The Real-Time Algorithm Update

Google is always looking for new ways to improve the way we search for information online. The constant change in their algorithm updates can be frustrating for marketers. However, in the end, these updates help to create a better customer experience which is good for everyone.

Over the years, Google has done a lot to change the way we consume information. But for all of their forward progress, there have been algorithm updates that have fallen short. Such was the case with Google’s “Real-Time” update.

Filling Customers’ Need for Instant Information

We have so much information at our fingertips now. Our phones have made it possible to have everything from a ride to the airport to food from our favorite Thai restaurant right to our front door in no time flat.

You could say, we’ve been used to getting things fast.

Information is no different. There was a time when we’d have to wait for the morning paper or evening news to find out what’s going on in the world. But thanks to the internet and social media, we’ve become used to getting information much faster.

Google saw this need for instant information and decided to great an algorithm update around it. While past algorithms did allow users to see “news” relevant to their search, this Google algorithm update would focus on producing up-to-the-minute results. That way, instead of reading “yesterday’s news” users would receive breaking information.

When the Real-Time Update was announced, many people were excited. Instead of having to search over multiple sites for the latest details on important current events, we could have it all in one place with a simple Google search.

Great, right?

Then why did Google scrap the Real-Time algorithm update just over a year after launching it? Read on for the whole story.

A Look at Google’s Real-Time Algorithm

Realizing that they needed to do more to satisfy users’ need for up-to-date information, Google decided to make a big change to the way their algorithms handle breaking news and current events.

Typically at the forefront of the information search game, this was one of the rare occasions when Google found that they were falling behind the competition.

Back then Twitter was, for many, the go-to place for breaking news. This was thanks to a constant flow of user-generated information, and the ease of tracking current events with hashtags. Twitter was the perfect place to go if you wanted up-to-the-second details about a particular news story.

Google just couldn’t compete.

Even their competitors like Bing saw the need for better breaking news search solutions. They brokered a deal with Facebook and Twitter to status updates from their websites in Bing search results in real time.

On December 7, 2009, Google announced an algorithm update that would add real-time results to certain search queries. Similar to Bing, these results would come from top social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Today, we know Facebook is a great source up-to-date information on current events, but back then, Twitter was king when it came to breaking news.

Past Google algorithm updates did give weight to pages that were deemed as having “current information”. However, search results for a news story would be a mix of content that was anywhere from a day to months old.

If you’re trying to get details on current events, that simply won’t do.

By making their own deal with Twitter, Google could offer users status updates on current events in real time. The updates that would earn the top stop in a Google search ranged from influential users to status updates that were upvoted via social engagement.

Why Did Google Do Away with Real-Time Search?

The success the Real-Time update depended on Google’s relationship with core social media sites. However, their deal with Twitter didn’t last.

We don’t know all the details about why Twitter and Google parted ways, but by walking away, Twitter effectively made the Real-Time update useless.

By July 2011, Real-Time Search was no more.

Google would later try to replace the value that Twitter brought to the table by launching their own social network site, Google+.

However, as we know now, Google+ would not become the success that Google had hoped.

Today, Google still gives a lot of weight to websites with “the latest” information. However, they are still not quite as quick social media sites when it comes to breaking news.

What Can We Learn from the Rise & Fall of Real-Time Search?

Although this algorithm did not stand the test of time, there’s a valuable lesson we can learn from the rise and fall of Real-Time Search.

Google put themselves in a vulnerable position by relying on third parties, mainly Twitter, to be successful.

Once Twitter pulled out, there was nothing they could do. What promised to be a great feature for their users was gone in an instant an there’s nothing they could do about it.

So, what’s the lesson?

As website managers or SEO professionals, we often get excited about the latest SEO hacks.

It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of following the latest tips and tricks. Then after a short time you watch your traffic plummet when the next big Google algorithm comes along.

If we can take anything from the history of Real-Time search, it’s that we can’t put all our eggs in one basket when it comes to SEO.

SEO trends are great, but it’s important that your web presence has a strong foundation so you’re not always at Google’s mercy.

As for Real-Time Search, the update may be a thing of the past but our need for instant information is bigger than ever. Today all major websites understand the importance of creating streams of up-to-date content.

Social media sites are changing the way we find the latest news. It wasn’t too long ago that Facebook created the “Breaking News” feature that highlighted stories that were just unfolding in their Newsfeed.

As a local business owner, there are ways you can get into the “breaking news” game as well.

Pay attention to the latest news in your niche. For example, if you run a pediatrician practice and see an influx of patients coming in with the same cold symptoms, share that information with your audience.

For more tips on how you can become the go-to local expert in your field, contact us today.