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By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-11-28 Print this article Print

Clearly, the war to win the hearts and minds of Web searchers has only just begun. Heres a look at three of the major trends that emerged from the events in search in 2004: Targeting: Search became much more than Web-page results this year as the major engines attempted to stretch their reach into more targeted areas, from images and news to local and shopping results.
Local emerged as an area with perhaps the most potential for hyper-growth, if the users and advertisers follow the hype. Google, Yahoo and Ask Jeeves all launched geographically targeted sections of their search services, which tie together business directory and Web data in various ways.
Will local search reach its potential? Click here to read more. On the search engines heels are major phonebook companies. Verizon launched a more aggressive local search service, while SBC Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. joined forces to reinvigorate their online efforts through the acquisition of Inc. Staying relevant: As the amount of information grows, returning relevant search results becomes more difficult for search engines. Experimentation grew throughout the year as search engines strive to create customized card catalogs for users. Personalization became a watchword. MyJeeves, My Yahoo for Search and an offshoot, Inc., were among the early services basing results on past searches and user behavior. But desktop search also began playing a role in better relevancy. The more users can find personal files and e-mails, and pair them with data on the Web, the more pertinent the results will be. Google already dove in, while MSN and Ask Jeeves plan desktop launches by years end. Even Yahoo, whose strength is the Web not the PC, said it has desktop plans in the work. Staying relevant also requires that the search engines consider new approaches to retrieving results. Upstarts in particular began focusing on creating dynamic categories through clustering (Google even started talking about a similar approach), while startup Blinkx Inc. started returning search results based on the context of what a user is doing rather than keywords. Making money:Whether they are expanding services to better target users or make results more relevant, search engines had one goal in mind—making more money. Search grew into its own profitwise thanks to the rapid rise of search-based advertising programs. Yahoos Overture Services and Googles AdWords, among others, deliver targeted sponsored links based on a search term or the context of the content on a Web page. Advertisers bid for the top paid spots and pay based on the clicks on their links. Google alone relies on advertising for more than 90 percent of its revenues. To continue to meet advertiser demand and keep the profits flowing, it had to expand the number of times pay-per-click ads can appear. More Web searches help in a big way, whether they originate on, through a desktop application or through partners. Click here to read about how Google also is eyeing image-based ads. Ultimately, grabbing a greater share of advertisers dollars is what the Web search wars are all about. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.

Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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