For years the big gripe against search engines was how far BEHIND they always were. The most recent content in search results was often weeks or months old. In recent years Google has tightened up the time lag, and now I often see posts from blogs and news sites that are sometimes just hours old.
But suddenly Google is getting even more ambitious. The buzz is all about "real-time" search results -- content that turns up in Google almost as soon as it gets published to the Web. Google's founders have said that they are pushing hard in this area, and it shows in Google's results of late. Posts from this humble blog, for example, turn up very quickly.
The reason for the push is Twitter, which has become a sort of grassroots source for vast amounts of real time information on both the trivial -- what's on tomorrow's school exam -- and the crucial -- news tidbits from eyewitnesses to the Mumbai terrorist attacks and the Iranian demonstrations. Twitter offers a search engine that taps into Twitter "tweets" pretty much up the second, and Google, in a sense, has a bit of Twitter envy. Why? The blog TechCrunch has a thoughtful post on the subject with a heavy-duty quote from one of the pioneers in this area: "Real time taps into consciousness, search taps into memory. That is why it so potent. You experience the world in real time.”
That's a highfalutin way of saying that it would be great if search could reveal what's on people's minds a heartbeat ago -- as opposed to a few days ago.
News organizations will rejoice because they've always wanted Google to capture their news stories in real time, instead of days after the fact. Or will they? If Google captures a New York Times story as soon as its published, it will also capture tons of related content from posts and possibly Twitter tweets as well. Google's search pages are going to get a whole lot more crowded, and staying on top may get even harder, even for a big, important newspaper.
So what does this mean for fishing guides, charter operators and outfitters? Look at it this way: if you have a website that doesn't change much, then your site's visibility will start to sink beneath the ever advancing tide of blog posts, fishing reports, and, eventually, tweets that flood your corner of the market. Go to Twitter.com and type in "bass" or "trout." There are posts from a few seconds ago. Maybe you'll buy search to try to keep your business above water, but that gets expensive.
The best answer, and the most cost effective, is to generate your own Google-friendly hubbub by posting regular fresh material, such as fishing reports, photo galleries and so on, and plugging that into Twitter and Facebook (time to sign up if you haven't).
If that sounds daunting, then don't worry: GoFishn.com will make it easy. And it's coming soon.
By the way, you can follow me in Twitter @neddesmond and Ned.Desmond on Facebook.