An Imminent Revolution in Search

This is going to be a slightly incoherent rant about the changing world of search, as I’m currently quite jetlagged and doped up to my eyeballs with drugs to fight a chest infection. I’m not complaining though as all this is the result of a rather magnificent three-week honeymoon in New Zealand (yes we did plan it around the Rugby World Cup) (no it was her idea) (why do you think I married her?!), it’s just an explanation for my somewhat unhinged output.

I think everyone who works in search understands on some level that we’re living in truly interesting times. There’s a sense of anticipation, a mood of imminent revolutionary change.


SEO has never been a static industry. As long as search engines have existed, and thus as long as SEO has been around, there’s been a ceaseless state of flux, a continuous exchange of fire between search engines and optimisers. SEO is all about change.

But I think there’s something different going on right now. It’s more than just the usual tactical shifts and changes in arsenals. It feels as if there’s a truly epic revolution on the horizon, one that we don’t yet fully comprehend. Something we probably won’t understand until it’s hit us square in the face.

The rise of social media, and its growing impact on search, seems the likely source of this imminent revolution. But somehow I don’t think social is at the true core of what our industry is going through right now. The embedding of social in search is, to me, more a symptom than a root cause.

No, I think that this imminent change in search, whatever form it may take, is about search quality. Specifically about how search engines like Google have lost the fight against spam.

You may not see it at a glance, but when you look deeper it becomes a nearly unavoidable reality: search engines suck at fighting webspam.

Yes there’ve been some major algorithmic changes with varying degrees of success (most recently the ongoing Panda updates) but those versed in the intricacies of search know that these are just band-aids. Patchjobs aimed at fixing enormously glaring flaws. They’re not structural solutions that address the core problem with search today.

That core problem being, of course, that search results still primarily rely on link profiles, and that link profiles are easily manipulated.

Google has been throwing all kinds of weapons against webspam, everything from algorithm updates to enlisting (i.e. brainwashing) SEOs to help clean up the SERPs and file spam reports, all the way to its recent endeavours in social signals with Google+.

But I get the distinct impression that core people at Google realise all too well that these measures are not going to last. These are just temporary fixes to keep the machine running for a wee bit longer.

A fundamental shift in search engines’ approach to search is required. That much seems clear. What exactly this shift should be, that remains an open question.

Change is coming, as it always has in SEO. But this time, I believe it might be a change so drastic it’ll be on a par with Google’s original launch back in the ’90s as a link-based search engine.

There’s a new Google coming, but it doesn’t have a name yet.

About Barry Adams

Barry Adams is one of the chief editors of State of Digital and is an award-winning SEO consultant delivering specialised technical SEO services to clients worldwide.

9 thoughts on “An Imminent Revolution in Search

  1. You might as well strip off, wear a barrel as clothes and run about wild eyed and frantic announcing the rise of the new search like its akin to armageddon. let me have a go at a similar prediction:
    “some where in the world of motoring in the next year an important thing will happen, not sure whats its gonna be but its going to turn the world on its head and everybody is going to be like WOW”

    There is a chance you might be right – and then you can say Ï told you so” Well done

    1. Well damn, mr/mrs ‘fish’, you’re on to me! You got me totally pegged! Next time have the cojones to post with your real name and we can have a proper troll-fight. If you’re up for it, that is. Anonymous cowardice is for pussies.

  2. Social is bad for search, and search is bad for social. There are better ways to stop search spam,

    Adding “social” inputs to search ranking didn’t work It made the results worse. The Google Places debacle of October 2010, when Google started merging “Places” results into web search results, made that clear. (See my paper on Places spam at “”). Social spamming is easier and cheaper than link farming. The social sites even host the spam – no need to set up dummy web sites and blogs.

    All that spam pollutes the social world, with spam programs generating fake reviews and Twitter feeds intended to be read only by search engine spiders, but which show up in places where humans see them.
    (Search for “They did a great job on our carpets. It looks like new “, and see how many reviews for different firms in different cities use that text.) Citysearch, Yelp, Myspace, and Craigslist have been lost to spam.

    So what works? Recommendations are worth something if they come from actual purchasers of the product. Amazon and eBay know who bought what. Random free accounts can’t spam those.

    We (Sitetruth, at “”) have a hard-line solution to search spam. We do automated due diligence on the company behind the web site. First, we try to find out the real-world company behind the web site, and their actual business address. If the business is anonymous (which is illegal in many jurisdictions), it’s downrated. Then we get information about the company from the SEC, corporate registrations, business licenses, and Dun and Bradstreet reports. That tells us the size of the business, their income, how many employees they have, how long they’ve been in business, what line of business they’re in, and their credit rating. With that, the business can be rated and the search results adjusted accordingly.

    This puts a stop to most web spam. Anonymous link farms disappear. We can tell who’s a real business and who’s a referral site. A business with too many domains for its size is clearly a spammer; that gets the content farms with their “what you need, when you need it” pages. Companies in financial trouble can be downrated in search results. The legitimate businesses then move to the top of search results.

    The data we use is tough to spam. Because we use business credit data, the information about a business doesn’t’ come from the business. It comes from their banks and creditors.

    We have a big hammer, and we’re going to use it. We can crush web spammers like bugs.

    Our patent portfolio includes two issued patents and others pending. We have strong coverage over this whole area. Nobody else can do this. We’ll have some announcements over the next few months as we roll out more of the technology.

  3. You’re so cool! I don’t suppose I’ve read through a single thing like that before. So great to find someone with a few genuine thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This web site is one thing that is required on the web, someone with a little originality!

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