Read the previous part of my interview with Rand - Network effect and search rankings
I'd be interested to hear any theories you have on future elements or methods that Google might use to rank webpages 10 years from now.
I think in the next 10 years we'll see at least one, maybe two new developments in terms of how a large percentage of early to mid level adopters find content and are driven to pages, so, you know over the last 10 years we've seen basically two methodologies come that didn't exist in the 90's. So 90's had direct navigation and had email and had directories, you know Yahoo had a really popular directory, DMoz was a very popular directory. I think you are going to see social become a referral and a path. Things like a Twitter, things like a Facebook - even things like a StumbleUpon which now has like 8 million users, and as some of the social media guys know, can actually drive more traffic than Digg if you get the right sort of content with lots of thumbs up on Stumble Upon. To the extent that Google's going to be able to use those metrics or search engines are going to be able to use those metrics, I think to some degree that'll happen. So they're going to use usage data and clickthrough and they're going to use social graph metrics, I'm not sure exactly how they're going to get them I think that they might end up either licensing that data from one of the very popular social media platform services or potentially acquiring one. So I don't think it's out of the questions that Google would see a natural acquisition target for something like a Twitter or Facebook. Although those are almost certainly going to be public companies of their own, so that could be interesting. And so it might be a data licensing thing.
Other metrics that I believe will come into play a little bit more, although it's sort of been stymied. Personalized search was very big like two three years ago, and it's been a little like stuck. I think that when folks thought about personalized search they thought, well great, we know that Chris is from New Zealand and he works at a marketing company and he's sort of 'in' with internet technologies. So when he types Python, he probably means the programming language and not the snake. So we're going to try and show it to him. I think there is some good intuition there, but I think Google forgot a little bit how basic people treat their engine which is as this navigational kind of resource, so that as you personalize results, and as results change and shift when you do searches for them, especially if they're things you commonly search for or have lots of association with, you get frustrated when Python isn't in the 5th position. It's like I would always type this search in and Python was always the number 5 result, and I liked clicking the number 5 result because that's how I got to this webpage that I like. And now you're making it number one for me because you recognize that maybe I visit that website a lot. And I have a little bit of frustration there, and so then you see that my clickthrough rates drop and then maybe I try Bing and you're like crap! We're doing a better job for this guy and he's finding it worse, because he's so use to how dumb we are, or how we treat the relationship as so simple.
I know what you mean, I often find that if I forget that I'm logged into Google and it starts personalizing my results and I'm searching for something on my own site - I don't want to see my site be number one unless it actually is number one.
Well that's the unique perspective of SEOs, but for everybody it's like this. So I get frustrated when I'm doing a search and I'm talking on the phone to my Grandfather and I want to show him a webpage and I do a search and it ranks somewhere different for me as it does for him. It just doesn't work; I can't tell him where to go. It has that frustration. And I think for individuals too, so I don't know if you've done usability studies where you like watch someone over the age of 50 using the web?
Watching my Dad is probably a good example...
It's really amazing right? I don't know if you're Dad is like this but a lot of people who are what you call it, digital immigrant rather than digital native will have this behavior of - Ok, let's go to your email, and they'll be on a webpage and they'll be like, huh, ok. So they close the browser window, and then they open a new browser window and it's opens on Yahoo. And they type Google into the Yahoo search window. You know that Yahoo's number one search query is Google right? I'm not kidding - has been for years!
Oh it's terrible right?
From their perspective they must just be like "this is just awful".
It's like if you're an engineer there you're like crying yourself to sleep every night, it's just horrifying. Microsoft too right? They're number one search query is basically "I want to search the internet with not you".
So they type in Google in Yahoo's homepage or MSN's homepage, they go to Google, then type in, whatever it is, Hotmail, hit enter. Click the hotmail result, log in. And you're like, MSN is your homepage - Hotmail is already up there on the left hand window - you're already logged in to your account, like if you click inbox on that page - you're set. Instead you type "Google" enter, "Hotmail" enter... like this is your navigation path.
Rand Fishkin is the founder of SEOmoz - an SEO consultancy and training site. I highly recommend them as one of the best SEO resources on the web.