Sphere, Local & Problems with Blog Search
As you remember from where we last left our story, the number of blogs was doubling every six months and we now have over 35 million blogs out there (per Technorati). Sphere, a new blog search engine, formally launched today. It’s getting positive reviews (see Om Malik for more detail, TechCrunch and Loren’s update here at Search Engine Journal).
Right now blogs appear in search results but the major engines have separate destinations for “real” blog search. But I as a consumer am interested in information, from whatever source. I don’t want to go to search engine A for “regular” results and search engine B for blog results. I don’t know that the results might be different or care frankly.
Blog content/search presents a special problem for Local. There’s tons and tons of valuable local information in the so-called blogosphere (hence the name “Sphere”) that is buried and effectively invisible to most consumers. Blog content is akin to word of mouth. Where can I find the best auto mechanic, best landscape contractor, best pizza restaurant?
For example, here’s a Sphere search for “San Francisco restaurants.” There’s a lot that’s irrelevant here, including a link to this blog halfway down the page, but you also see the potential to capture the information daily being published by the millions and millions of people out there who are talking about local businesses, local culture and so on, in their area (on a global basis). This is what “microformats” are supposed to be about — structuring blog content to make it more easily searched/indexed.
Mining that local information and getting it integrated into local search results or making it accessible at any level to consumers would be tremendously valuable. In fact, a really effective blog search engine is going to be a better Local Search tool than the best IYP site or Local Search destination – because of this word of mouth content.
What we fundamentally need to see is integration of blog content with general search results so that consumers can obtain, in one results set, the entire range of relevant information. And because of this lack of integration, blog search is definitely an area of opportunity for someone — maybe Sphere.
Greg Sterling is the founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm focused on online consumer and advertiser behavior and the relationship between the Internet and traditional media, with an emphasis on the local marketplace.