Is Real Time Search worth the hype?

Fri 14 August 2009 08:00, Louis Venter

Is Real Time Search worth the hype?

By now we all know that FaceBook has acquired FriendFeed, Facebook lite could possibly rival Twitter and according to many people the future of search is “real time”. But is it really? I’m not convinced.


What Real time search does well

IMHO real time search is at best a reputation search engine. A user Twitter searches a brand and reads the groundswell of positive or negative brand mentions out there. Great. Better than Google? Certainly. Google probably places far too much emphasis on a few consumer forums and outdated content. A disgruntled customer also has to put far too much effort to be heard through traditional search.

A high profile Tweet, though, could be read by millions really quickly, and while the coverage will certainly die out quicker I suspect the negative impact is probably greater. As a result brands need to engage now more than ever.

In my view real time search will probably form an integral part of validating purchasing process AFTER a supplier/ product is already chosen.

So all the hype is validated then?

Not for me, not even close. This is where the value of real time search starts unravelling.

Michael Arrington uses the commercial aspect of search to promote the revenue earning potential of Twitter.  Personally, I feel that this is completely irrelevant and he has completely missed the point. Real time search does not have the same quality of result as traditional search and, therefore, does not have the same advertising potential. Intent is also an issue.

I believe the reason that the search listings become such great places to advertise is the intent of the searcher. That intent is based upon need to find a product or service. Advertisers will spend budget on targeting that audience, as they are likely to deliver great ROI. Will people ever turn to Twitter to FIND a supplier rather than validate a choice? I don’t think so.

Why all the hype?

The cynic in me says the hype around real time search is a tactic motivated to improve stock price and position the social media platforms as “the next Google” just because they do “Search”. To me, its all part of the social media tech bubble but that’s a post for another day.

I may be way off the mark but I really don’t think the hype is justified. The potential revenue just doesn’t stack up but feel free to comment, call me an idiot, and show me where I missed the boat.

Comments (23)


  • I think that it is still so early it needs time to really develop by real time search will become increasingly powerful as time goes on.

    Wo 19 aug 2009, 15:14

  • I don't think your logic is flawed but perhaps your perspective IS. You are looking through the eyes of an advertiser - you don't believe the real-time search audience is as likely to convert as traditional searchers. And you may be right.

    The point you are missing, however, is that real-time search is a feature that could greatly improve the quality of search results - for time sensitive or rapidly evolving topics. And this improved quality will please the searchers - which is Google's (and other search engine's) first and most important audience.

    Whether the advertisers get a lower ROI on their ad dollars is not the primary concern. The search engines will work to please their primary audience even if it means less a benefit to their advertisers.

    Wo 19 aug 2009, 15:29

  • I'm quite curious Bill what you see will be improving the search results? The fact that something is new doesn't make it better.

    Real time search can definitely be handy when the subject you're searching for is real time news, like the death of a famous popstare :). However, when looking for reviews of a product real time doesn't make the review any better or worse.

    What is might improve is the actuality of the search results, but that doesn't have to be real time.

    But as said, I'm curious about what you see will improve the quality of search results.

    Wo 19 aug 2009, 15:35

  • There is much about news that is very time sensitive. For example, if I told you the local bridge fell down and the information is one second old, it is very valuable. If the information is one year old, almost worthless.

    Wo 19 aug 2009, 16:22

  • Certainly news results would benefit from real-time search - which, by itself, makes the endeavor worthwhile. According to Tobias Peggs of OneRiot, "40% of searches would be best answered by results from realtime search engines (these are people trying to find out “what’s going right now” for something as heavyweight as 'Iran Election' or as entertaining as 'Britney Spears')."

    Wo 19 aug 2009, 16:32

  • Yes, news searches are without a doubt interesting for realtime, but that might be better in a specific real time channel, not mixed in with the 'regular' results, or at least, as with universal search, highlighted.

    But is that improving the search results? Its improving the news-results yes, but the search results?

    I'm sure real time search is going to play a big part in the future, but I believe it will be a channel.

    Wo 19 aug 2009, 16:38

  • It will be a measure of a search engine's intelligence to know when a real-time search will benefit a user and when it wont. Creating a separate channel would probably create confusion.

    Wo 19 aug 2009, 17:18

  • Hi Bill

    I agree that an integrated approach would work well for Google, seperately highlighted like Bas says, my concern is that people wouldnt neccessarily turn to a real time search engine when looking for a supplier or service.

    I do get your point on not looking from an advertising perspective but advertising sales projections are IMHO inflating their valuations so its tough to seperate the two.

    thanks for the comment!

    Wo 19 aug 2009, 17:40

  • I completely disagree. I use a firefox plugin that pulls twitter search into my google results. And much of the time I am just as interested in public opinion about a product or service as I am with who google decides to place in the serps.

    Real time helps even with things like reviews because old reviews can be misleading. what if the product changes, what if a restaurant gets new ownership? Also, w twitter specifically, I can ask the person talking about it for information directly since it's currently on their mind and they are online.

    I see a lot of potential for search marketing and real time search. Sorry you don't see it.

    Wo 19 aug 2009, 18:51

  • Thx Fitz

    Not sure we disagree that much though. Pulling in Twitter results to validate a Google search makes a lot of sense, but note that youre using Google and validating with Twitter, not searching on Twitter.

    To me thats the future of real time but the traditional search forms the backbone.

    thx for the comment!

    Wo 19 aug 2009, 19:16

    • SiobhanFromDragonSearch
    • [website]

    Way too soon to meaasure the affectiveness or lack there of of real time search.. lets give it some more time. Also, I agree with Bill.. creating a separate channel would only lead to confusion.

    Do 20 aug 2009, 18:34

  • I think that your points are valid on real-time search as far as Twitter goes. However, consider real-time indexing (which is probably in the works at Google). Imagine not having to wait days or weeks for your site/post pages to show up in the that would be power!

    Do 20 aug 2009, 22:36

  • Actually Jacob, Searchcowboys gets indexed within minutes, so we're getting there :)

    Do 20 aug 2009, 22:38

  • Using all the "real-time" search engines at once can give you a live pulse on hot topics to supplement the normal news channels. Try it:

    Za 22 aug 2009, 06:33

  • Jacob, real time indexing is already nearing reality...if your site is well liked. ;) Ever see how fast Digg and other news sites (and searchcowboys, apparently)get pages indexed? Its insane.

    Ma 31 aug 2009, 21:48

  • You probably missed on something about improving high quality for such real time search. That's all, you've elaborated enough already.

    Wo 16 dec 2009, 06:40

  • I think if you have quality then real time search will help.

    Ma 28 dec 2009, 05:27

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