The Perfect Search Engine

Captivating. Confounding. Mesmerizing. Maddening. Alluring. Alliterative.

Call me Ishmael. No, call me Ahab. I’m obsessed. I’ve been searching for the perfect search engine (and whale of a pun!) for years and, every time I think I’ve found it, the darn thing slips out of my grasp.

Back in 2008, I embarked on a four-part journey to catch a Google killer…

Not-So-Natural-Born Google Killers

More Not-So-Natural-Born Google Killers

Even More Not-So-Natural-Born Google Killers

Still More Not-So-Natural-Born Google Killers 

Not satisfied with the fish in the sea, I began to spec out the ideal specimen on the Resolution Media blog:



 Imagine being able to toggle between SERPs customized based on your past history/preferences and SERPs based on those results selected by others. Taking it one step further, imagine a slider bar (ala SideStep) that allows you to refine results based on the preferences of various groups including:

• Your Facebook friends

• People in the U.S. (or any other country, city, state, zip)

• All people 25-54 (or any other demo)

• All women (or men)

In 2009, I played a Hunch and declared it the “iPhone of Search.” I loved the premise (and promise) of a website that could make decisions for you rather than stringing together a bunch of queries and links to help you make a decision. But, to be effective, Hunch needed to be trained -- and it never gained enough critical mass to broaden out and become a place to turn by default for any given query.

In 2010, I got hip to Siri and anointed the app-ssistant (borrowing a phrase from Mr. Gord Hotchkiss) as the future of search. In a Siri-es of Siri-us columns and chapter 21 of my book,"Everything I Know About Marketing I Learned From Google," I waxed poetic about the potential for Siri to become a “search and act” engine where actual actions were returned instead of just results, or even recommendations. Alas, Apple bought Siri and gutted it of the merchant feed integration that allowed Siri to truly act on a query like “book me a trip to New York for business,” leaving us with a glorified speech recognition app to handle queries like “text mom I’m running late.”

So now it’s 2011 and the perfect search engine is as elusive as ever. I guess it’s time to stop waiting for this ship to come in and go back to spec’ing the darn thing out in the hopes that someone will build it. To that end, I’ve assembled a panel of luminaries (my label, not theirs) at the upcoming Search Insider Summit to get their input and, in the meantime, I’m counting on all of you to weigh in.

As I see it, the two main areas to focus on are user experience, i.e., how the “searcher” interacts with the “engine” -- and the relevancy algorithm, i.e. how the engine decides what to return for each query.

Following are some key elements that comprise these two buckets. Prior to my session at SIS, I’ll ask each panelist to weight these factors as if they were the geek behind the curtain. Then I’ll reveal the consensus (if there is one) on-stage and we’ll debate the merits and rationale for each person’s input.

Your job is to tell me what I’m missing from the list. Let’s try and keep it high-level, though, rather than building an exhaustive list of Search Engine Ranking Factors. And feel free to start casting your votes for which variables you’d rank most heavily in assembling the perfect search engine.

User Experience

1. Query format

a. Text

b.  Voice (ala Siri)

c.  Audio (ala Shazam)

d.   Images (Pictures, QR codes, etc.)

2. SERP integration

a. Websites

b.  Images

c.  Video

d.  Maps

e. News

f.   Products

3. SERP interaction

a. Links

b.  Refinement tools (sliders)

c.  One-box answers

d.  Recommendations

e. Transactions (immediately actionable


Relevancy Algorithm

1. On-page elements

a. Title tags (hah!)

b.   Keyword density

c.  Architecture

d.  Recency

2. Links

a. Quality

b. Quantity

3. Social signals

a. Likes

b.   +1s

c.  Tweets

d.   Other shares

4. Personalization

a. Social graph (connections)

b.  Psychographics (interests)

c.  Demographics

d.  Web history

e. Search history

f.   Purchase history

g. Geo-location

Register today to join us at SIS as we dive deeper in pursuit of perfection. It will of-fish-aly be off the hook!

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