Monday, 6 April 2009

The new era of "Search 3.0"

A concise article from Advertising Age (subscription required) outlines the different stages of search over the past 15 years and what the new 'search 3.0' means for advertisers. The new era is one that combines the traditional search experience with social networks and user generated content to help refine the results and feedback for the searcher. As the article says, finding the right content is as much about whom it comes from as where you find it. For many companies and brands, this creates a host of new challenges and opportunities beyond the traditional search channel.

Search 1.0 is now seen as the first era of search engines which were focused on pages and the content within them. Results were ranked based on the number of times a particular keyword showed up in the page content or meta data, so that SEO (search engine optimisation) began as a core method of online marketing.

Search 2.0 is now seen as the period following the launch of Google where the focus shifted to the search network due to Google's use of PageRank and the importance of links between sites to establish authority. During this period, quality also became important with the relevancy of a landing page to a search query, which also became a key factor within Google AdWords.

With the new era of Search 3.0, relevance is now seen as not only what's on a page and surrounds it (links to it) but how that data also relates to the searcher's personal network. As more and more people connect to each other through social networks, the resulting social graph with content, links and comment is proving extremely powerful in helping users filter the data coming at them.

An example of this is YouTube, which started as a service that allows people to post videos but has since become the primary source that people turn to when they want to find video content on any subject imaginable. Also Twitter started as a way to communicate short personal status updates to friends, but is now becoming a search engine i its own right that allows users to tap into what's going on now.

The impact of these changes for brands, marketers and advertisers has also changed, according to this article. Whereas 1.0 was about making sure the information within individual pages of your site could be found, and 2.0 was about making sure your site was optimized within a network of related sites, now Search 3.0 is going to be about finding ways to reach individuals by using their social graphs.

That means reaching people where they're already sharing, linking, publishing and tagging, and becoming another node on their social networks by interacting with them and adding value to their experiences online. It's potentially a more difficult and time consuming way to channel a message to a target market but one that needs to be understood and developed in the new online environment.

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