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Jakob Nielsen`s Current Take on Search Engines

01/09/06

As you may have recently over on WebmasterWorld, Jakob Nielsen has an interesting take on the nature of search engines and their effect on the web. In fact, in his own summary, the former member of Google's Advisory Board said...

Search engines extract too much of the Web's value, leaving too little for the websites that actually create the content. Liberation from search dependency is a strategic imperative for both websites and software vendors.

This comes from Nielsen's most recent Alertbox of January 9th, 2006. All in all, the main point is that the search engine has become less of a path and more of a destination for those seeking out information online. With that approach in mind, I would have to agree with Nielsen -- search engines are more of a destination now than a path leading to valued information.

Another major point that Nielsen brings up is that "Search Bids Eat the Gains of Site Improvement". The argument there is that paid search or cost per click acquisitions are eating up the profit margins for productive web sites. In other words, you're paying more than ever to drive traffic -- but with conversions being as low as they normally are, sites are becoming less profitable based on the work involved to get them to the point they are at.

Nielsen goes on to say that the "liberation from search engines will be one of the biggest strategic issues for websites in the coming years." While the statement seems a bit over-dramatic for my taste, I would again agree that Nielsen has a point here. He lists Email Newsletters, Request marketing, Affiliate Programs, Newsfeeds, URL Promotion and Mobile Developments all being part of that liberation process.

Those are all great supplements for a successful web site -- but I would be hard pressed to say that there's a more cost-effective manner for driving targeted web site traffic to any domain than traditional SEO. As a final thought, consider this. Is Nielsen's argument for liberating a web site is to rely on these supplemental sources, than how could a web site generate legitimately new leads or customers? In all cases you're paying for either a new visitor or using up technology and money to contact existing customers.

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