Web Search is constantly evolving. First generation search analyzed words on the page to rank content, second generation search tapped into link analysis and today search is becoming more personalized and specialized. By combining horizontal search, where the user searches a wide spectrum of material, and vertical search, where the user searches only through one topic area, the search engines are blending listings from their news, video, images, maps and other databases together onto one page. Google’s new Universal Search unifies all these different offerings by including links, where appropriate, to the standard Web results. All those listings, which were previously available only through the One Box displays and weren’t utilized by most users, limiting the scope of their results, are presented now on one page. The move ensures that the users receive all relevant content, by expanding the number of databases they are searching behind the scenes.
Google is not alone in coming up with a Universal Search application that incorporates both vertical and horizontal searches. Ask.com has recently launched Ask3D, a new multi-faceted search interface that goes beyond Web pages to include images, video, news, blogs, music files, weather and other data. 3D stands for the three dimensions of search: Expression, Results and Content. Ask presents the most relevant types of data in categories within the search result, segregated by content type. While Google’s universal search integrates it’s results into 10 blue links, where videos images, etc are mixed in within the rest of the web search results, Ask 3D using it’s new content matching and ranking algorithm – morph, keeps them separated and only shows a certain type of media if it’s relevant to the query. It also gives a user option to refine the search — narrow it or expand and review related searches.
Yahoo and Microsoft are also not far behind, working to implement similar changes. Yahoo’s Alpha search engine combines searches from across Yahoo’s vertical databases into a neatly organized two column display. Search results include Yahoo’s web search, News, Yahoo Answers, Flickr and other features like You Tube and Wikipedia. Imagine Live — a new search test site for Microsoft’s Life Search also uses two column displays — web results on the left and images, videos, news, maps and related searches on the right.
As search engine research techniques keep improving, access to more information is becoming simple and straightforward. The new search model offers users a more integrated and comprehensive way to search for and view information online. It breaks down the massive amount of information that exists on the web and provides the very best and complete answer to each query. The new search will also provide fresh opportunities for search marketers. As such, search engine marketers have to understand how search engines build various types of listings and help their clients enter appropriate databases.