Are search engines on their way out? In a word, no.
Now that everybody is raving about “The Social Network,” that people find most of their intellectual information on Wikipedia, and that companies can be found through business directories and LinkedIn, some fringe elements of the online marketing crowd are starting to talk about the downfall of the search engine, specifically Google. Claims that the search results have gone downhill are being used to justify this.
Myth 1: Search Engines Are No Longer Needed
It is certainly true to say that there are now alternatives that did not exist before. If you are looking for academic knowledge, Wikipedia can answer a fair amount of your questions. If you want to find somebody, Facebook and LinkedIn are a good place to look. If you’re looking for random information or entertainment about subjects you are interested in, you can browse Technorati or StumbleUpon.
It is nonsense to say that any of these, or even all of them combined, can replace the search engine.
Social networks like Facebook are great for letting you know what is popular with your friends. Social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon can keep you up to date about subjects you are interested in. Neither can tell you about something specific that you need to know about right now.
Similarly, Wikipedia can’t answer everything under the sun. There will never be a Wikipedia article about the best DIY method for decorating black tennis shoes. It simply won’t happen. Only a search engine can find this kind of information for you.
Myth 2: SEO Has Ruined the Search Results
Nobody can deny that there are more content farms and made for AdSense sites than there were in the past. The myth is that they have actually harmed the search results in Google. It may be true that most of these sites provide what has been called “thin” content. This is beside the point.
If these sites truly have ruined the search results, it would mean that they are burying good search results. The evidence to suggest this is lacking, to say the least. Is the entire front page of the search results filled with spam? No.
True, it’s not uncommon to see that the first few listings might be filled with thin content that is highly keyword targeted. But what comes after that? It’s rarely a highly authoritative document about the subject. Instead, it’s a mostly off topic page.