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by Stephen Logan on 22nd September 2009
From an innovative Stanford search engine experiment from two students named Sergey and Larry back in 1996, Google (originally under a project name of BackRub) has seemingly grown exponentially. But today Google isn’t just known as the world’s number one search engine, it’s an online empire that has achieved everything from mapping the oceans to now dominating the news.
Last week Google received their highest ever amount of traffic to their UK news site. Whilst it is widely attributed to the influx of celebrity news stories, mostly revolving around the deaths of Patrick Swayze and Keith Floyd, as well as the more tabloid tales of Kanye West and Katie Price, the massive leap in popularity will have caught the eye of many.
Google’s major problem isn’t so much in attracting people, it is more in making them stick to the site. We reported earlier in the year that users spend more time on Yahoo and Google, which was largely believed to be caused by their popular news services and email. But could Google actually be muscling in on this too?
They’ve always offered news and it’s always been drawn from a variety of top sources. Google even index the latest related stories on their SERPs, making it difficult to escape coming into contact with a headline at some point on your travels. That said, Google don’t have news on their home page (iGoogle aside). Those who have become creatures of habit may inspect the news on Yahoo before going to their email account – and finally searching on Google no doubt. Arguably, this could be the thing to undermine Google’s ability to really promote their news content.
In terms of the presentation of their news content Google have been busy. Just last week in fact they unveiled the somewhat interesting if slightly underwhelming Fast Flip – featured in the post entitled Google Continue to Innovate but Does it Really Add Value? This, if nothing else, shows that they are working on their news, how it is seen and what they can do to make it different – and better – than any other multi-source site.
With the UK site hitting a ranking of 28th last week, clearly something is clicking – quite literally. People aren’t just going to their favourite news source and then using a Google search, people are finally doing both. Perhaps this is a temporary high, just a reaction to the unusual circumstances of the news that week and Google’s own news making in the form of Fast Flip.
Of course the big question of whether Google can become stickier will be posed when Wave finally gets worldwide distribution (it will be released on September 30th to around 100,000 for testing). The integrated email, messenger and social media tool could be a flash in the pan, or it could well become the communication tool of the masses. The two areas that Yahoo arguably had the beating of Google, mail and news, are now the areas that Google are beginning to promote and develop. Will a YaBing partnership be able to get near anything that their combined main rival does if they do indeed become stickier?
These pockets of news may seem a little incidental on the face of it. But with YaBing potentially getting the seal of approval early next year and Wave seemingly not too far off, the future of search engines has never been so difficult to predict or so interesting. Can Google become stickier and stretch their unique visitor lead? Will Wave just be a minor splash and are these news rankings just a one off coincidence? Can YaBing come up with something to eclipse it all? I’ll let you know in a year or so.