There is a new pretender to the Google crown; YaCy (pronounced yah see) has the backing of the Free Software Foundation Europe and has a free server from EUserv. It is a peer-to-peer service which means that all users are equal and the search engine is completely decentralized. Its mission is to “put search into the hands of users by distributing its indexing engine around the net” (BBC News, 29/11/11). Anyone can download and use the software and currently it has 600 users. This is not a significant number, but it only rolled out its services at the end of November 2011, so in a few days to have 600 users is fairly promising.

The index is not subject to censorship as individual searches are not stored for later use. The people behind this new search engine say “We want to achieve freedom of information through a free, distributed web search which is powered by the world’s users.” Privacy is ensured as all search queries are encrypted and peer owners can build up and manage their own search profiles. At the moment of writing it boasts 1.4 billion documents and it has several search networks based on it, the two major ones being ‘freeworld’ and Sciencenet. (The latter focuses on scientific content as its name suggests.)

With the advent of a new search engine, SEO services will have to find ways of getting their clients’ companies onto this peer-to-peer network and Google has a new rival which will appeal to those who want to see more individual control of searches rather than having to rely on Google. This could be a European demand and one which will attract Europeans rather than internet users from North America, but it could mean a new approach will need to be taken by SEO services. Firms may not be as obsessed as they are at present with getting to the top ranks of Google’s Search Engine Ranking Pages (SERPS).

Currently Google is the dominant search engine in Europe with more than 90% of searches being done through Google. This is a higher percentage than in North America, but is one that might soon be lowered with the advent of YaCy. There have been many cries for a viable alternative to the mighty Google and this is the best bet so far, as it is not tied in the collective European mind with advertising revenue and the dollar which is not so powerful any more.

SEO services will need to rethink some of their strategies for clients if this new search engine becomes a rival to Google. They have just about, it would seem, figured out Google’s algorithm and it is now fairly reasonable to assume that when linking to sites webmasters should choose the ones that are, as these may contain spam and information which is not informative, but plagiarized. Such sites need extra attention from Google as it polices the web and its content. The sites which Google recognizes as being reputable are those with a .gov, .edu, or .org address. These are the ones you need to have links to and from on your sites in order to be rewarded by Google. As one PANDA after another seems to be rolling out, sites are being closed, some unfairly, so SEO services have to be on top of the situation. However many respond to changes in the Google algorithm by panicking, perhaps because in their attempts to get their clients to the top search index pages, they have neglected the quality of content in their search for the best keywords.