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Searchers are blind to Real Time Search

Alex Christie

16 March 2010

At the end of 2009 Google launched real time search results to show Google users updates as they were happening around the web. This pretty much meant crawling Twitter and displaying the tweets from trending topics. blog picAs you can see in the screenshot pictured here the real time search results are all from twitter.com. If you are a Twitter user this isn’t useful at all because you can easily do the same search in Twitter and get the same results. The Google real time search results also display Yahoo Answers and news articles but generally the results seem to be Tweets.

A recent study done by OneUpWeb showed that both searchers looking to make a purchase and searchers looking for information largely ignored the real time search results. The results showed that 73% of the participants had never heard of real time search results and by looking at the eye movements of the two different groups of searchers it was determined that the real time search results were ignored by the majority of searchers. As is expected the largest amount of eyes looked at the top of the results page.

This could be for two reasons, I think. The first reason would be that searchers are familiar with Google and generally know that the most relevant and trustworthy results will be at the top of the page, and secondly the majority of searchers were not aware of the real time search results and therefore would not be looking out for them or would not understand what they were for or how they could use them.

I do have one concern about the study however. Its participants were asked to search for a product that they were looking to purchase or to gather information on a product. beckhamReal time search results are more relevant in my opinion to searches that contain current news story keywords like ‘Tiger Woods mistress’ or “David Beckham Achilles tendon’. In these searches you can get a quick update as to what is happening rather than making informed decisions regarding your future purchases.

Real time search results have been around since the end of 2009 and questions need to be asked. Are they useful to Google users or just a gimmick that looks good on the surface? And will they become more important once more consumers become aware of them?

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