In yesterday's session named The Search Engine Landscape, I reported Jay McCarthy from WebSiteStory as saying:
Search engine referral and direct navigation have similar trends. Internet links and search referral have crossed over, no longer do people get to sites with links, but now they use search, its not a web anymore.
I wanted to expand on this concept. Basically what it means is that people are getting to Web sites differently then in the past. For example; a year or so ago, more people visited Web pages by visiting page A, and clicking on a link on page A to page B. Then they clicked from page B to page C via a Web link. This past year, Jay McCarthy reported that the hyperlink style of navigating the Web has been surpassed by individuals using the search engines. Basically, if I find a concept on page A and I want more information about it, I might highlight the phrase and copy/paste them into Google.
I was thinking about this data during my 8 hour drive back to New York. Let's think about how search engines rank Web sites. One of the main components that factor if page A should rank above page B is the linkage data. Simply because, that was the way the World Wide Web worked. Page A links to Page B so the reader of Page A can find out more about a particular topic.
If people are now less likely to navigate the Web via hyperlinks and are more likely to navigate via search engines, we have the potential to lose one of the core factors in ranking criteria, linkage data. This of course is not an issue now, the if you saw the chart posted at the conference, the line graph was pretty shocking, in my opinion. User navigation via hyperlinks were declining at the rate user navigation via Web search. If this trend continues, less and less linkage data will be available for search engines to rank Web sites.
I thought to myself, can this happen, is it happening? Are people not linking to Web sites anymore and relying on the user to use Web search? First memory that popped into my head was that I have noticed that many new pages are linking to search results. For example, I commonly notice a sentence like, "If you want more information about widget, search Google." where the link to Google would contain the search phrase. Not convinced yet? Well, my new OS (Apple Tiger) came with a new search feature named "Spotlight" which has revolutionized the OS. Everything I right click on, any word, any file, pretty much anything in any program has an added two options. (1) Search in Spotlight and (2) Search in Google. How hard is it for someone to now right click on a search phrase or word and click on "Search in Google". Am I saying people will stop linking to pages? I doubt that; look at the number of times I linked to other pages in this entry. But think about the possibility of such a future.