Real Time Search Still Needs an Original Source

Originally Appeared on
By Dave McAnally, Associate Director, Content Solutions

Matt Cutts had a post a couple Thursdays back talking about the efficiency of Google's real time search in reporting and reacting to events of the Bay Area earthquake. Within 2 minutes of the earthquake, Google's real time search box was triggered and reporting events right away.

This is all well and good, and certainly a testament to the effectiveness of whatever triggers are used by Google to show real-time activity.

The one thing that struck me here was thus: If it's such hot stuff that Google can show real-time activity within 2 minutes, what does that say about the origin of the query? What I mean is that when we're talking about delivering late breaking news, Google is still only able to enter the information game at the point of query. In other words, somebody has to be actively searching on Bay Area earthquake or a variation thereof in order for this functionality to be useful. Don't get me wrong that's not a bad thing, but I feel like the information and capability Google has is restrained because it's dependent on a query in order to be activated.

The challenge I see now for Google is to find a way to deliver pertinent real time activity (notice I'm not using the phrase 'search result') to their users BEFORE the point of query. In other words, they should be able to be telling people who would want to know (and let's be honest, Google knows enough about its users to know who would want to know) about this event before they hear about it somewhere else and go trolling Google to find news about it. If you can track a trend that quickly, why then should your ability to disseminate information be dependent on people already having some inkling of what's going on and hitting up Google to learn more?

Potential opportunities:

  • Forced News Alerts: This could be viewed as interruptive, and as thus, a hard sell
  • Geo/demo-specific real-time results that scroll on the Google Homepage independent of a query: May be a hard sell cos Google loves the whitespace
  • Perhaps an entirely new product for real time search is in order
Google's ability to deliver ads based around real time events could force advertisers to stay on their toes more, but without a doubt, Google could drive a huge revenue stream from driving ads to people about news before they even think to go performing queries about it.


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