Search engine cooking and the "third page" of search
By Charlene Li
I wanted to pass along this article from the Washington Post, "My Dinner With Google" by Andrea Sachs, where she searches for recipes that use a set of ingredients -- such as tofu, oranges, and cauliflower on Google. As an avid cook, I've had my share of adventures with search engine cooking", usually as I try out new ingredients that I pick up at Bay Area farmer's markets. Most recently, I've had some cooking adventures with with corn smut (or cuitlacoche) and romanesco.
But what I find so interesting about this is that when I do "search engine cooking" (usually at the end of the week when I have odds and ends left in the fridge), recipes from my favorite site recipe site, AllRecipes.com, frequently turn up. I took a closer look at this, and found that AllRecipes.com uses static index pages around different topics versus Epicurious' dynamically generated pages. No doubt, this helps popular recipes show up well in the results.
The reason I bring this up is that I've been noodling around the idea of the "Third Page" of search (credit goes to Perry Evans from LocalMatters for prompting this train of thought). The first page of search is the query page (like www.google.com), the second page is the search results, and the third is a destination page on yet another search engine or aggregator that's been optimized for that query.
Here are some examples: seafood recipe, chinese restaurants in dallas, where the top results are a list from another site or search engine with better functionality to help with a structured search. And this makes sense -- my hypothesis is that while a particular Chinese restaurant will try to climb to the top of the search results for such a query, it's actually better for the user experience to see a list/aggregation of the restaurants.
Carrying that thought further, as vertical search engines develop, they will actively try to source much of their traffic from the general search engines, training consumers to actually seek out these brand names in the general interface and then drilling down into parametric, structured search on the vertical search site that's better suited for their original intention.
Hence the evolution of the "third page" of search, which extends the search experience outside of the original general search engine. I think we're seeing a subtle but fundamental shift in consumer search usage away from trying to find perfect destination page and instead, turning instead to aggregators and vertical search engines that understand (and can optimize for) the query better than the destination pages.
This has significant implications for the search marketer and site optimization firms -- it's one thing to try to improve your search engine rankings vis a vis your competition, but it's another when you're trying to beat out aggregated pages optimized for these more general queries. It points to the need for a multi-level SEO strategy -- focusing not only on optimizing pages on Google, Yahoo, and MSN, but also looking at your placement on sites like Citysearch and SuperPages.com.