Real-Time Web Puts Strain On Search Industry

Kimbal Musk of Oneriot PulseRank could soon become a standard industry buzzword and practice for SEO professionals attempting to optimize Web sites, as engines move from static into real-time search. That's the promise of up-to-the-minute information streams -- the type that come from the microblogging site Twitter.

Kimbal Musk, CEO at OneRiot.com, believes PulseRank will fundamentally change the way an SEO professional provides services, but expects those who offer them to learn quickly and develop new methods to match real-time ranking algorithms.

"We believe PulseRank will replace PageRank over time for the real-time Web," Musk says.

The reasons are clear. PageRank is based on the number of links to a page or a specific URL builds over time, as people link to pages. It provides the searcher with the "authoritative answer" to their query. Musk says PageRank favors historical content and can take time for a page's ranking to change.

PulseRank is based on the number of people sharing the page and browsing the content, Musk says. It changes every minute of the day to reflect the "social energy" of that page at any given moment. Ranking is done during each search. PulseRank for a page changes in real-time. The page that was at the top of the results one minute can land on the bottom of the page five minutes later if other pages garner a higher PulseRank in that five-minute period.

It may sound like a good idea, but it's not easy. David Harry, SEO consultant with Reliable SEO, says real-time search is one of the more difficult areas for search engines to deal with. "Much of the problem lies in establishing the most authoritative answers without being bogged down by spam," he says. "Dealing with Web spam requires a great many signals that are hard to come by in 'real time.' At the end of the day, if 'real time' search was an effective approach, Google and others would be doing it already."

Harry says Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have shown an interest in real-time search, but at this point doubts that the Big 3 are looking at using an algorithmic approach such as "PulseRank."

Musk believes real-time search is good for advertisers. It prompts people to search more often because information becomes available instantly. OneRiot.com needs to look at the link, and crawl and index the page in less than a second. The pages are reordered and ranked based on how fast people share links. The engine also takes into consideration the domain's authority.

On real-time sites, people are known to conduct searches every five minutes, waiting just long enough for the news to change, Musk says. This makes it more efficient to bring in behavioral-targeting ad platforms.

Behavioral targeting plays a role in real-time organic and paid search for two reasons. First, searches are often driven by news, but an ad related to the search term "Iran election" would not make sense. Second, a person performs the same search often, between 5 and 10 times daily. Severing up the same contextual ads diminishes budgets and reduces the chance of click-throughs. Musk says advertisers need to "switch up the ads to cater more to the user than just the search term."

Broadpoint.Amtech's Internet analyst Benjamin Schachter weighed in the day after moderating a conference call with Musk on the concept of real-time search and the potential threat and opportunity to established search companies. He says investors don't understand the concept of real-time search. "Facebook is the interesting one because they have kept their data private versus Twitter, which allows anyone to use it," he says. "In theory, if Facebook becomes an open platform, it would allow the posts to be indexed by the search engines in real time."

Facebook on Wednesday announced a feature it is testing that would give users greater control to limit who sees specific content. But the real move may lean toward Facebook users sharing messages in real time with the world, rather than groups of friends.

It's part of a rush to compete with microblogging service Twitter, which streams real-time messages that anyone can view. The content not only represents a valuable source for real-time news, but targeted advertising as well.

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2 comments about "Real-Time Web Puts Strain On Search Industry".
  1. Andrew Ettinger , June 26, 2009 at 10:14 a.m.

    I disagree with the concept of Pulse Rank. Sure for a select few advertisers with a dynamic product this will be a measure of success. But most CPG advertisers labor under fairly static conditions with minimal bursts of social activity. Toilet paper is not talked about in the same fashion that the latest movie is, thus the former cannot expect to have constant SM chatter that effectively influences their Search rankings.

  2. Dennis Yu from BlitzLocal.com , June 27, 2009 at 12:23 a.m.

    Breaking news is a great example of how OneRiot has been innovating. Yesterday, when the Michael Jackson story broke, there was immediately one video on their page. Less than an hour later, they had 3 whole pages. Google has QDF (Query Deserves Freshness), but that doesn't bring near the speed or richness of content that OneRiot drew. I was shocked. You can sort by Pulse and by Realtime-- quite engaging if you haven't tried it.

    OneRiot is not a replacement for Google, but does offer better and richer results for current, social, and news topics.