Practical Ecommerce

Interview: Oneupweb CEO On The Future Of Search

As Google continues to stake its claim as the universal search app, many may wonder if the trend will continue. Practical eCommerce asked Lisa Wehr, the CEO and Founder of Oneupweb, an integrated online marketing firm, for her views not only on Google, but also about the future of online search features. Wehr has been counseling clients on improving website ROI and search engine marketing since 1995. Her firm, Oneupweb, creates integrated online marketing plans that include natural search engine optimization, paid search marketing, marketing research, conversion analytics, online advertising and podcasting. Oneupweb was named a 2006 Michigan Top Company to Watch and is the only three-time winner of the prestigious ClickZ Best Search Engine Marketing Vendor Award.

Lisa Wehr

PeC: The overwhelming majority of searches are now done on Google. Will this continue in the future?

WEHR: Google will likely maintain its dominance in general search, however, the search marketplace will keep them on their toes. For example, while Google is moving toward broader, universal search results, we’re seeing growth in vertical engines specializing in particular topics, industries and geographic regions. As searchers become more sophisticated and demanding, growth and evolution in these areas will continue. We’ll also see increasing innovations within the social media arena. Those search engines who integrate new social media into their search models most effectively will see the greatest growth in the segment. Right now, Google has an edge, but competitors seem to be catching up rapidly.

PeC: Many believe that search results are frequently unrelated to the intent of the searcher. In the future, how will search engines better match intent with results?

WEHR: A few trends are currently addressing this issue. First, there’s personalized search, which bases results on an individual’s past search history. In theory at least, searchers will get more relevant results based on the sites they clicked on for similar searches in the past. The second trend is local search, where those searching for businesses or services within their region, a restaurant specializing in Thai cuisine for example, will find just those results in their immediate area. From a related paid search perspective, Geo-Targeting — though it has been around for some time — lets an advertiser reach a particular, geographically targeted audience. There’s less waste for the advertiser and fewer irrelevant paid search results for the searcher. And finally, there are additional vertical search engines, geared toward specific subjects or industries. These eliminate a lot of confusing search results and allow the experienced searcher to skip the general search engines all together.

PeC: What advice would you offer Yahoo! Search, MSN or Ask.com in their effort to gain ground on Google?

WEHR: Keep innovating and improving service. The revolutionary “preview” and other features launched at Ask.com, for example, were one of the forces behind Google’s rollout of Universal Search. Personally, I’d like to see less emphasis on knee-jerk acquisition and more on steady improvement on the search experience for users and advertisers. More specialization, less diversification.

PeC: The Internet is notoriously fickle. Many experts believe social networking sites will supplant search engines as vehicles to assist consumers in locating websites. How do you see social networking sites, such as MySpace, Facebook and others, competing, or interacting with, search engines?

WEHR: Currently, the major social networking sites are being assimilated rather than replacing the major search engines. Google owns YouTube, Facebook is in talks with Microsoft, MySpace sold to media giant Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. This cannot continue indefinitely. Given the fickle audience of search sites, it will prove an expensive, short-term strategy at best. What is more likely is that all search engines will begin integrating social media into their results and advertising offerings through models similar to Google’s Universal Search. In the case of paid search, I expect search engines coming to advertising and technology sharing agreements with the major social sites, either directly or through ad networks. The social sites will continue growing for the foreseeable future, not as a replacement for search engines, but as a delivery medium for new forms of content.

PeC: Other thoughts on the future of online search?

WEHR: Social media, universal Search, and the evolution and expansion of web access have incredibly widened the playing field — and the opportunities for search marketing. The new leaders in the field will be those able to accommodate new technologies and platforms most effectively, while delivering a greater level of service for their customers. It’s an exciting place to be and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Practical Ecommerce

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Comments ( 4 )

  1. Legacy User November 15, 2007 Reply

    I think the questions in these articles (since the text is shorter) should be in italics, and the response in plain text. Long text in italics is so hard to read.

    — *Dave*

  2. Legacy User November 15, 2007 Reply

    At AltSearchEngines.com, the Read/WriteWeb network blog that covers over 1,000 alternative search engines on a daily basis, we believe that the future of Search, and by that we mean as soon as 2008, belongs to the alternative Vertical Search engines.

    Anyone can see them all and much more at http://www.AltSearchEngines.com.

    Charles Knight, editor
    AltSearchEngines.com
    Read/WriteWeb network
    Charles@ReadWriteWeb.com

    — *Charles Knight*

  3. Legacy User November 16, 2007 Reply

    I agree, search is constantly changing. For the best, I'm not sure. Never seen the second page of a search engine, so why do they have it? Well I started my own search engine http://www.spidershopper.com which allows you to submit a link, your opinion and keywords to site that you enjoy. This allow me to keep track of my favorite sites in the my account feature and allows other to submit site that they enjoy.

    — *Todd*

  4. Legacy User November 20, 2007 Reply

    This interview is more like the debate between alternative medicine (AM) and conventional medicine (CM). Proponents of AM says that their practice is basically science but it is alternative to the mainstream science as in CM. In the AM view there is alternative science and mainstream science. This is wrong and misleading even to suggest that there is something called vertical search and horizontal search. Science is basically science, there is neither alternative nor mainstream. It is synonymous with Newton Laws of Motions is basically Newton Laws of Motions, it is neither alternative nor mainstream. When some fringe concepts in science had been proven that they represent the true picture of the physical world, then they are no fringe anymore. Search engine is basically search engine, it is neither vertical nor horizontal. These terms are misleading and their use had been used to confuse the general public especially those who are not IT literate.

    "Many believe that search results are frequently unrelated to the intent of the searcher."

    This question is redundant, because we already know that it is. As with any new emerging technology. It started in a very primitive way, then as time progresses, it improves. Search engine is no exception. To imply that our current search engine technology solves everything is naive. It is important that people understand the mechanics of search engine before they leap into making misleading comments. Google search is linked-based, ie, it collects a huge matrix (rows by columns) of outward & inward links to & from pages to compute the importance of their ranking. It is only recent (~ 3 years ago or so), that they included content-based search, which is based on a huge matrix (rows by columns) of terms(words)-by-documents(web-pages), which is called Latent Semantic Indexing or LSI. The linked-based algorithm such as Google's PageRank and content-based algorithm such as Singular Valued Decomposition (SVD) and NNMF (Non-negative matrix factorisation) are completely different. That is you can't use PageRank to find similar concepts as SVD and NNMF can. To suggest that Google has a shortfall, is a redundant argument. Who knows, that Google might include NLP (natural language processing) capability and also Multidimensional indexing, which will definitely improve search recall? PageRank , SVD, NNMF are all 2-dimensional based search. That is the input to the algorithm is a matrix with rows & columns. In multidimensional indexing (it is quite new at the moment), the input is a matrix of more than 2 dimension. The input data could 4 dimension such as [words-by-documents-by-regions-by-season]. The index is done simultaneously on those 4 dimensions {words, documents, regions, season}. A typical search will retrieve only documents from a specific regions excluding any others, etc.

    Finally, here is a fact. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and other emerging search vendors are continually improving their search technology via state-of-the-art R&D. They are all aiming to develop a universal search engine, not just Google. To suggest that only Google is doing this, is also naive. Microsoft does publish its researches in various peer review computing journals, IEEE, ACM, etc… If search engine vendors push hard into the direction of NLP, then search engine optimization (SEO) days are numbered. SEO doesn't work in NLP.

    "Many experts believe social networking sites will supplant search engines as vehicles to assist consumers in locating websites."

    Again, social networking or no social networking, they still have to use a link-based algorithm and this fact is undeniable. If it is not used, then the web is unsearchable.

    — *Falafulu Fisi*