The Rise of Search Engines

By rolay117rolay117 (1254106437|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

Do you fear search engines? I would. If I ran an internet site that is. As the Internets top search engines continue to grow and develop new innovative ways to bring information to end users, they are becoming threats to those that manage and make profits by running internet sites. In this blog I will examine this growing threat and give insight into potential strategies for taming the beasts.

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The Problem

If you are a business reliant on an industry giant (such as Google) to survive, it may become convenient to latch on like a leech, and ride the "wave" to business success. This however, is something that companies need to be weary of. In today's edition of the Washington Post, Chadwhick Matlin wrote an article about the Rise and Fall of the dot com dictionary business. As the popularity of using search engines to find information on the internet grows, businesses such as Miriam-Webster.com have latched onto the major search engines and now rely on them for the majority of their hits. In turn, these hits increase the value of the website by allowing handsome revenue through advertising. But what happens when these search engines stop producing the "hits" that the dictionary companies rely on?

The Answer: extinction

So how are search engines managing to steal the business from the major dictionary websites? With the introduction of Microsoft's new search engine Bing, they also brought a new element to the way people find information. Previously (and currently on most search engines), typing in an SAT-caliber word would return links to many dictionary websites, but wouldn't include the actual definition of the word. In fact, Google actually intentionally prevents users from conveniently finding the information they need with clicking on the link of the website. The provides "hits" for other websites and enhances Google's reputation in the eyes of major players in the internet information business. So why doesn't Google shun these business people and make their customers happy by causing convenience? Why can't they make definitions rise to the top of the page like their current convenient conversion feature? Well, cry no more, Bing is here.

Bing's Answer

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After pulling out all stops to try and get Windows LIVE search of the ground, Microsoft knew that they needed a face lift. Their answer came earlier this year when they released their new search engine: Bing. When building this "decision engine," Bing sought to have one major goal by including a variety of new features: To make their end-users happy. One of these features is the very feature that is giving these internet companies a hard time. This innovative new feature works like this:

  1. Scans all of the searches for "suspicious", one word searches performed by end-users
  2. Determines whether or not the word is a candidate judging by the difficulty of the word
  3. Pulls the definition from Microsoft's own dictionary, Encarta
  4. Displays the information above all of the other search results for the convenience of the user

By pairing the definition with similar results that would show up in a Google Search, Bing is providing the convenience of not having to click through web pages, while still allowing the user to search normally. This prevents the feature from becoming pesky and shying away potential Bing customers.

Who is next to be "gobbled up"?

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As search engines continually search for areas of advancement and growth, sites like dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster Online will slowly fade out and be wiped from existence. So what's going to happen? Who is the next group of sites to be taken over? Below I have provided a table with a few suggestions on who might be next to go.

Website Example Service Why?
Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia If Microsoft is pulling definitions, why not use their Encarta Encyclopedia and pull entries based on search queries
Travelocity Airline Travel Planner With its new airline ticket finder, Microsoft has already begun to steal hits from the top travel websites. But what if they begin running this entire application in house? Watch out Travelocity
Pricescan Price Discovery When typing a product in at Pricescan, the engine will search the internet retail sites for the best goods. Why can't we skip the middle man and just have the search engine recognize that the user is searching for a product and do the work for us
ESPN Sports Score Feature On football Sunday's when someone is trying to find scores to games they commonly visit sites like Yahoo! or ESPN. In the future, engines like Bing and Google could build scores into their engine, making score discovery much more efficient.
Library sites Scholarly Information Discovery Google currently has a scholarly information system. But why not run an electronic library type business via their engine. Search for a book, then provide the user with the option to check the book out for a small fee. Sounds easy to me.

How do you protect your website?

So amidst this growing threat, is there any way to beat the "bigger brother" and avoid this issue. While the growth of search engines is inevitable, there are some things that websites can do to avoid being the next victim. One suggestion is to work deals with Google before any of the competitors have a chance. Many search engines don't have the in-house capability to manage features without millions of dollars in investment. So if you can't beat them, join them. Work a deal with the search engine to embed your application into their search engine. This would greatly increase the "hit" count of the site and improve the web site revenue cycle with little effort.

A second possibility would be to figure out ways to make your information or service high-demand, sensitive data. Then, protect the site with a login or some sort of security. This would prevent search engines from sucking the information out of the site and force people to visit the actual site for getting the information they want. Although this might not stop them 100%, it's a tactic sites could use to slow their demise, buying them time to readjust their business model for success.

Conclusion

As we move into the next era of internet usage, search engines will continue to grow and develop into the primary discovery tool for internet users around the world. With Google's current leverage in the industry and Bing's backing by one of the worlds most prominent technology companies, these search engines have a world of possibility at their forefingers. This threat is going to bring forth many challenges for information discovery websites of all shapes and sizes. How these sites handle this threat is completely up to them, but if I were them I would be measuring their potential for extinction and begin aggressively developing new and innovative ways to bring information to its customers.

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