How to Keep Up To Date in Search

The search industry never stops. From AltaVista to Google, and GoToast to Search Ignite, the fortunes of companies and technologies evolve over time.

I was reminded of this recently when training new hires. They'd never head of names like AltaVista, Excite, Lycos, etc. -- companies that defined the search space less than 10 years ago.

So, how do you keep up to date?

Ignore the Noise

It's important to recognize that there are many, many blogs and articles published about search every day -- and many more "experts" on forums and Twitter and in Facebook and LinkedIn groups.

You can ignore most of them. The ability of the search industry to report on, discuss, analyze, argue about, and regurgitate a fact until it has been distorted out of all proportion and attained myth-like status is legendary. There's a lot of noise -- so you need to spend your limited time on sites that are credible and, most importantly, correct.

It's also important to note that the search engines are no longer search companies -- they offer much broader product lines; so you will need to keep up to date on developments in all their products, too, as search is often integrated into them (and paid search revenues pay for them).

Select an RSS Reader

I can't think of an industry news site that doesn't have an RSS feed -- so choosing a good reader is crucial. There are many available. I use Google Reader to collate and organize feeds by topic in folders as it's tied to my Google login and easy to use on any computer, iPad, or mobile.

I often use Feedly linked to Google Reader as it offers a slicker interface that feels closer to a magazine. Another bonus of Google Reader is that you can add any URL to it -- not just RSS feeds -- and Reader will monitor the page for changes and present them as if a feed has updated.

Many sites offer several feeds -- follow those most relevant to your area of work and interests; it's easy to overload yourself with feeds and find you have more than 100 articles to wade through every morning. Pretty soon you'll find you're too busy to bother, and end up reading nothing.

Keep an Eye on the Mainstream Press

Sometimes announcements by the search engines receive mainstream coverage -- or a story breaks about a negative issue, like the recent Google Street View privacy coverage. Add the technology sections of mainstream sites like the New York Times, USA Today, BBC News, etc., to your reader to ensure you know the stories your clients (and their bosses) are reading over their breakfast.

Digital Overall

To keep any eye on the wider industry I follow a few key sites -- Mashable, The Next Web, Robert Scoble, John Battelle's Search Blog, and Econsultancy, to name a few.

The Search Stalwarts

There are a few search-focused sites that are must-reads. Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land are the two heavyweights; I receive their newsletters every morning as well as follow their feeds; they provide a summary of the most important search news and topics. Search Engine Roundtable is also important and often have details of new Google tests or rumors with some basis to them as reported on other sites or forums.

There are of course many other digital industry and search sites -- the above sites link to good sources as they cover stories, helping you find other sources.

Don't Forget To Cull

One last piece of advice: don't forget to delete feeds. Over time, sites change editor, or their focus shifts or their writing declines in quality. So when a site seems to publish nothing of interest, delete it -- your time is precious.

About the author

Duncan Parry, COO of STEAK, began his career in search in 1999 at Lycos, during the early days of the industry.  

In 2002 he joined PPC engine Espotting and rose to the position of Agency Editorial Manager, working on campaigns for some of Europe's leading brands. He left Espotting in 2004 to work as a consultant in both paid and natural search, during which time his clients included publisher VNU's portfolio of UK IT, finance and recruitment websites.  

In 2005 he reunited with ex-Espotting colleagues to found STEAK. His roles at the agency have spanned PPC, SEO and Insight, as well commenting and writing in trade press for the agency, and contributing to STEAK’s social presence.