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Google Universal no panacea for all search

When you have that one hot service, it’s always tempting to push everything else through it. Tempting, because for you, the service provider, it’s simpler. But for the customer, what’s easier for a service provider like Google doesn’t always translate into an easier service for you…

Having read through Gord Hotchkiss’s analysis of Google Universal search, I have to wonder if Google are taking the right tack.

Far be it for me to second guess a bunch of people with a much better class of letters after their names than I have (I’m just a lowly Bachelor of Arts with Honours,) but I just don’t see Google Universal being a one-stop-shop to all things search:

“But here’s the challenge. The task of applying a content-agnostic relevancy score is daunting, and according to Google, it’s the reason it’s only now introducing universal search, after a number of years in the lab. In fact, it’s so daunting, you’ll probably only see other types of content creep onto your results page in the most obvious of cases.”

So both Gord and myself are thinking in the same way.

For me, as a guy looking for something specific, knowing specifically what it is that I’m looking for, I don’t mind having to make one more click if I can then refine the specificity of my search.

I’m thinking specifically (last time I’m going to use that word) about personalized search:

“Universal search becomes much more interesting when you combine it with personalization. In a recent interview … with [Google’s Marissa] Mayer, she said she didn’t see a strong vertical angle for personalization in the near future.”

For those using Googles Search History option, then there’s already the data at hand for Google to build in personalization without breaking a sweat, surely?

Additionally, there’s other stuff Google could do to add enormous value to personalization by way of social tools, to allow people to vote on websites, in much the same way StumbleUpon works.

I also get the feeling that Google are trying to close in on niche, vertical search services, such as the up-and-coming Spock people finder, or Clusty, the ‘meta search’ engine.

And that’s maybe the part where Google’s considerable reach is most likely to slip, or be left clinging by a fingertip.

Thinking in terms of tasks like raw research, services like Spock are very specialized, and cater to that kind of thing very well.

And given the huge depth that Spock offers, Google can’t possibly compete in such a generalized, reduced functionality kind of way.

If anything, Yahoo! have proved nimble enough to make the most of peripheral search, and effectively give up on competing with Google toe-to-toe.

One notable example of a niche search social property being Yahoo! OurCity, as well as the worthy Yahoo! Brand Universe and the in-car navigation collaboration with Dash.

Strictly speaking, they’re not actually search, because they’re Mashups of stuff that’s been found elsewhere, but you get the idea.

So the question is: just how universal can Google Universal really be?

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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