Stephen Logan

Google Goes Real-time

9th Dec 2009 News, Industry News 5 minutes to read

Google logoGoogle introduce Twitter updates in a real-time feed for the first time in their SERPs.

The much mooted and oft lauded social media integration has finally hit the pages of today. Whilst this is part of a progressive roll-out, it signals a significant change to their SERPs; both in terms of aesthetics and functionality.

Soon, along with news, adverts, blog posts, images, local businesses (where appropriate) and the actual search results themselves, you’ll find a rolling feed of Twitter tweets. This looks to be only the start too, as no sooner were Twitter updates launched, but they also announced that Facebook and MySpace messages were in the pipeline.

Cluttered or Progressive?

Google, once famed for its clean, easy to navigate pages has suddenly become a little complex. Overly complex perhaps? The current US site, bearing in mind international spread is likely to take a few days longer, has a cluttered feel. Finding what you want with any immediacy is a challenge to say the least. The page appears to be bloated; overflowing with information, not all of which is wholly useful.

This is a zoomed out image of the entire Google page, in this instance for a search related to the phrase ‘health care’:

Full Google SERP with Real-time Integration

New Google Real-time SERP

Below is a normal screen view, in which the advertisement, news and live Twitter/news feed push all but two of the search results from view.

Normal Google SERP View with Real-time Integration

New Google Real-time SERP

As you can see from the above images, there is a lot now filling the humble Google result page.  In some instances this may be a straightforward way to scan information relating to a popular subject; however, with so much happening on one page, it’s not always easy to fight your way through and get to what you actually want. Of course this example uses a very generic phrase, not the kind of thing that most would search for if trying to find a product or service, but it’s hard to ignore the barrage of adverts, news, rolling feeds and everything else that has been shoehorned into this elongated page.

Searches for terms such as ‘Copenhagen’ are even more jumbled; with news, city guides, tobacco information and the climate summit all rolled into one segmented page. It’s easy to be critical, especially in these early stages, but as with all Google updates this could take time to iron out all the creases whilst searchers become accustomed to the new updates.

First Step Towards a Real-Time Google

The page also appears to be very malleable. Occasionally news and the live Twitter tracker sit at the top, ahead of the ranked pages, whilst other times they slot in midway through. From an SEO point of view, the more information that appears above the natural results, the less likely that visitors are to see them – or at least be bothered to scroll all the way down well below the fold of the page (as highlighted in the images above).

But these are very much the first stumbling footsteps of real-time search, for Google at least. It will be interesting to see how the integration of Facebook and MySpace goes and how often the tracker is used by searchers in this initial phase. With the transitions that are happening within their algorithm [see: Could Page Load Time Become a Ranking Factor on Google], this long-awaited step towards real-time is going to be one more thing for search engine marketers and webmasters to be aware of.

But ultimately this is just the first step, and I’m sure there will be many more to come in the future. Google appear to be juggling a whole wealth of information, they now just need to find the most effective way to display it on one results page.

Real-Time Timeline

As mentioned, real-time search hasn’t sprung from nowhere. It has been a topic that has been scrutinised and debated right throughout the year, with various steps leading us to the first integration with Google. Below we’ve pieced together a few of the major stories that have lead us here:

May 22 2009
Is Real-time Search Really the Future for Google?

Back in May we still questioned whether Google would adopt a real-time element following the huge success of Twitter.

July 2 2009
Bing Unleashes Real-time Search
At the beginning of July, real-time search became a reality. Microsoft’s brand new search engine Bing was the first major search site to adopt Twitter updates into its results, albeit only sourcing information from the most popular accounts and utilising a special search term.

July 10 2009
Google Still Finding Real-time Search Interesting

Five months ago Marrisa Mayer, VP of search products at Google, admitted that the search giant thought that ‘real-time search is very interesting’; the first clear indication that they were looking to develop their own version of Bing’s Twitter feed.

July 13 2009
Is Real-time the Real Deal?

Following these developments, we questioned whether real-time search would really be the future for companies like Google and Microsoft – little did we know.
July 15 2009
Real-time Search Inches Closer with BingTweets

BingTweets was one of many sites looking to combine natural search results with a Twitter feed. The only difference was that this was officially sanctioned by both Microsoft and Twitter. Whilst BingTweets never became a roaring success, it did start to show how real-time search could develop.

July 29 2009
New Twitter Home Page Incorporates Search

Twitter add a search function to their home page, leading some to question whether social media might actually replace search engines in the future. Real-time, aggregated search was finally achieved, but would it be successful?

October 8 2009
Twitter Negotiating Real-time Search Deal with Microsoft and Google

Negotiations begin for Google and Bing to officially incorporate Twitter tweets.

October 22 2009
Google and Microsoft Complete Deal to Herald Real-time Search Era

The deal is concluded meaning that both Google and Bing were free to start siphoning tweets into their searches.

October 23 2009
Is Social SEO the Future of Internet Marketing?

With a deal now struck to incorporate Twitter into the two major search engines (assuming of course that Bing assumes control of Yahoo next year), we questioned whether SEO would have to adapt to the new real-time, social world.

November 12 2009
Bing to Ring the Changes

Microsoft revamp their search engine, introducing Wolfram Alpha searches and paving the way for real-time

December 8
Google Goes Real-time

And there we have it, a brief history of real-time search from our archives. The development has been phenomenally quick; from dragging their heals back in May to full on integration in December, both Google and Bing appear to be trading blows in a bid to tap into the wider social resource.

What do you make of local search? Is it going to be a flash in the pan, soon to be disposed of when the Web 2.0 furore dies down? Will it affect SEO and the way we market websites? Is Google aggregating too much information, or is there more to come? Let us know what you think.

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