The search industry thrives because of the search engines, the searchers(Users) and the people who work behind the content of every form of web resource which gets ranked on the search engines. i.e the web designers and developers, the SEOs, the PPC campaign managers and ofcourse the think tank behind the search engines.
People have been searching since time immemorial. Let us not go the stone age of Flinstones , though the activity of search was prevalent even at that time but the needs were basic so the search was for food. But as the civilization took place and people got educated searching for food for thought has been an ongoing activity for research and development.
In early days people visited libraries for reading books and writing notes which took a lot of time, effort and patience from the person who was in pursuit of finding something. Then the digital data was available on CDs which was like a mini search engine limited to what was stored on the CD. With the internet reaching every nook and corner of the globe and now of course with high speed broad band connectivity and search engines with sophisticated algorithm and indexing architecture search is faster, simpler, easier and offers many options.
Search engines when they started had the main focus on quality results. Undoubtedly, today also the focus remains on quality but the focus today on quality is getting blurred by the proposition of making money out of search. Earning profits is a good thing and is very much needed as only when you have the propensity to pay only then you can have satisfied employees and you can innovate and offer high quality services but when the focus gets biased on profits alone and especially when it comes to the search scene the whole purpose of search engines gets defeated.
From the search engines perspective if paid search gets more importance than organic search the creative and technical work force gets diverted for such activity though you have an increasing bank balance somewhere in the future you tend to lose out quality thinking staff and end up as a media company alone rather than a technical company. Now that is a scary thought for any company who establishes its identity and gets its importance because of the technology developed by them.
From the User’s Perspective
Now from the user’s perspective or from the perspective of a searcher. Firstly, due to the speed factor and social media interaction the patience levels of the people are diminishing and people who used to surf at least the first 2-3 pages a few years ago are now not going beyond the first few results. And if the real estate of the first few results is occupied by paid results, then the corporates who can pay for the display of their business on search engines are going to benefit maximum from the search engines as their CTR is going to be the maximum and if the first few results of organic search are from Wikipedia and other portals because of the umpteen no. of inbound links they have, the SMEs and other companies who have worked on their sites to rank high have already lost the battle for having a global reach via search engines.
As the result of these developments the SEOs and online marketers try to work out other options for web presence and visibility for their websites, that indicates a shift from the search engines to other media where the user can find what he is looking for. Lately according to statistics and the blogosphere posts Facebook is giving serious competition to Google as Facebook has the social media feature along with the feature of search which is ever evolving and the members increasing in volumes. Twitter a micro-blogging site is not far behind and is trying to enrich its features keeping the user in mind.
Hence, if the search engines balance the display of paid and organic search results along with offering the other search options then the search engines will continue to have their prime place in search lest other sites offering social media features along with search shall be the next place where the netizens will be rushing to find what they are looking for.
Well, every change or evolution brings with itself the questions and the answers too. When Google switched to Google Instant for the display of results the main objectives were fast and fluid results as well as an importance and priority to paid results. But again I have a strong feeling that once the net is mobile in a big way and people surf and search more with their smart phones the touch screen devices shall overcome the drawback which Google Instant has given to the sites which heavily bank on SEO. As it is not possible to have every site in the first 3 rankings for all the keywords targeted by that site.
This is just a temporary jolt to the sites as regards rankings. But being a strong advocate of organic search as I firmly believe that if search results are dominated by paid results then the search engines lose their identity of being sites dedicated to search. They get reduced to any online paid directory, the only difference is that the search is not category based. The search engines should not become a platform for only those who can afford big online marketing budgets but should also offer an equal platform for the SMEs and other small entrepreneurs who rely on search engines heavily for global exposure but have limited budgets but are working continuously to make their website qualitative in terms of content and functionality.
During my training sessions for SEO I always tell the participants that the search engine is the only place where a multi-national company having huge infra-structure and a local company with a very modest set up can have the possibility of equal business opportunity. But if search engines give undue importance to the display of paid results then this whole purpose is defeated .
We all know that for getting listed under sponsored listings you just need the propensity to pay but if you want your site to be ranked high for organic search you have to enrich the site with the best possible web aspects and quality inbound links ensuring the fitness of the site just as a balanced diet rich in all the nutrients in right quantities offers to a person . I am sure everyone wants a WWW which will have fit websites rather than just clutter and chaos.