I recently read The Search - How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture by John Battelle. The Search illuminated the tremendous power of search applications as well as the future potential of search applications to become intrinsic elements of conducting ecommerce. Search tools are becoming more powerful as they are incorporating artificial intelligence and robotics. Searches are becoming more accurate as they are better able to make inferences based on the users click history. Search facilitates intent-based marketing which shifts marketing dollars from the unknown to the knowable.
Going forward, searches will be able to conduct some amazing functions. For example, by linking RFID tags to things such as luggage, search engines will be able to locate lost luggage. Also, as search engines include individual's computers, search engines will be able to locate things such as long-lost family photos. As the price of storage continues to plunge, the entire web may be saved on a daily basis which will allow searchers to conduct queries of events that happened on specific days.
Among other interesting information contained in The Search are the following:
- Since 2003, most search engines have evolved to differentiate terms by parsing a list of atomic phrases--phrases that have their own sets of results at the smallest levels. For example, when someone types in "York", the search application would believe that you are not looking for results that incorporate "New York".
- Search engines are using cue words that tip off the search engines to the context of the particular search. For instance, pages that contain biographies are tagged as being biographical. Thus, when a searcher includes "biography" in the search, the results will yield pages that contain biographies instead of just pages that contain the word "biography".
- Most search engines contain lists of stop words (such as "and" and "the") that are ignored. The use of stop words renders the search more accurate and accelerates processing times.
- Search engines have three core components. First, is the crawl (or spider), which gathers every possible page on the Web. Second is the index, the massive database created by that crawl. And the third comprises the user interface and search software, which take the index and make it available in an intelligent fashion to the end user.
- Other principles of search technology include annotation (a judgment about the cited site) and the frequency of such sites being linked by other sites.
- One problem with search is search engine spam which is irrelevant listings pushed up the index by bad actors looking to acquire free traffic.
- Companies should avoid hiring spirals in which each layer of management hires candidates that are less qualified so that hiring employees will not feel threatened.
- As much as 40% of some search companies' revenue is attributable to click fraud. Click fraud occurs when competitors or fraudsters click on ads with no intention to make purchases.
- Some of the ethical issues search companies face include disclosing information about their customers (of which they have voluminous amounts) in order to cooperate with law enforcement authorities and doing business in China where some search results are deemed off limits. As to the last point, most companies' brands do not suffer when they compromise with the Chinese government. However, since search companies' brands reflect knowledge and news, the brand can become tarnished when doing business in China which places limitations on knowledge and news. However, any company with international aspirations must conduct business in China.
- Due to an obscure SEC regulation, Google was required to begin reporting as if it were a public company when it was still a private company because Google had given stock options to more than one thousand of its employees.