WordCamp Europe was an awesome experience, and some of the things that came up in Paris have been on my mind ever since. One was the question of search engines.
Now, I think about search engines all the time. Mostly Google, because Google does the lion’s share of the search engine work done in the world. My main job is to help clients communicate well with Google so their websites can accomplish the business goals they have set.
Check out the breakdown of search engine use below. Core Google Search, Google Images, YouTube (which belongs to Google), and Google Maps account for nearly all of the searches. Bing and Yahoo (which belongs to Bing) have a tiny encampment. Facebook and Amazon show up as tiny internal outposts, and neither Facebook nor Amazon is tiny.
So naturally my attention is generally drawn to Google’s search engine, when I’m thinking about search engines.
But the topic of search engines came up quite a bit at WordCamp Europe, and it wasn’t generally about Google. Matt Mullenweg said he thought that having a huge corporation essentially control what we see online might have some consequences, and he might have been talking about Google, but there was quite a bit of talk about the WordPress search engine, too.
The WordPress search engine?
You will be excused if your reaction to the idea of a WordPress search engine is “huh?” We actually use custom Google search on a lot of the websites we build, because the native WordPress search engine is somewhat limited.
But WordPress has another search engine. We’re talking here about the one at WordPress.com. If you have a WordPress.com account, you’ll see a Reader pane when you go to WordPress.com. At the top of the pane is a search engine which shows results from WordPress.com websites.
How good is this engine? Well, it doesn’t have the same scope Google does, so it depends what you’re searching for. If you want to read about travel, crafts, or sports, you’re in a good spot. If you’re looking for a business, you’ll probably give up before you find anything useful.
If you have a WordPress.com website, you should check out the WordPress search engine. It functions differently from Google and provides different results from Google’s blog search. If you’re using a WordPress.com site for your business, you have an opportunity to get in on the ground floor. As the search results page for “Fayetteville AR doctors” below shows, the WordPress search engine is currently worthless for local business search. That probably means that people don’t bother using it in that way.
But WordPress is working hard on bringing local businesses to WordPress.com, and it’s obvious that any local business that cared to could get top results in the WordPress search engine right now.
Would that be like getting the first local listings at Google? Who knows?
It probably won’t be worthwhile to set up a website at WordPress.com just to participate in the WordPress search engine. But if you’re there already, work to get your site to show up for your keywords in the reader just as you do on Google. WordPress currently powers 28% of all the websites in the universe. We can’t predict where WP will be heading in the future.
You might want to be there.
Update, December 18, 2020: WordPress now powers 38% of all websites in the universe. The search engine at WordPress.com is still useless for local search.