The Changing Face of Search: Is Google Losing its Grip?

by Patricia Skinner March 5th, 2009 

Search is changing at breakneck speed due to the colossal success of certain social media phenomena like Twitter , StumbleUpon and maybe FriendFeed.

There are definite signs that search is beginning to separate out, forming niches and tributaries that better feed the main knowledge stream.

Might Twitter be the New Google?

A few years ago formal search via a search engine was overwhelmingly the way people would set about finding whatever they were looking for on the Web. Google, Yahoo and MSN Live were the universal engines of search (hence their name).

Things have changed.

Michael Gray of Graywolfs SEO Blog told me he uses the Customize Google FireFox plugin to get more out of the old method of search. But more and more web users are realizing that the top ranking web-page for a given search term submitted to a search engine will not necessarily turn up what you need to know in all its pristine glory. After all, you wouldn't use Google to find a job online would you? Good. Im glad you wouldnt.

by brewedfreshdaily

Change in search seems to be gathering pace, giving rise to a number of articles like mine. Here's a similar opinion on the changing face of search: Twitter destined to replace Google Search.

As you can see, it's not just because of the economy that Google stock lost a whopping 56 percent in 2008!

It is finally dawning on us that industry leaders or experts in their field are unfailingly the best source for information on any given topic. And it's getting easier to find industry leaders and approach them, but not through search engines.

This is why sites like Twitter, Mashable, Alltop, SEOmoz, Sphinn, and other specialized social media sites that are increasingly used for search are gaining ground fast.

It's not about centralizing your search anymore.

It's now about finding better information than your competitors: can we say knowledge is power? Everyone is looking for those nuggets of information that will set them apart and above their competitors.

Skillful use of social media can put you in ongoing contact with the very people whose opinion and expertise you value. And there's no limit to how much of this expertise you can tap into with tools like Twitter and the myriad of other specialized search applications springing up. Tap into the right sources and you can make yourself an industry-leader almost overnight.

Tracking News

Digg, Stumbleupon and increasingly Mixx are yet more sites that will help you find the latest on just about anything you care to name. You can subscribe to keywords so that you get everything on your subject of interest without having to do a thing.

Searching for specifics

Tipd for financial information and news so you can invest your hard-earned money wisely.

FairShare helps you keep track of who's copying your work and where it's appearing on the web.

Checking up on gossip

Whether you need to keep an eye on your own reputation or that of a client's, or if you're digging up the dirt on someone (did I just say that?) you could do worse than use BackType.

Looking for a job

Mashable comes through for you yet again if you're looking for a job: here's a wonderful list of job sites to try.

Twitter is increasingly being seen by the search worlds industry leaders as an interactive search tool. Imagine being able to ask a question of the very top person in your field or in the field you want to know more about? This is quintessentially the beauty of Twitter.

Even if your target is not following you, it is still possible to address them directly. Of course there's no guarantee that they'll reply, but many of the top Twitter users, despite their busy lives, take the time to share generously with those who are interested in what they have to say.

This is like having a permanent spot at the stage door to see your favorite movie star!

Even AdAge and the Huffington Post have noticed that Twitter is the next big thing in search.

Tools to help you search Twitter

Twist is a new Twitter search application with lots of potential in my opinion.

Tweetscan where you just enter in your chosen keywords.

Twitter Search Results is a Greasemonkey script (Firefox only at the moment) to add real time results from Twitter to your Google search.

Your takeaway? If youre relying solely on Google for your search needs maybe you should rethink your knowledge-building strategies.

Patricia Skinner is a Copywriter, SEO consultant & social media expert. She writes about what she knows best :)

Patricia Skinner

Patricia Skinner is Director of Sekari Content Production Studio in Amman at Sekari and spends her days doing what she loves best; cooking up winning content strategies for organic search.

You May Also Like

23 Responses to “The Changing Face of Search: Is Google Losing its Grip?”

  1. Leo says:

    I think it is absolute rubbish to think that twitter will replace google. For one, twitter doesn't have the infrastructure to support what it would need to replace google. In fact, it isn't even close.

    Plus, you are assuming that average everyday people will use Twitter…mention twitter to a random person on the street and it is likely that they will have no idea what you are talking about…and if they do, chances are that they have heard of it but still don't know what it is.

    At best, twitter will complement google. A social media platform challenging Google? Doubt it.

  2. London SEO says:

    I agree with Leo, Twitter is a "fad" it will be around for a while. I like the twitter real time search, but if google wanted to bring a similar application out then they could and would.

    Even my friends who are web savvy still haven't any idea what twitter is about even if they have heard about it on the internet. This is a view from the UK though so maybe different across the Atlantic.

  3. Dr. Pete says:

    I'm not sure if Twitter will displace it, but I think we so easily forget that Google is a 10-year-old company, and the internet is still in its infancy. Yes, Google has A LOT of money and power, but in the technology world, no one sits on top of the mountain forever. Someone will replace Google and we haven't begun to imagine what the internet will look like in 10 years.

  4. I'm with Patricia on this one. Google is spread out too thin, particularly in this recessionary, cost-cutting time and you can see that by the glitches and down-times that are appearing. Just recently we have Adsense looping problems and Gmail down for hours in certain parts of the world. Google must focus on Web search if it is to maintain its leadership position. That will still leave lots of cyberspace that is better searched by others.

  5. I have to agree with Patricia. If you want the very latest news/articles Twitter is the best place for it. Due to celebrities, news programmes and marketing experts Twitter is becoming more wide spread and not just left to the geeks of the interwebs. Even Senators are getting involved, next stop my Gran ;o)

  6. Leo says:

    I am going to reload for a second wind…

    It isn't that twitter couldn't eventually become a search engine…how are they expected to out compete a company like Google when they are in effect having issues monetizing their site as is?

    Also, what you are proposing is something like a social search engine…that is quite interesting..the question is how will twitter be able to keep up with those that would game the system (in the same way that digg and other platforms get gamed?)

    What would they pay their engineers with? Monopoly money?

    I seriously doubt that the twitter creators have even entertained the idea of even trying to compete with Yahoo or ask…never mind Google…

  7. Ruud Hein says:

    Marketing research shows people trust input form their friends & peers. Sites like Facebook and Twitter put us in touch with a big number of those. That's a search/recommendation model Google can't touch at the moment.

    These days when I research products I check Twitter. Same for movies and TV shows I might watch. Fake comments are (still?) easy to spot due to the rubbish in their streams :)

    Yes, the "common" woman doesn't know Twitter (yet?) — but I so remember telling people about Google and them not knowing what that was…

  8. You know Ruud, thank you for bringing that up. I remember when Google was new too, and back then everyone was saying they'd never be a match for Yahoo (snort, chortle, choke…). And I beg to differ with Leo that no-one has heard of it. I'm getting different responses about Twitter than I was even six months ago. Its use is spreading much faster than the use of Google spread back in '97 (Oh God that dates us..)

  9. fantomaster says:

    Agree with Ruud on this one, even if I have to admit to terribly underestimating Twitter initially.

    Will it actually "replace" Google? Don't think it's an either/or scenario – Twitter allows for multiple parallel verticals more or less in real time. Search is still somewhat sucky, and yes, spam is on the rise.

    But it obviously addresses an existing (and mounting) need in a manner neither MySpace not Facebook nor for that matter Digg or StumbleUpon let alone LinkedIn can even remotely hope to service as well.

    Did Yahoo! die when Google rose? No, they did lose market share but they still get boatloads of traffic. So why not assume that Google will plod on, even though they may not remain the media's (and Web surfers') perennial darling.

    And, like Ruud, I prefer to get my product info, personal tips and (yes, that, too) gossip straight from Twitter – and after establishing that we can actually monetize our Tw activities on one of our accounts to the tune of appr. $600 a day (based on human labor of appr. 4 man hours per day), I'll be the last one to argue that twittering is a mere waste of time, as so many are still doing…

  10. Utah SEO says:

    Twitter will never replace Google but sure is a good assitant.

  11. Dr. Pete says:

    One area where I think Twitter is superior and could eventually capitalize on (whether they do or not is a different matter) is real-time data. One phenomenon many people have observed is how quickly Twitter users find out about certain major events, like earthquakes. No algorithm will ever be faster than a person in their house saying "Was that an earthquake?" in real-time. Even the mainstream media is turning to Twitter to find some types of breaking news. If they can find a way to mine that data, it's one niche where search spiders just can't compete.

  12. Luis Pereira says:

    Twitter is a great tool. But trying to effectively monetize on our feelings and expressions may be a bit tricky.

  13. Gu y P says:

    I'm a web developer and marketer and I must say Twitter is the biggest waste of time I've ever seen. I don't need to know when someone is drinking a coffee or has a random thought. That's what blogging is for.

    Twitter will never replace Google in the search realm. Twitter will be what it is, a fad the people do to kill time.

  14. What we learn in "Search 101" is that there are three different types of search.
    1. Find – short sessions, targeted, high frequency of usage, local…
    2. Discover – Clear need but not specific, long sessions, research.
    3. Explore – Browsing with no specific target, entertainment search

    Of course other social mechanisms will provide new ways of fulfilling these different search intentions especially in the "explore" category. However, I agree with many of these comments that it will be extremely difficult for things like twitter or stumbleupon to replace the "find" search intention. They just are not made for it, nor do they have the infrastructure necessary.
    Obviously, the title was meant to cause some discussion which I think is worthy, but we need to make sure we are not comparing apples to oranges :)

  15. Patrick Slavenburg says:

    I think most opinions here are too one-sided. It's too early to tell how Twitter will develop. Yes we all see potential, but a lot can happen.

    In my opinion it's clear nothing stays dominant forever. But just like everyone now says the USA will fall and China is the next USA, this is all WAYYYY too simple minded for my taste. A fragmented world yes, with a number of leading players.

    So obviously Google will stay dominant for whole groups of people. Do you really think 50 % of the population who doesn't even LIKE the internet, who emails, and maybe chats, and…. uses Google, is suddenly going to go social and Twitter ?

    In that case.. how come *forums*, yes these mid 1990's unusable lists of Q&A's are still SO popular ? Why hasn't everyone moved to projects and groups and all that on Myspace in 2002 ?

    With all the tech babble, most experts forget one thing: just because something has the potential.. doesn't mean it will happen. And just because something CAN happen, or even is in our best interest, doesn't mean people actually change their behavior and start doing it.

    I think you only have to look at any "real world" situation right now to understand that part…

  16. Dieta says:

    People are using google for finding simple answers and tutorials or companies. Right now nobody looks for a funny/engaging site through google. What'd you even type? "funny intelligent blog"? That makes no sense. Enter social media and suddenly there are people who'll recommend you the site best fitting your idea.

  17. This is a great topic and one that I think a lot about. If you think back 10 years, right when google was starting to be known, the leader of business networking was Novell and Banyan Vines and the leaders in internet searches were excite, altavista, yahoo, etc. Most of these, except yahoo, are gone or severely diminished now.

    Google spends a ton of cash on lots of things but still makes 80% of their money from their simple search page. If this goes under, so goes google.

    But I do love their products. Can you say Google Earth?

  18. Ilia - SEO says:

    I found myself in this situation the other day:

    I woke up in the morning and went outside for a cigarette like I usually do (I know, evil habit). The first thing I noticed was the smell of rubber burning. I then noticed a cloud of smoke coming from City Center area. "What is happening?" – I thought to myself as the sound of distant sirens became more clear.

    I went on Google and froze for a minute. What do I search for? And even if I did know what to search for, Google won't have the time to index that page anyway. I logged into Twitter and found a whole bunch of people from my area Twittering about the fire.

  19. "Might Twitter be the New Google?" One simple answer. No. Twitter is great for social media, but it is a very limited social media site that I could possibly see just being a quick fad.

    Google is much more than search too. It has many amazing apps for a variety of things.

  20. These new sites and services will never replace traditional search engine. Although i do believe they will take some of the market away from them.

  21. Jhangora says:

    Change is a part of nature and competition is always good. Twitter may not replace google but it can certainly motivate google and other traditional search engines to better themselves. Semantic web does not seem possible. As something becomes popular people find out ways to fool that system.

    Google makes sense of the net thru links and spammers have found out ways to fool the google spiders. Google is big so it can afford to penalize sites which do not conform to it's rules.

    There has to be a better way to sift thru the information on the web. Recently kosmix has got some funding for their search engine. let's see if they can better google.

  22. Yup, general consensus seems to be that twitter is going to be the new Google. I for one am dead keen to see where this all ends up, as the link model of search engine ranking is definitely becoming obsolete.

  23. Kai Lo says:

    I definitely don't think Google is losing its grip. You can do a survey to check how many people have as their homepage.