OR www.google.com to try it.
Google now pulls up not just search suggestions as you type, but results for those suggestions as well. So if you type in 'kittens' (I like to do that, as I need regular doses of kittens during the day) and I type it r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y - because I can type the word 'kittens' and hit 'enter' faster than Google's Ajax can pull out and display results - what happens?
My top results offered to me as I type are:
k - KLM
ki - Kiss Radio
kit - Kitbag.com
kitt, kitte, kitten, kittens - Kittens for sale at Pets4homes
None of these are anything like what I am looking for. The first three are not even close.
The last one is at least the right idea, but has misunderstood my mission - I am not shopping.
If I were, I'd be pretty disappointed - when you click through you don't even land on a page about kittens! It's a generic pet sales website. If I WERE shopping for kittens, I would never in a zillion years buy kittens from a random internet ad. so the selection is pretty poor for my own personal search mission, too.
Only when I finish typing my search and hit Enter do I actually get the Image Search for Kittens that I crave.
Possibly, Google will learn over time that I like kittens. Maybe in a few weeks time, I will get the kittens I seek right off the bat from typing the letter 'k'. That would be nice, and yes, it would mean that someone else doing the same search would see different things, but then they probably did before. Personalised search has been around for a while now.
But the point that the BBC and apparently not a few bloggers are missing here, is that I'm still looking for kittens. The fact that Google are displaying other stuff that also begins with 'k' doesn't mean I am distracted and suddenly decide to book a flight to Antwerp. The KLM website may come up when I type 'K' but it's not a useful advert - it's meaningless noise in the context of my search for kittens.
Is it useful to be number 1 for 'k' ?
There are very few sites for which it's actually useful to be found for a one-word or even worse, a single-letter search. I wish more website owners understood this.
People who have run a one-word utterly generic search are giving you, the website owner, almost nothing to go on. For smaller businesses, those one-word searchers are almost certainly not looking for what their site is providing. By running such a generic search, the searchers are sending up big flags saying 'I haven't really decided yet and will probably search again before I make a decision'.
If you are Amazon, then having your site displayed first for a search for 'books' might be useful. You sell a very large number of books and have a monstrous infrastructure that can support having millions of vague, unqualified searchers who may eventually decide what book they want and actually purchase it from you. Or not.
How generic is your site really?
But if you are a seller of - say - beatrix potter first editions then if you DID come up first listed on a search for 'books' then your little shared hosted website would swiftly buckle under the sheer number of aimless gawkers. You probably wouldnt' sell them anything at all because they have no idea what they want - YET. And if your site came up first in a search for 'B' or 'Bo'? Might be useful for genuinely huge shops, but would be absolutely pointless for anyone who specialises at all.
Effective searches use several words.
Anyone who knows how to get decent information out of Google knows that, unless you have a very clear idea of exactly what you want, you'll need to run several searches. Even if you do have a clear idea, you will probably search for a two or three word phrase, because most words have multiple meanings and require a context.
I'm always baffled that people who DO know this and use it in their own searches, are unable to turn things round and realise that the best visitors for anything other than total lowest-common-denominator sites like Amazon and Argos will be searchers that have used reasonably detailed and highly relevant search strings.
Personalised search doesn't mean SEO is pointless. It just cuts out some of the window-shoppers
And that means that this is really only a useful innovation if it becomes personalised - and the only way that it can do that is if people START with the longer search strings and find sites they like. It's like saying 'bookmarks have made search pointless'. You still need to do the searching to get the relevant results to start with. And for site owners, it will still be important to ensure that they use appropriate search terms within and around their websites - the art of search engine optimisation or SEO.
So far as I can see, this will, at best, be an alternative to 'oh drat, I can't remember what site I saw that on, best trawl through my history, I know it's in there somewhere, the background was sort of pinkish and it was by someone called Johnson...'
At worst, and without personalisation, it will be nothing but background noise.