The Future Of Search: Finding Your Place In The Hive

Jason Lee Miller | Contributing Writer | 2005-07-21

The Internet is changing. In the near future, the "web" concept may prove too primitive to properly describe the evolutionary nature of the beast. Something more abstract perhaps, like Jung's collective unconscious model-a digital beehive of collective information, honeycombs stacked high and deep with information. And so, searching the nectars of the hive should also change as spiders evolve into honeybees.

Where In The Search Hive Do You Fit?
Editor's Note: Search experts are increasingly speaking of the next generation of search that will give way to personalized "theme" engines, search engines that will be specially tailored to user preferences and habits. The transition will require a whole new approach to search engine optimization and search marketing. Of course, when things are in flux, speculation runs high. Do you think SEO techniques will require a radical change?

For many this isn't news. You're already tapped in, communicating by elaborate dances on par with quantum string theory and its highly intuitive mathematics. . You know already that the second generation of search is rapidly giving way to the third generation of search and you've adjusted your SEO techniques accordingly.

But for others, if you haven't been paying attention, a burgeoning third generation that probes the deepest and traditionally most inaccessible corners of the Hive, as I now shall call it, with evermore awe-inspiring technology and personalized self-redefining features will be surprising.

It will dawn on you, the way it has on me, that all the work you've done to get a higher search engine ranking ISN'T GOING TO WORK ANYMORE. What used to be content, content, content will become context, context, context.

Where We Were, Where We Are, Where We're Going

In 1992, there were just over 16,000 domains on the Internet. The only people that really knew about it were introverted techies who liked to impress their friends by showing how to find bomb-building instructions with their PS 2's. These are the same ilk who eventually grew up to work for the NSA.

The first generation of search engines emerged soon after with basic methods based upon keyword relevancy-the density of keywords on the site, keywords in the title, domain, etc. But a system so simple is wide open for abuse. Enter the spammers morphing search engines into just another advertising medium.

With the second generation, the algorithms became more sophisticated by not only measuring keyword relevancy, but also by adding off-page criteria like page rank, link popularity, click tracking, cache data, and two-word keyword combinations for added context.

The search engine world exploded, leading to the search king of the hill battle to see who would preside over the 30 million domains that had sprouted by 2001.

So here we are now in 2005 balancing on the edge of a new world so hyper-evolved that search engines are beginning to "think." The methods of generations one and two become only part of the equation.

"Theme engines," as they have been called by Michael Campbell, search engine strategist and author of the e-book, "Nothing But ‘Net," are the next incarnation.

The third generation is much more personalized and takes into account factors like geographic location, demographics, time of day, search history, and user preferences.

Microsoft's highly anticipated Longhorn operating system is expected to integrate desktop and Internet searching by building a complete portfolio around a user and tailoring the search results accordingly.

Take Andy Beal's example of a searcher who routinely downloads music from the band "Heart." When typing in the keyword "heart," results for the band will appear instead of links to the American Heart Association.

But most intriguing is how the search engine spiders (worker bees) will learn to judge the content of websites.

Campbell explains it better, so I'll leave it in his words:

G3 adds Web maps which…are a useful filtering tool to get rid of duplicate sites... This means pages like doorways, gateways, entry, splash…will soon get filtered out.

What you say about your Web page, how the structure of other people's Web pages compares on the same topic, and what other people say your site is about, must match, be in harmony with each other, be as one.

Or, in the cold hard world of the search engines, where everything is weighted and calculated according to mathematical formulas, whoever is closest to the 1.000000 without going over is the winner, coming up tops in the search engine.

Since keyword relevancy and page rank are reduced to links in the logical chain, here are some helpful hints (with a little help from Campbell) to prepare for the future of search:

Diversify. Think in terms of "themed" Web sites by creating several static sites each with their own topic. If you sell carnival equipment, set up one site about food vending, another about games, and another about transport equipment, and link them together. Give all sites a similar format so people know that they are connected.

Don't sweat the small stuff. With link text, get rid of punctuation and unimportant words like "a," "and," and "the." Keep it to the keywords only.

Big brothers help little brothers. If one site is very popular and indexed often in important places, use the site as a portal to lesser-known or new websites by providing links to them.

FOCUSED CONTENT. Create the content for your sites by writing articles that revolve around your keywords and subject matter only.

Keyword placement is more important than density. Use keyword phrases in the title, ALT, URL, link text, and META tags. The weight of keyword density is top-heavy, with more weight given to the top, and then the middle, with the bottom of the page deemed less relevant.

That's the skinny on the future of search. There's much more that can't be squeezed into this article, but hopefully the information will be helpful.

While your competition is still working with outdated second generation SEO techniques, you'll be well along the garden path of the third generation. You'll even have your own niche in the honeycomb.