Last week Google introduced something called “real-time” search results – basically results collected from news sources and from chat sources such as Twitter and Facebook. Material from these is now included in the Google index within seconds of it being posted. For those of you, like me, who’ve been working with search engines for years, it’s like going back to the (pre-Google) days of Infoseek and Webcrawler in 1999, when you could write something and see it at the top of the search results in seconds.
You can see these results in one of two ways. If the search term is busy (“trending”, to use the parlance) then the results will appear on the main Google results page, along with all the other types of results Google now shows, like images, videos, news and maps. It might be difficult to give you an example, because I’d have to predict what’s trending when you’re reading this, but let’s try Copenhagen. If it’s there, you’ll see the “Latest results for Copenhagen” panel a little way down the page. Write something into – say – Twitter including the word “Copenhagen” and you might see your own comment there in a moment.
This front-page display only appears for trending topics. For the type of subject areas we’re all involved in, you need to go to the dedicated “Latest” page on Google, which can be accessed by clicking “Show options…” top left. This search can be used to see how anything is being mentioned in news or social media. I just entered the name of one of our clients and was surprised to find a whole page of results (all but one relevant to the company) from the past 20 hours alone. So as a market intelligence tool, this can be very valuable indeed.
Now, I don’t think the “Latest” page on Google is likely to be of much value in generating traffic to your website in the immediate future, but it’s a sign of the way things are going. If the “long tail” was the most interesting development in marketing of the last decade, then maybe the “sharp spikes” caused by generating frequent content online is going to be the lead generator of the next ten years. If being at the top of the Google results is the way to draw attention to yourself today, then perhaps in a few years time it’ll be getting a new mention online every few minutes.