Here we go again with the my index is bigger than your index stuff. While search industry insiders will gleefully debate this for days and days, it makes not a whiff of difference to ordinary people across the globe.
There's a certain irony to the whole "we've got X billions of objects/data/files" discussion in light of the fact that most users don€™t go deep (or much below the fold):
- iProspect (4/04): 82% of users don€™t go beyond the third page of results; approximately 50% don€™t go beyond page one.
- Eyetools/Did-it/Enquiro (3/05): by the time you get to the eighth organic result, you€™ve lost 70% of your audience. On the paid side, the same study found that 70% of the audience was lost after the third sponsored listing.
I was also speaking, today at SES, with Richard Zwicky. He was showing me analytics data that confirm the vast majority don't go beyond page one of search results.
What I, Joseph User, care about is accuracy, quality and relevance. The available index does matter in terms of bringing me a sufficient quantity of results. (And if I'm looking for something really obscure, having that thing in the index is obviously important, which may go to size.). But there's a major case of diminishing returns — there's already way too much information online for people to assimilate. Throwing more volume at me does nothing but make my eyes glaze over. What I want is enough relevant results.
Admittedly that's going to vary depending on the circumstances and the nature of what I'm looking for. And in local search one of the historical problems has been not enough content in enough categories. That's getting better by the day. The challenge now in both Web and local search is to capture and organize the information in a way that enables me to get to the data that I want efficiently.
To their credit search engines (and many others) are working on various approaches to making search more relevant or personalized or capable of being sorted according to my interests and intent after the fact. But everyone needs to bring order to the chaos that is the seemingly exponential proliferation of information and opinion online. The blogosphere is a metaphor for that chaos.
Somewhere out there there's a blog or site with a discussion of recommended bike tours of Costa Rica or the best BBQ in Atlanta or the perfect inn in Aix en Provence or how to qualify a general contractor for a home remodel.
The Internet is a miraculous thing and what the search engines do is remarkable in many ways. But, having said that, help me get to the most relevant information responsive to my query as quickly as possible.
I really don't care about anything else.