A Decade in Search – 2009

Jan. 07, 2010 | by Addam Hassan

As part of our decade in search series I wanted to pick out a few highlights that have caught my eye in 2009. We know of late Google has been pumping out new products and services quicker than Santa delivers presents. However, before we even touch the wonderful world of Google let’s take a quick look at what was called a pretender to Google before we really understood its main purpose.

The Pretender

WolframAlpha is “an online service that answers factual queries directly by computing the answer from structured data, rather than providing a list of documents or web pages that might contain the answer as a search engine would”. With that in mind this young pretender turns in to a no hoper if you were planning to do conventional queries. But where it comes in to its own specific data related queries or referencing. One of the weird ones is the ISBN barcode


Yes that’s right. It’s pulled up the corresponding barcode for the ISBN number. I’m not sure this will leave any of the search engines quaking in their boots.

A Familiar Friend

Nevertheless moving on to another new but familiar friend we have Bing who also made a splash in 2009. Bing is the new search engine from Microsoft that was formerly known as Live Search, Windows Live Search, and MSN Search.


Just like with their names Microsoft keep trying to improve their search engine. However apart from the name changing Microsoft have made an effort to bring something new to its service. First of all the ever changing homepage image which has always impressed me each time I see it. Another is how Bing now organises search results into categories. For instance typing in Margret Thatcher will allow you to see the normal set of results on the right hand side but on the left there are options to delve in to more relevant and related results such as the ones listed below:


Not to be left out Yahoo! made a deal with Microsoft that would mean Bing would power Yahoo! Search. This all being said Google has pretty much owned this year and not just because of the size of the power house search engine but the developments they have put live.

Here Comes Google

The Vince update that boosted big brand websites within Google SERP’s was the cause of much conversation here as iCrossing UK. Liz Ayers and David Peiris did some fantastic analysis trying to unravel how Google might be using it’s algorithm to display this SERP’s . I’d advise you to take some time out and have a good read of it.

Caffeine was another update that was more focused on upgrading the engine of Google rather than the enhancements of the algorithm. Matt Cutts explains on the Webmaster Central blog that “The new infrastructure sits “under the hood” of Google’s search engine, which means that most users won’t notice a difference in search results” and that this update is “the first step in a process that will let Google (us) push the envelope on size, indexing speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness and other dimensions.”

Google Social Search is a personal favourite of mine and is an experiment featured in Google Labs.  Basically “Google finds relevant public content from your friends and contacts and highlights it for you at the bottom of your search results.” Right now in Brighton it’s snowing so a quick search shows this for the term ‘snow’


The content areas that Google uses can be broken down in to three areas (Web Search Help):

  • Websites, blogs, public profiles, and other content linked from your friends’ Google profiles.
  • Web content, such as status updates, tweets, and reviews, from social services that your friends have listed in their Google profiles.
  • Relevant articles from your Google Reader subscriptions.

To find this content Google uses your social circle. “The following people make up your social circle:

  • People you’re connected to through social services that you’ve listed in your Google profile, such as Twitter and FriendFeed.
  • People in your Gmail (or Google Talk) chat list.
  • People in your Friends, Family, and Coworkers contact groups for Google.

It’s all very logical, simple in it’s idea but very clever and useful. If you want to find out more try watching MattCutts (with his lovely shiny Minority Report looking head, sorry Matt I couldn’t resist.)

Google Social Search was a step in to the Social Web but was then later followed by real time search. Amit Singhal a Google Fellow goes on to explain what this means for the end user.

“..Immediately after conducting a search, you can see live updates from people on popular sites like Twitter and FriendFeed, as well as headlines from news and blog posts published just seconds before”

Of course the main difference between Social search and Real time search is that latter is focused on topic, trending and drawing content from sources that will predominately feature outside your social circle. Not stopping there Google’s personalisation that was only available to users who had Google accounts changed its policy and made it available signed-out users worldwide using a 180 day cookie. This means the traditional ranking factors that Google uses to rank still are valid. However in your day to day searching your frequently visited sites will be more prominent in your search results where relevant.  This has caused a real stir in the SEO community but like always this is yet another opportunity for the digital community to come together and provide digital strategy as opposed to single channel marketing.

Well that’s what caught my eye in 2009. It’s been a very challenging year for us all and will be the year that saw social come in to its own. I wish you the very best of luck in 2010 and I leave you with this final link that made me smile.

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    Comments (4)

    • Addam Hassan

      @LB, well spotted. No I didn't mean to do that. Hmmm, will look in to changing that asap.Jan 21, 2010 12:15 pm

    • LB

      Did you incorrectly spell 'Margret Thatcher' on purpose? :-)Jan 21, 2010 04:21 am

    • Chris Eden

      Nice solid round up Adz!Jan 8, 2010 10:41 am

    • Magico Martinez

      Good post. Well done sir.Jan 7, 2010 10:46 pm

    Please note: the opinions expressed in this post represent the views of the individual, not necessarily those of iCrossing.

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