beyond that basic level of content to access a more real-time and social layer of content—e.g. box office ratings and moviegoer tweets. People want to be in the know and have a way to discover this zeitgeist of information, but are looking for search to funnel the conversation – directing them toward sites, articles, forums and tweets of interest in a tailored way to avoid information overload.
Major search players are picking up on this consumer desire for discovery and we’re starting see the initial inklings manifest in product offerings. Look at the new explorer pane on Microsoft’s Bing. Google’s revamped clustering algorithm for Google News. The suggested sites features on Internet Explorer and Google’s Chrome browser. All share the common goal of discovery – be it discovering related topics or conversations of interest. This is a step in the right direction, but ultimately they all connect users with the same type of content search engines are already presenting. To deliver what people are really looking for, search has to go a step further and tap into the zeitgeist. Worio aims to strike this balance by layering discovery alongside search, with an intelligent discovery engine that learns more about a user over time to make tailored recommendations that expose them to new and interesting information. By harnessing the informational power of the zeitgeist, we’re able to connect users with new sites, posts and online discussions they most likely would have missed through traditional search methods.
Ultimately people are looking for guidance from their search engine – they want to be exposed to new discoveries but in a tailored way that makes them manageable. By striking a balance between established content and the living, breathing zeitgeist, search engines may find they’re one big step closer to having a permanent grasp on the loyalty of their users.