NOTE: I say Google, but really, this goes for all search engines. You're all the same.
Internet search is still above the water. You can only see the tip of the iceberg. It seems like technology that was developed in the early days of internet search is still very prevalent today. At some point search engines need to realize that improvement is not enough, they need to evolve.
The new Google search (Caffeine) offered real-time results and faster searches, yet quality of results is still the same. Microsoft Bing, the decision engine, created a lot of hype, yet the complexity and plethora of features it offered didn't really matter. Google is still number one with simplicity as its main feature. Yahoo search offered'¦ I don't know what it offers, I don't use it.
Frankly, all search engine results look the same and offer very similar results. I searched for 'hello' on all three engines and Hello Magazine ranked number one on all three. Eh, I checked Ask.com too, same result.
They focus so much on how they deliver results that quality of results suffers greatly.
Search engine optimization
I'll be frank with you, search engine optimization (SEO) should not matter. Why do content creators need so much control? Too many of them abuse it, which leads to search results being saturated with garbage and malicious content. (At least Google scans for malicious content now, good job).
Content creators need to focus on content. So many of them focus on marketing to increase traffic and profits that their content suffers horribly and adds to trashy search results. Quality of content should matter, not how well it is optimized for search engines.
The question is - how can search engines evolve?
Creating new PageRank algorithm
Does it really matter how many sites link to a site these days? So many people sell links, create link farms, and try to game the system that it really does not matter anymore. There are so many new variables available, that importance of linking should be reduced if not taken out completely. Creating a new PageRank algorithm would build upon old results, each time search engine (Google) would crawl through a website it would rank content with based on social media variables gathered from across the web. Current PageRank algorithm is obsolete, move on. Learn to let go of the past, you will innovate faster.
Everything is heading towards a semantic web. Search engines should be at the front of this movement. They need to bring all variables available on the web to offer most accurate results; crawlers should be aware of the web, not only index it. Look at research surveys, the bigger the sample the more accurate the results are. Including more variables would increase relevancy and accuracy of content.
Social Media Influence
Content should not be the only variable used to determine relevancy. Content creators are an important aspect of content's relevancy. This comes down to credibility; and a good way to judge someone's credibility online is to look at their social media presence.
Twitter followers, Facebook likers/fans, LinkedIn connections, etc. should be the new variables used to determine PageRank. I would go as far as recommending using Klout score instead, which offers a great look at someone's social media influence. High social media influence is a direct result of quality content and creator's engagement in the community, which is a good source of credibility. People wouldn't engage if it was crap.
Social Media Engagement
This is different from the previous point. This is directly related to the content. How many times was this retweeted, liked or shared on Facebook, Digg, Stumbled Upon? Counting unique engagements (ex: one retweet per user) would help determine popularity of content. Popular content would appear higher in the search results than less popular content.
Giving control to the people, instead of content creators (SEO), would force them to become more engaged with their visitors and focus on quality. This would not only improve search results, but it would improve the quality of content across the web.
I really don't care about real-time search results. I can wait a second or two for search results to show up. What I do care about is the frequency at which search engines index content. Search engines should index content as it's created or updated, not few days or weeks later. If the news content shows up in search results immediately, why can't all content show up in search results the minute it was created? Offer everything in real-time; now that's real real-time.
Social media sharing never sleeps. People share content 24/7, search engines should keep up with real-time sharing. This would ensure accuracy and relevancy of new content as well as old.
Nonlinear Search Results
It's hilarious, search engine results look the same across search engines. They use same navigation, colors, and layout. So generic, it makes me want to e-puke.
But really, linear results? That's so not 2011. Our thought process is not linear, so why confine us within linear results? Google has a cool tool, Wonder Wheel. But WTF? Why didn't they take it a step further and include search results, not just search queries, in the wheel? The wheel is a great example of how we think. We jump from one thought to another, it's not a linear process.
Imagine moving through search results as if you think. Now that's an experience. You jump to see the first result, but that's not what you want. You move out and look at others, you see something interesting and you move in closer to get details. It's not what you wanted either, but wait, there are bunch of results floating around that are based on what you're looking at right now. Hey, that result to the top left is what I want '“ you grab it and it opens in new tab. There is no wrong direction. Now that's thinking!
Plus, search results should include real-time social media conversations about search query (or topic). Twitter feed, comments, statuses - as long as they are relevant to what someone is searching for include it.
These are just a few ideas on how search engines can offer us a better experience and better results. Create new PageRank algorithm to focus on social media presence of the content creator, social media engagement of the audience, and get rid of linking (or reduce its value) variable.
This would take control of search rankings from content creators (SEO) and place it into the hands of people who search for it, democracy at its best. Let people consider what is relevant and what is crap, content creators are biased.
Indexing should be real-time. No wait time, I'm not at DMV. I wonder if search engines would appreciate if we didn't click on their ads as they show up '“ come back in two weeks, then I'll click it. Real-time is the key, whichever search engine will begin indexing as content is created that search engine will be light speed ahead of others.
Lastly, get rid of linear search results. Make it more thought-oriented. No 'Next', 'Back', '1,2,3,4.' Last time I checked, I don't have navigation buttons in my head and it's really easy to use it that way.
What would you like to see search engines do in the future? Tweet me.