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Google's Orion :: The Next Shining Star or a Burnt Ember?

By Rob Sullivan (c) 2006

By now you have probably heard that Google bought a new algorithm developed by a university student down under.
Many in the industry have speculated on what this could mean. Will this transform Google yet again? Or, will it merely be just another piece of technology they buy but don’t appear to use.

In this article, I look at the implications of Orion and what it could mean to the future of search.

In order to understand the issues at play, we must first understand just what the heck Google bought.

Orion is a new algorithm which in a nutshell works like Ask or Clusty in that it will not only match results based on keywords but also similar results based on concepts around those keywords.

For example, if you were to search for “Canada” you may get not only the Government of Canada website, but also websites dealing with history, sites talking about the official languages of Canada (there are two official languages in case you were wondering) and more.

Similar to how Ask allows you to drill up or down to narrow or broaden your search.

Many people feel that Orion will “revolutionize” Google. And, while it will be interesting to see what Google does with the technology, I’m more inclined to agree with Danny Sullivan’s assessment. In a recent article he basically says “So what?”

Mind you, I don’t think this is as ho-hum an issue as Danny makes it out to be. However, I also don’t think it’s as huge a deal as others have made it.

For example, Danny says, “When Google acquired the three people from Kaltix along with their search technology back in 2003, it hardly created a revolutionary change for us soon after.” And I’d have to disagree with him.

While the results of the Kaltix acquisition weren’t immediately obvious, they did show up, at least partly, a little later on in the “update from hell” as many webmasters still call it today. It was also known as the Florida Update.

I do agree with this assessment also made by Danny in the article: “It sounds like Allon mainly developed an algorithm useful in pulling out better summaries of web pages.”

Because, the way I see it, that is all this is: A way to make the search experience a little more useful.

Will This Revolutionize Search?

I don’t think so. But it does do a couple of things for Google:

For one, it makes it easier for users to find the data they want on Google. Which, in turn, improves loyalty to the engine ultimately increasing the company’s bottom line.

And another big reason for the purchase? To keep the technology out of the hands of the competition. Namely, Yahoo! and Microsoft.

So What Will Orion Do For Search?

Well, as I mentioned, it will make it easier to find information on Google. For example, if you can’t find what you want in the immediate results, if you can scan some related terms to find other terms which could match what you are looking for and then view results there, it can help.

Also, look at what such a search does to the searcher. No longer does the searcher hit a result and leave the engine. Nöw, they could spend longer on the engine, potentially reviewing more results and obviously being exposed to more ads.

In reality, while this is a nice bell or whistle, the only one who’s really going to benefit is Google. That’s because it increases ad exposures; meaning that more ads get seen, which means a greater chance of an ad being clicked on.

Will the Average Person Use It?

In all honesty I doubt it. I think it’s a tool guys like me will use. You know the type – always into the latest and greatest (if buggy) things. Those things that have a coolness factor.

But, in reality the average person doesn’t care about these types of gimmicks. They just want the search engine to show them the right result every time. If you force users to hunt for the right results, you risk them switching engines until they find what they’re looking for.

Therefore, the average user will probably say “hmm that’s interesting, but what I really want to see better be in the top 2 or 3 results.”

In the end Orion will do a couple of things for Google. It will add some new functionality that some will (but most won’t) use, and it ensures that Microsoft and Yahoo! have to build the technology to remain competitive.

In the end, Danny was mostly right: Google gets another good employee and the technology may give them “another evolutionary change that may improve things over time, rather than instantly.”

About The Author
Rob Sullivan is a SEO Consultant and Writer for Textlinkbrokers is the trusted leader in building long term rankings through safe and effective link building.


Camilla Todd
Camilla Todd is Head of Digital Marketing at WNW Digital and manages Search Engine Optimisation, PPC, Social Media campaigns and Brand Awareness for WNW Digital SEO clients. You can follow her on Twitter @camilla_wnw, email her at or phone on 01392 349580