As someone who has been in the search business for more years than I’d ever like to disclose, I can say unequivocally that it’s more exciting than ever to be in this market segment. More than any other time since the turn of the century, 2007 looks to be the year of a revolution in search, or at least a major step in evolution. Not since the days of Google actually having to battle for search supremacy has there loomed such fundamental and important changes in the landscape. We are on the brink of entering a new era in search, one in which people will actually be involved in the search process, not just passive users.
One significant development in the evolution of the Internet recently is technology that allows ordinary people to share virtually anything on the Internet. Hasn’t that been possible for the last seven or eight years, you might ask? Nope. The content that gets on the Internet has always been contributed by “web publishers,” not just ordinary people. There is an entire universe of information stored on hard drives, CDs, memory sticks and more that would never have seen the light of day on the Internet in the past. Just imagine a new source of information, contributed by ordinary people, just now flowing into a place where it can be shared with all of us. A new dimension to search.
Companies like Swivel.com invite us to upload any data that we might have on in our possession that we want to share with them, so they can share it with all of us. And Wikia, Inc. is taking the concept even further with OpenServing.com. Wikia invites us to start our own collaborative websites and gives us all the tools to get it done, for free. This means that even more “regular Joe” information will make it to the Internet. That is good for everyone, because a lot of us are regular Joes.
What could be one of the most significant changes related to search marketing is going to be our ability to laser target advertising at a level of accuracy previously unheard of. How? By taking advantage of the fact that today’s users are much more amenable to signing up and signing in to search sites then they ever were in the past. This is very different behavior compared to the average user during the previous phase of Internet development.
In the past, in order for guys like me to find out anything about users, things got a little creepy as we tried to gather information in secret. Today’s users are much different. They grew up with video games and graphical user interfaces. They demand an interactive Internet, one in which they can be active participants, not passive “lurkers.” They are sophisticated enough to expose an online “persona,” while simultaneously protecting their actual privacy.
Today we don’t have to surreptitiously gather tidbits of questionable information about our users. In this new order, users openly declare who they are, what they like, and what they usually search for. This will enable us to offer organic search results and paid listings to users based on freely given information that will make the old methods look like cave drawings.
These technologies are fueling the evolution that is positioned to be the future of search on the web. So look for 2007 to be the biggest year of changes we’ve seen in our industry in a long time. And keep in mind that in this evolution, search marketers may be the biggest beneficiaries of all.