From the moment Twitter caught fire it was inevitable that sooner or later the ”right now” phenomenon would penetrate the world of Internet Search Engines. For those who scoffed at this, thinking the momentum was coming mostly from avid social media enthusiasts, the launch of Collecta.com in the summer of 2009 should have been a wakeup call. Look at the backgrounds of Collecta’s management team and you’ll see these guys are heavy hitters in the search world. And now the 800 pound gorilla of search – the Great God Google – has arrived on the scene. In December of 2009 they started offering real time search results. How is it different?
As you probably know a traditional search engine crawls the web and archives what it finds for later retrieval. This process centers on web pages and by definition it takes awhile for new and immediate content to catch up and appear on a site to be crawled and indexed. Social media users get instant updates and it is this immediacy which is being translated into these real time search engines. Some real time search engines crawl social media feeds and news feeds as well as traditional web pages. Collecta is one of them and it has been very well received and appears to be getting better by the day. Let’s take a quick look at how Collecta works, and then we’ll compare it to Google’s real time search capability.
Collecta Real Time Search
Collecta’s user interface is one of the slickest out there. On the left side of the page you enter your query but be prepared to wait a bit for results to appear as Collecta searches everything – web pages, social media sites, news media sites, and even micro blogging sites. You can speed things up by using the ”Search Options” window to limit the search using a variety of filters. For example, you can ask for video only results, or blog comments only results. The results appear in the middle of the page and if you click on it, a result appears on the right side. The search is continually updated and the interface tells you when you started the search. You can start a new search in the search box on the left and underneath you’ll see a ”Hot Now” list showing what most people on the Net are looking at right now.
If you play around with Collecta for awhile you’ll notice that social media and blog sites dominate the results due to their being constantly updated. If you’re a web site owner who’s been using traditional SEO techniques to improve your SERP positioning, the implications should be obvious. The more frequently you update your content the better you will do on these new real time search engines.
Google Real Time Search
Many Google users may not yet be aware they now have a real time option with Google, although some may have noticed that the top position for some search queries is no longer an organic result – it is a ”Latest Result.” To get into the guts of Google’s real time search you have to click the ”Show Options” button appearing on the SERP. Once there you can limit your search in a variety of ways. Google has filters which allow you to specify the source of your results and set a time frame – from latest to past 24 hours to a specific range of dates. Google claims that relevance of results is still vital in real time search but if you experiment with it a bit you may find that in many instances immediacy trumps relevance. One area where this shows up is how Google treats tweets. Collecta views all tweets and other social media sources as equal but Google ranks them somewhat like they rank web pages based on the importance of inbound links to Tweeter’s profile. Tweets and other social media updates from higher quality users are included while those from lesser posters might not be. Another difference between Collecta and Google is the mixed nature of pre-filtered results with Google mixing results while Collecta doesn’t. So far reviewers are impressed with Google’s entry into real time search but where do we go from here?
The Future of Real Time Search
Collecta appears to be aware of the SEO implications as they are now offering a widget where web site owners can add real time feed to their sites, thus providing immediacy in content updating. While immediacy is an appealing aspect of real time search, there are two key issues that may be critical to the future of real time search. One is relevance. Ask yourself what is more important to you as an Internet visitor. Do you want to know what everyone else is interested in at the moment? Or are you more concerned with what you are interested in at the moment? Even with the available filtering options, real time search results might lead to information overload in short order. Bing has been successful with that point in their ad campaign. What do you think? Are real time search results an example of information overload?