The Future of Search

Zero-Click Knowledge Search Engines

Search engines that give you answers without you having to click onto a website, or where you can search without having your every move tracked; spamless results and transparency of data trawled, with reports that cover inbound links, duplicate content and ranking factors. Innovative search engines are paving the way forward and challenging Google’s supremacy.

There’s no doubt that Google is a leader in search engine dominance and whilst there are few real contenders to overthrow its prominence there are some interesting developments  being made by lesser known search engines such as DuckDuckGo (DDG) which are clicking at Google’s heels. The search engine giant will have to make improvements if it wants to retain its user power.

DuckDuckGo

For businesses with a web presence a search engine is your route to SEO success, traffic and attaining high Google ranking. Whilst Google and other search engines set the rules their main gameplay is to give users what they are looking for. The purpose of search engines is not to drive traffic to a site, unless they are paying through an ad network, but look after user needs.

There’s no doubt that whatever word or phrase a user types in that Google does a pretty good job of coming up with relevant results and it’s often the case that users find what they are looking for without going too deep into the pages. However, DuckDuckGo provides more direct answers to user queries and searches so users don’t have to click onwards necessarily. Certainly many of DDG’s zero-click answers trump Google’s top results:

DuckDuckGo Yes! My 100th birthday lands on a Friday! Let’s Partyyyyy!

DuckDuckGo vs Google Who doesn’t need help with their geometry and calculus homework?

Knowledge Engines

It’s the way that DuckDuckGo and other so-called ‘knowledge engines’ gather data that makes all the difference. For each search, data is collected from crowd-sourced sites such as Wikipedia so that traditional results can augmented and a more complete answer given on the results page. The zero-clicks are calculated by Wolfram Alpha, an in-depth resource for facts, figures, stats, calculations and conversions. You can read all about sources for their Goodies and their super nerdy Tech Goodies at DuckDuckGo.

Zero-click answers have been available on Google for quite a while, but until recently, they only included very simple concepts like the time, weather and basic conversions. In May, Google released Knowledge Graph which seeks to expand and increase  their zero-click results. A good example can been seen in the results for The Dark Knight Rises. In this case, I think Google beats DuckDuckGo hands down.

A Duck that Doesn’t Follow

Privacy in Search

Google recently stopped passing keyword data to webmasters, but they’re unlikely to stop tracking your search habits anytime soon because their ad networks are dependent on this. DDG’s privacy policy is not track almost nothing about their users, and they don’t pass on information to tracking tools like Google Analytics. This means that there isn’t a filter and that searches from all users yield the same results.

Less Spam and Better Search Results

Users who complain about spam results, so-called content farms and less than pertinent web sources can find a search engine dedicated to their cause in blekko. With its accessible privacy settings, blekko is all about transparency. Account holders use slashtags to make searches on trusted websites which are used to make searching and categorization easier. The data comes in a range or reports that are handy for search marketers. The frequently searched for slashtags produce results from professional sites that have been sanctioned by editors. The slashtags allow for customized searches and there are some interesting things you can do with them:

Domain Report - /seo This report covers a few basics like the domain’s host rank (blekko’s equivalent to Google’s PageRank), the number of inbound links, the geographic location of those links, an overview of duplicate content and some basic crawl stats. Blekko

Link Reports - /inbound or /domainlinks There are two possible reports here: /inbound for link data on a specific page or /domainlinks for link data across an entire domain. Blekko

In these reports, you can see the anchor text, when blekko discovered the link, and the host rank of the page sending the link. Pretty impressive for being able to research competition..

Duplicate Text - /duptext or /domainduptext Google’s Panda has caused uproar over duplicate content. Businesses need to be aware of this both internally (on ther own domain) and externally (on sites that may have scraped their content). Duplicate text reports on blekko are designed to reveal these potential issues. Blekko

While blekko gives you the exact score their algorithm assigns to the results of any query, it is doubtful that Google will allow this level of transparency any time soon. Blekko

iPhone Answers without Google

Siri not only uses a  ‘knowledge engine’ to directly answer user queries but does so without users having to even log onto a computer. Siri is on the right path to attracting millions of iPhone users away from Google. By constantly refining its answers by crowd sourcing data from smartphone users it could be a leader in the mobile search market, especially in local searches where Siri has the added benefit of knowing exactly where the user is.

Siri Search

Like DuckDuckGo, Siri pulls in data from various sources like Wolfram Alpha and Yelp to answer users’ queries. To compete Google has already released an enhanced version of its voice search on the Google Search App, demonstrating the apps versatility on an iPhone in this recent commercial:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cZ4mdrlWYM]

On top of that, the Big G offers Google Now on Android phones which might not have the personality of Siri but offers plenty of instant information for users on the go. Instead providing answers based on queries, Google Now learns from users’ repeated behaviors and attempts to provide answers before you even ask a question. Google Now

Searching for the Future

Google still have a firm place at the top of search engine favorites and are so well-established that it’s difficult to imagine Google falling down the ranking. What is exciting though is that these forward thinking, innovative smaller contenders have enough clout to also find a way into the market and push Google to develop and improve too. Criticisms of Search Plus Your World and Google+, are not enough to take the shine off Google’s search engine crown but there are plenty of competitors waiting in the wings should the mighty Google fall.

So what does this all mean for your business? Well, the instant answers provided by DuckDuckGo and Google’s Knowledge Graph tend to be focused on informational queries where the user is looking for the answer to a specific question and does not necessarily want to be directed to a business.

However, both Siri and Google Now have the potential to make a huge impact on local businesses. When users are on the move, they depend on their phone for answers and Siri and Google Now can direct them to restaurants, bars or your store locations.

The rise of mobile search means that you need to get your Local SEO in order. Make sure you have accurate business listings on Google Local, Yahoo! Local, Yelp, Yell, Thomson Local, Foursquare and any other major business directories.

Positive reviews can help drive people to your business as well. Make it easy for patrons to leave a review after visiting and if you happen to get a negative review, don’t ignore it - respond, apologize and do everything you can to make it better.

Looking at alternative search engines can help us see where the future of search is going, but one lesson is going to remain constant: it’s all about the user. As long as you’re aware of this and develop your SEO tactics around it, you should be able to survive any future changes to search engines.

-- About the Author: Tim Kelsey Tim Kelsey is the SEO & Social Media Manager at Pronto Marketing, an Internet Marketing agency that focuses on web design for health clubs and IT services providers. G+