Thought your online searching habits had settled into a predictable routine? Well, think again. We’re on the verge of another big upheaval in search technology and options.
Item: Other browsers (e.g., Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera) have recently upgraded their offerings to be more functionally robust, for example, making it easy to open and manipulate multiple windows simultaneously, autofill forms, etc. Microsoft is about to launch its new browser “Bing” with a huge ad campaign.
Item: The newest entry, Wolfram Alpha is a “computational knowledge engine,” rather than a “search engine.” Instead of providing links to other sites, as a traditional search engine does, Wolfram Alpha collects facts from the Web, performs calculations or operations on them, and returns the results to the user. It is designed for answering questions, rather than locating resources. (In very general terms, this is also the objective of Ask.com.)
Item: All search engines are wrestling with the challenge posed by social networks. Specifically, there is increasingly valuable and relevant content being exchanged on these networks (e.g., product reviews) that for the most part, is not yet crawled or cataloged by traditional search engines.
The meaning of all this for SMBs:
The next generation of search engines (and the like) will be better able to target LOCAL businesses and activities. A wider variety of content will be presented in search results — yet it will be more relevant. Research and comparisons, for shopping purposes, will be easier and more robust. SEM will become even more important, and arguably, challenging. All the more reason for SMBs to build their online skills now, to be ready for the next wave.