Search & Social: the new navigation and the advertising dilemma

Well, well, well – I never thought I’d live to see the day! And it truly is a momentous day. Twitter results will appear in both Google’s and Microsoft’s search engine results pages!!

I have to pinch myself. What a convergence. I mean I know we saw this coming, but how on earth can any of these 3 parties predict how this will change the future of their businesses.

Things have been looking pretty safe recently. Twitter had finally started appeasing the argument of how they would make money by being valued in the billions. Google’s profit curve has stayed vertical thanks to extraordinary dominance of paid search advertising revenue. And even Microsoft’s Bing had gained market share and credibility against the oligarch of search.

The tsunami of requests for live search saw notable marks on the landscape – the greasemonkey hack for Firefox that showed Twitter updates at the top of a page of Google results for the related search query; Google’s new advanced filtering, with a hack that allowed you to search for results within the last second (or more usefully hour, day or week); and agreements between Facebook, Twitter and Friendfeed to satisfy the appetite of the ‘now’ generation.

But this – this is different.

Remember the pre and post Google Universal heatmaps pictured below (post-Universal on the left, demonstrating chunking and fencing):

Well what happens now? I mean what dilemmas do the giants of search and advertising now face. Where do these results sit? The golden triangle is already looking stretched. Eyeballs will always gravitate to the top left of the page so it is critical for both Google and Microsoft to keep sponsored listings in this space. So do you add ‘live’ results in directly below sponsored results and push organic results further down the page… below the fold? What will that do to click through rates? What will the impact be on quality score and the effectiveness of Adwords as a result?

Interestingly for me Bing’s results pages aren’t aligned left – they have a column for related searches:


This directly responds to the high percentage of users who refine their search rather than clicking through on a listing.

So where will the new results go, and how will the algorithm affect what we see in the standard Twitter search results. Well we have some time before this is rolled out, and no doubt there will be some testing, but what a momentous shift from search based navigation to social.

Also interesting was Google’s attempt to counter the move by Microsoft to add Twitter by almost instantly announcing the same functionality. Bing however seems to have come out on top by adding in Facebook status updates – God knows how this will work, and what value will be added as a result.

One thing’s for sure – the shift from search as the primary navigation aid to social media is well under way. This represents the single biggest change in search engines since their introduction into the world. Forget Page Rank, or Adwords – this is the start of a very different future – a future in which word of mouth, peer reviews, and user generated content is given as much credibility as huge investment in content based authoritative organic search strategies.

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  1. […] very own Tim Aldiss gave his views on what the future might hold for the search and social; “One thing’s for sure – the shift from search as the primary navigation aid to social […]

Not in the least bit copyrighted by Tim Aldiss 2012