Search Engines: Past, Present, and Future

Search Engines: Past, Present, and Future

Patrick Reid (University of Warwick, UK) and Des Laffey (University of Kent, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9787-4.ch078
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Search engines are fundamental to modern life, with Google stating that it dealt with 1.2 trillion searches in 146 languages in 2012 (Google, 2012). Google has not updated this figure since 2012 only stating that it is higher (Sullivan, 2015).

The use of the term Google as a verb is perhaps the strongest evidence of the impact of search and of Google’s status as the dominant provider. Search has a key role in modern society and as Rangaswamy et al. (2009, p49) write “search results can influence important decisions about someone's life, health, or a major purchase, or an entrepreneur's quest for an acquisition target”. The innovation of search enabled Google to offer advertising connected to search results and achieve a market capitalisation of $392 Billion in 2015.

This article makes a contribution to the Encyclopaedia by outlining the key issues regarding search. It does this by integrating ideas from academic and practitioner audiences to offer an integrated perspective on this important topic. The article firstly covers the key definitions, explains how search engines work and discusses the challenges of Web search. The competitive environment of search is then outlined which stresses Google’s dominance but notes markets where it is not the market leader. The essential topic of search engine optimization (SEO) is then analysed. The article then covers the evolution of paid search, the use of text based advertisements which are triggered by the terms in a search. The dramatic growth of mobile search in the last few years is then covered. Finally, before it concludes emerging issues in the search engine field are considered in the areas of the Semantic Web, rich media, and the challenges of privacy.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Click Fraud: This refers to the clicking on a paid search link for the sole purpose of making the advertiser pay, rather than because of interest in their website.

Mobile Search: Is the practice of conducting a search through a search engine from a hand held or mobile internet connected device, such as a tablet or smart phone.

Crawler: An essential part of a search engine which “crawls” the Web, using its linked structure to find webpages which can be analyzed and stored in a search engine’s index.

Semantic Web: An evolving area of Web related science allowing the meaning of various forms of communication to be defined and thoroughly understood, enabling the Web to be used effectively as a universal store for data, information and knowledge. Allowing the effective linkage and prioritization of themes, words, pictures and other data elements in a meaningful way.

PageRankTM: Google’s trademarked method of ranking webpages. This is done by looking at the webpages which link to the page in question, in terms of quantity and also quality – links from webpages which are themselves highly ranked carry a higher weighting.

Organic Search: Search which involves the matching of webpages in a search engine’s index with a user’s search term(s) through a ranking algorithm and does not involve any payment.

Search Engine Optimization: Refers to the process of maximizing the position of a website’s pages in search engine results. This is be achieved by a mix of code, design, architecture, a link strategy, relevant content creation and manual submission of websites to search engines. All these factors are in the direct control of the website owner and their developer.

Paid Search: Text based advertisements which are triggered by keyword searches and involve payment on a per click basis.

Location Based Services: Are software applications which are found on a mobile device, tablet or smart phone, and utilize the location of that device to modify its operation. The location is often discovered by use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) which may be available on the device or through the use of specific internet access points.

Index: This is the term used to describe the database of searchable content stored by a search engine.

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