This is an interesting article that got me on a whole comment or rant:
I have been pondering how search engines can be more efficient for the online consumer and search market. This comes from both as an SEO and as an online consumer. I believe I am fairly prototypical of most Internet users/searchers. I do not get overly sophisticated with my search, keeping mainly with Yahoo and rarely Google (opposite, seemingly of most of the market, so I segment myself a bit lower than most searchers, actually).
What I do do, is I use the search engines, always, to first find information. I am not shopping right away, I want information. In fact, I use the price comparison sites to do my shopping because I want good prices and good service - those portals are more helpful for my shopping purposes than search engines. But those portals are good for general mainstream products. Search engines, I find, are good for niche or specialty products. Search engines are also good for services. I believe it would be hard to have a shopping portal like Pricegrabber or Bizrate for services.
When I am searching for information - like how to start a ticket brokerage business, I am only searching for information. I want resources. However, if you do a search, you find listings from current ticket brokers selling tickets - completely unrelated to the information I want. Now it is possible that there are no sites with that kind of information, but as an information searcher, I would like to know that there are precious few sites with that kind of information- right away- and not have to wade through listings or sites that do not offer the information I want. In fact, it makes me more biased AGAINST those sites that show up in those unwanted listings because I know they are trying to corner information and sell me, when all I want is to simply find information.
I did a similar search for SEO. At first I wanted SEO information - how to do it, ideas, what it is, etc. Once I had that information, I looked for SEO services. In both instances, I found pretty much the same mix of listings. That frustrated me because in one instance, I wanted usable, processable information. In another instance, I wanted to find SEO agencies that can show me what they can do. That mix of research and commercial information in a search is frustrating to me as a searcher - and I can only imagine that normal users not familiar with search engine marketing can be just as frustrated.
When I look for services or sites to buy certain products, I like a directory-type listing. I know I am interested in doing business with someone, but instead of going through all of the listings, I want to pick out a few of the top, most promising sites, check them out, and make my decision. Again, kind of like the shopping portals, I do a quick evaluation of what sites I will spend money on, depending on the information they present to me at their directory listing.
So my point is, as a searcher, when I want information, I am only looking for information and not at all looking for merchant or business information. I want research - not a sales pitch.
However, this trait in me is a problem when it comes to SEO. Our clients want top rankings and when keyword analysis shows that certain terms or phrases are searched for a lot, we want to optimize for that - because the competition does. But therein lies another problem in keyword analysis, which is, at what point do the terms go from research to commercial? Unless we can think exactly like the searcher, how would we know if someone who searches for "ticket broker" is looking to start a ticket broker business or is looking for a ticket broker to buy tickets from? "Ticket broker" is such a general term that it can go both ways. Can a search engine be equipped to ask the user - "are you looking for research information or looking to buy?" I dont even know if that is feasible or economical for the search engines to do.
I believe this situation has to change because both online users and marketers will want it. As an online user, I can say that when I want to find information and I use the search engines, I HATE getting commercial listings unrelated to my search. When I want to find a product or service, I want to find the vendors - not information sites. I do not want my search listings mixed up - causing more work for me as the searcher. By nature, I am using the internet because I want information fast, quick, and I want it now - whether it's information or contact information with intent to buy.
Whether search engines can step it up to help define this right away, or individual entrepreneurs will step up with more specialized portals - and an ensuing internet war for virtual real estate dominance - it is clear to me as both an SEO marketer and online user that the search engines cannot continue to mix commercial and research lisings together as the internet community and online shopping community continue to grow. The infrastructure, the foundation of the infrastructure must be built.
My two cents.