I noticed a large number of ‘Tweets‘ from my Twitter feed about a new search engine called ‘Cuil’ which has been created by former employees of Google, and for some a possible threat to Google’s dominance. The Google association has without doubt helped feed the publicity for what otherwise could have just passed as just another search engine hopeful. With Google demonstrating that there are huge revenues to be made out of search it is not a surprise that others want a piece of the action.
So how should we cope with all these new search engines, each with different algorithms to define what is relevant and displaying results in different ways?
Whilst recognising Googles dominance and focusing a majority of energy and investment in influencing natural search and the largest proportion of budgets invested in Google pay-per-click, we need to constantly monitor where traffic is coming from and industry trends.
For global organisations the challenge is even bigger monitoring the search engines influence in different countries and regions eg: Baidu in China.
The approach towards search engines needs to be similar to browser usage. I will be testing a new site on the Safari browser which has a usage of just 2.6% [June 2008]. Though this is a relatively low number, it is slowly growing and we need to ensure our sites are suitable for as wide an audience as possible.
In the same way various browsers display pages differently, search engines will pull different informaion from sites to deliver search results. Searchme provides screenshots of pages, making the size of keyelements of text on you site important as a signpost to the user they have reached the right place.
Cuil takes an extract of your site including, where available, an image which it displays with the result. Different search engines take into account different aspect of your site (including links to and from your site) to decide what makes a site relevant to a search request.
As part of the process of design, how the site will appear in the various key search engines will become increasingly important in the same way as we do now as regards to how a site appears in different browsers. This is not just the positioning of the result but how the site is represented.
You can not please all the search engines all the time, and for now Google remains a key focus for both natural and paid-for-search. Therefore, for now, a majority of time, money and energy should remain with Google, Yahoo and MSN.
From a design and marketing viewpoint things just keep getting more interesting [harder] as the number of different variants to take into consideration keeps increasing.