Real time search: is it for REAL?

Matrix Data Stream

Over the last month or so, there has been a lot of buzz about Real Time Search. Twitter is already doing it, Google wants to jump in, Bing introduced and many startups like OneRiot, Wowd, Twingly and Collecta are mushrooming, some with VC money. So is Real Time Search for REAL?

Let’s start with a definition of Real Time Search? To quote Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land

“Real time search” means looking through material that literally is published in real time. In other words, material where there’s practically no delay between composition and publishing. You take a picture and seconds later, it’s posted to the world to see. You think of something, immediately tap it out on Twitter, and your tweet is shared almost as soon as you thought of it.

Twitter, the leader in real time conversations, has 1.9 million conversations everyday. Number of unique trending topics per day on Twitter is approx 8900 with an average “shelf life” of 11 minutes. There are more than 100 million videos on Youtube (with more than 65k added everyday). There are over 200 million blogs on the World Wide Web (with over 900k blog posts added in a 24 hour period).

With the tsunami of information streamed at me every second, do I really need to turn the firehose on? Do I really need to “listen” to each and every tweet about MJs death or the Iran elections?

Google’s Marissa Mayer, VP of Search Products and User Experience, offers some thoughts on the usefulness of Real Time Search

We think the real-time search is incredibly important, and the real-time data that’s coming online can be super-useful in terms of finding out whether – something like, is this conference today any good? Is it warmer in San Francisco than it is in Silicon Valley?

I have a lot of respect for Marissa and what she has achieved at Google. I agree with her that Real Time Search is potentially useful to find out if a conference was good or not. But why do I need real time search to find out whether it is warmer in San Francisco than in Silicon Valley? I have for that.

Listening to Tobias Peggs of OneRiot at the OMMA Global Real Time Search Panel Discussion hosted by David Berkowitz,

60% of searches on the web are “Navigation” searches (20%), and specific “Informative” searches (40%). An example of a navigation search is when a user is trying to get to, or They will enter a search query in an attempt to find a recognized home page. An example of an informative search is when a user is trying to find a specific recipe for Cabbage Soup that is definitely “out there somewhere.” They enter a query in attempt to find that specific information.

The remaining 40% of users are performing search queries which display an intent that is best satisfied by realtime search results. Irrespective of industry numbers, Iran – the country, the situation, and the search query – has proved beyond doubt that there is huge demand for search results from the realtime web.

Whether or not the market for Real Time Search is 40% or a lesser number, I don’t think people ONLY care about what is happening “right now”. They care way more about “relevant” and “intelligent” information than “real-time” information.

Gerry Campbell, CEO of Collecta: a real time search engine, says

Is real-time search overhyped? He says it absolutely is. Not because there’s not a ton of opportunity, but because no one’s certain of what the opportunity is yet.

I think most users will be okay with results that are a couple of minutes dated to allow for indexing & analysis of data and make it meaningful. OneRiot and Wowd seem to be on the right path.

OneRiot offers users to sort search results by Pulse (a weighted rank of freshness, domain authority, people authority and acceleration). Similarly, Wowd offers the user two options in doing true search and real ranking (analysis done on the basis of link analysis, popularity, a multitude of search signals like keywords in the title, as well as other signals like the number of retweets on any given tweet, and freshness).

As real time search evolves, we will need to add another “R” in there: RELEVANCY.

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About Nitin Gupta

This blog compiles my thoughts and views on the innovations, tools and trends in digital marketing. I have spent more than a decade in financial services, last few studying retail banking and payments industry trends. Particularly interested in the convergence of digital, data, technology and financial services. Email: Twitter: NitinGuptasays LinkedIn:
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Ted Morris
Ted Morris

Nitin, This is brilliant. Real time search is easy with a defined set up URL's. With regard to the entire Internet, fuggedaboudit! There is no technology on this earth or universe for that matter, that can search/orbit the entire WWW every day and come up with all of the relevent content about an issue, brand or whatever and be filtered, tagged, quantified and delivered. I know this from direct experience having worked at a social media monitoring firm. Instead of orbiting the entire web, some SMM firms identify the most relevant URL's as they relate to a specific industry vertical or brand and use this 'sample frame" and the search universe. In effect a sub-universe of the Internet used for 'real time search" with results that are RELEVANT Well done. Cheers, Ted.


Ted, It is definitely a tall order and that is why nobody has succeeded it at yet. As you said, it is much easier to dish out real time content than relevant insights. It will be exciting to see how the space evolved over the next 12-18 months. The SM monitoring space is getting very interesting too with firms like Radian6, Media6Degrees, Techrigy, Visible Technologies. Thanks for visiting the DMT blog. Nitin


Mark, Thank you for visiting the Digital Marketing Today blog. I appreciate your input on the methodology Wowd uses to sort and present relevant results based on ranking. I did read the referenced whitepaper and have updated the blog post. I wish you the very best as you further refine the search methodology and grow Wowd. Thanks Nitin

Mark Drummond
Mark Drummond

Great article, good observation about relevancy. The problem with most so-called real-time search is that it's not search at all... it's just filtering a stream of information. So older material is just thrown away. True search involves finding the *best* information from a comprehensive index. You have no chance of building a comprehensive index when you're throwing away perfectly good information that happens to be outside your filtering window. At Wowd, we offer the user two options in doing true search and real ranking: find the most Popular material, or find the Freshest material. Doing this right involves solving two different optimization problems, taking different factors into account. We feel that the user knows what they want (top-quality reference results, or freshest results), and we put them in control to get what they want. More info at our blog ( and in one of our white papers (