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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Web 2.0 Search: Mind Meets Maths

Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Move over SEO, SMO has arrived. With Internet users contributing, tagging and ranking content in Web 2.0, search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN and Altavista have been compelled to re-engineer their algorithms to incorporate social media search. As a result, search engine optimization (SEO) is giving way to social media optimization (SMO).

Before the advent of Web 2.0, Internet users depended heavily on search engines that crawled the web, looked for ‘meta tags’ and threw up results on the basis of ‘key words’ ‘key phrases’ and in-bound and out-bound ‘links’.

This logic gave rise to the burgeoning business of stuffing websites with ‘key words’ and ‘incestuous link-exchange’ alliances with a view to ensuring a good
search engine result page. Web 2.0 has changed all this.

With Internet users starting to play key role in generating and ranking content, websites that drew power from stuffed
keywords became ‘untouchable’. Search engines were quick to detect this fraudulent way of websites to gain top page rankings and started treating them as ‘spam’. After all, the prime role of search engines is to meet the information needs of Internet users. Realizing that ‘spamming’ was becoming a scourge of the Internet, search engines were compelled to study the behaviour patterns of users.

A close study of user behaviour prompted leading search engines to reformulate their algorithms to incorporate what is known as ‘semantic’ search. The search behaviour of users has become the determining factor for deciding the algorithms of most of the popular search engines. Many global players are trying to incorporate
social search in their search tools to drive high traffic. For instance, Yahoo's My Web 2.0 social search service looks at search through an entirely new lens.

Common to all Web search today is emphasis on ‘link analysis’: the more incoming links to a given site, the greater its weight in search results. However, Yahoo's social search has shifted the emphasis to the opinions of a searcher's friends and colleagues from the links of other Web publishers. Similarly, MSN too plans to unveil its social search tool in near future. The popular Wikipedia, which has almost caused the death for Encyclopedia, too is planning to come up with a search engine, ‘
wikia search’, that follows the semantic map of user’s behaviour. In the face of rising social searches, what then brings traffic to a website is the focus on long tail keywords, popular tags, and an in-depth research of the behavior of social sites.

It is precisely for this reason that Web 2.0 portals like
Digg, Furl, Reditt, and other book-marking sites, which evolve around the concept of ‘semantic search’, are fast gaining popularity.

A social search engine throws up more semantic results because it follows the collective wisdom of Internet users – human intelligence rather than cold mathematical logic.

This has made the task of SEO firms more challenging, as these now need to put in extra efforts to optimize the websites for social search engines as well. The new challenge before SEOs in the Web 2.0 era is how to make the content of websites popular among online communities through social media.

This would entil convergence of the algorithmic search and semantic search.
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