Searching for consensus | White.net

Searching for consensus

By Stuart Tofts / June 9, 2008

A recent conversation with a friend has made me think about how the public perceive search engines.

Readers may have noticed that I often express my amazement at how little the average person considers how their engine of choice selects the websites it offers them, but lately I realised that some people believe search engines have undergone no major changes or evolutions for years. That search portals might in fact be as good as they are going to get.

It was one of those Sunday afternoon chats in a beer garden, where – having mocked each other’s careers for a while – we began to chat about the SEO sector. My friend remarked that it is odd that search engines have failed to improve their accessibility for the end user.

I expressed amazement that he would think this and began to jabber about Yahoo!’s Search Monkey, changes to the way Google presents its news results and even relatively minor updates such as the recent changes to its favicon.

Furthermore, I raved about how search engines had to constantly battle simply to maintain current standards in the face of unethical attempts to outwit them. Huge changes happen behind the scenes to ensure users receive results they can use. This is why I believe that ethical SEO means always remembering that users as well as spiders visit websites (doesn’t that sound like a ‘Love is’ platitude? You know: “Ethical SEO means never going to sleep on an argument.”).

However, my friend disagreed. Having listened to me rave about my industry for a considerable period, he argued that it did not matter how many changes happened behind the scenes or even how many updates were made to the way search engines operate, they have not become any more intuitive to use.

The old Ask Jeeves set-up was a better way of searching than remembering to add quotation marks and plus signs, he asserted. Furthermore, it would be easier for older people or those new to the web to use such search engines.

Now, I remain unconvinced by some of his arguments but they did cause me to consider how SEO is likely to become even more important for firms in the future.

Despite consumers barely noticing the aesthetic changes and quality updates, search engines must provide their users with useful results or they will lose them to the competition.

This means their search criteria are constantly upgraded and businesses really need professionals with a day-to-day understanding of the industry to ensure their websites qualify for high rankings.

Stuart Tofts

Director

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