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What if there was no Search Engine Results Page (SERP)?
Friday, August 03, 2007
You know with all of the talk about Google Universal Search and Personalization of search and with new releases of search engines results pages such as ASK's most recent update, I keep wondering as to what would happen if, in the future, the Search Engine Results Page (what we in the industry refer to as SERP) was no more?

Seriously think about it. For years now a search engine results page consisted of text results featuring a title, a description and a URL to the source. Of course there are sponsored ads that appear on the top and right rails. Kind of boring if you ask me. Of the main search engines, only ASK has been truly innovative with their SERP layout. Yet not many people get to see it because in terms of market share, ASK is a distant fourth place finisher (behind Google, Yahoo and Microsoft).

Then there's Google's attempt to spice up their results page with their Universal results. Still the same old boring page but now they have added video listings, or image listings, or news results, blog results etc. Fact is, the Google SERP is still boring. I would think that I am not the only one who feels this way. Surely there are others who think that the Search Engines Results Pages should be improved or even (gasp) removed.... Which leads me to my original question, what if there was no SERP?

In the traditional sense, when you perform a search for something, you expect to see results. That's a simple enough assumption isn't it? But how should these results be presented? Is a formal results page required? What would happen if you had your own personal page where you could drag and drop items as you see fit? You could drag blog feeds, videos, news links, text articles (or a condensed synopsis thereof) all to your single page. Think of it as an individual's online page. It's the one page where they go to get all of their information. Your page could feature your widgets, your social networks, your email etc. The "results" only change when you want them to. They are auto-populated based on the existing content that is already found there. So it becomes not a results page but a personal page. It's not a portal (although it could be), it's what you make it. The search engines no longer play the roll they do today. The user determines what content they view. Would this still be considered a "results page"? The best thing about it is that you wouldn't be exposed to the hundred of thousands of irrelevant results being returned by the engines. You get only the information that you want based on your query.

Of course there is still a search function, but just no search results page. You have pre-adjusted setting so that when you do perform a query, you determine if the content consists of audio, visual or text or all. Maybe you decide that the content comes only from a specific vendor's site, or you decide that the content contains no advertising. Basically all you need to do is drag and drop you content to your page. Then in the future when you look for that resource you simply type a related query into your personalized search function and the most relevant previously viewed source is presented. So no results page per se, just the most relevant result for your query. Search engine usage would be restricted to the single original query. Your personalized web page would be the one-stop shop that contains all of the "results" you need.

So to answer the question "what if there was no Search Engine Results Page?" the answer is that we would probably have an easier time accessing data that is the most relevant for our needs. We would not be presented with the "online noise" that is currently the millions of irrelevant results that make up the current search engine results pages.


posted by Jody @ Friday, August 03, 2007  
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