Historically, Internet search engines from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have collected information from websites on the Internet on a scheduled basis. It would take at least a few hours for information to be collected and prepared so that it would be displayed in search results. That was fine in a world where a few hours didn't really affect the relevance of the information (too much).
Enter the real-time
One of the hottest topics on the web right now is the concept of Real-Time. With the advent of tools such as Facebook and Twitter, which involve instantaneous interaction, the search engine providers have been missing a large part of the information being generated online. The information being shared on these sites has a considerably shorter life. The context for most of the information shared on these sites is within a few minutes.
Earlier this year Microsoft's search engine, Bing, announced real time search results from these sites. Google recently announced the same. And while both providers support real-time results, it's very simple to see the results from Google updating in front of your eyes.
See it working
Why not try it out yourself? Maybe check out what's being said about the most infamous guy on the planet at the moment - Tiger Woods. If you scroll down you'll see a section that is titled "Latest Results" and will look something like the following image.
The items in the latest results section will update in real time. It's intriguing to watch the new entries pop up. If you search for something and it doesn't show up automatically, click the "show options" link under the search box and then the latest. The following images should show you how to do that.
Why not try some other popular topics or even your company name to see what's being said? Another hot topic at the time of writing is the Australian Government's attempt to filter (censor) the Internet. Don't get me started.
What does this mean?
So what does all this mean for business? I can see a few different positive and negative impacts:
- Brand monitoring - This suddenly just became a little easier. Rather than having to head out to different locations to search for what was being said about your company or brand, you can now get this straight in the search engine results. The flip side is that people will also be able to easily find out what's being said online about your company at that instant.
- Competitive intelligence - research what the competition are doing just became easier. You can find out, up to the second, what's being said about your competitors or about the industry.
- Market testing - You can get almost instantaneous market feedback from some released to market. For example you could see customer feedback on a press release or product release.
- Customer service - You'll be able to identify customer issues in a more timely fashion.
I'm sure there are many other purposes that real-time search could be used for. Are there any you can think of? Share them in the comments for everyone.