Real time search results, that show what people are saying ‘right now’ on the ‘live web’, has been a battle ground for search engines in the last 12 months.

The battle has been stoked by Twitter, whose platform has made the whole concept possible.

Google and Bing moved quickly in 2009 to surface results from the latest news, blogs and reviews, and both ended up doing a deal with Twitter to feature Tweets in the Search Engine Results Pages.

Real time didn’t live up to the hype

Once the Twitter Integration went live on Google, tweets to and from brand owners (like 123-reg) started to appear at the top of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for brand searches. The reaction to this change was mixed. To users, it wasn’t always useful to see what brand owners were talking about on Twitter – it distracted them from simply navigating to the brand’s website. And for brand owners, it was a potential hazard – Twitter conversations aren’t ones you necessarily want to air to newcomers.

Drawing attention to an eye-tracking study from oneupweb, the Guardian said that users started to ignore the content.

It seems that Google in particular found it very difficult to decide which Tweets were important, and flooded its own results with fairly useless information.

Twitter is trousering significant revenues from the deal. Until their own advertising platform takes off, they’re going to want it to succeed.

After a few days of Twitter results appearing high in the SERPs they almost all disappeared, and now its not easy to find them at all.

Something that needs more discussion

This was a topic covered at Search Marketing Expo SMX West in California. The major search engines said they were continuing to try and work out which queries to show results for, who’s Tweets were important to show, how to work out what was relevant, and how to get rid of spam.

Enter some new players

To try and answer these questions there are three search engine start-ups, who might just be able to show where ‘real-time’ can add value.

CrowdEye.com: This search engine just features Tweets, and uses a ‘CrowdRank’ algorithm to decide which are the most relevant Tweets and links. Users can filter the results by time, and shows hourly tweet volume in the last three days.

Collecta.com: Allows you filter by many different things, including photos, blog posts, blog comments, videos and status updates,

Topsy.com: Applies ideas from both the above, allowing users to filter by source (photo, web, tweets) and by time and relevance.  It lets you look a lot further back than the last three days too.

Real time search hasn’t been worked out yet, but these start-ups seem to be making a better fist of it than Google and Bing.

Is real time search here to stay? Is it useful? Leave us a comment below.

Nick Leech runs Digital Marketing Agency Euston Digital

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