Messing With My Head
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 Post subject: James Butler - - 06/23/2004
PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2004 5:40 am 
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Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2004 7:45 am
Posts: 39

One of the reasons why search engines came into existence was that there's no "window shopping" on the WWW. You can't stroll down the street and have your eye caught by something that inspires you to change course on your way to your destination. There are no "artists' villages" where all of the shops carry different craftwork, like one with cloth and one with pottery and one with glass. (Webrings try to simulate this.)

On the web, you need to (a) already know where you are going or (b) ask a local resident to point you in the right direction. Search engines ARE those "local residents": They know where stuff is and can help you find it...if you know what you are looking for.

When search engines started "ranking" websites, it could be inferred that they were trying to define the "best" result for a particular search query. The "best" pottery shop. The "best" genetic research site.

Another way to look at ranking is to see it as presenting a list of likely places to find the stuff you are seeking. It is "likely" that the sites listed in the search results will meet your need, but you will need to check each of them to find out for yourself. Search engines posit that it is "more likely" that the first non-paid listing will meet your need, a "little less likely" for the second, "even less likely" for the third, etc.

When people search, do they click on what the search engine says is the "most likely"? More often than not...NO. What they click on (the shop they enter) has more to do with the signage out front than the recommendation of the engine. "I'm looking for work boots, and the fifth store says it has work boots, where the top four each say they sell all kinds of I'll check the fifth store first." It's on the fifth store to make that walk-in sale.

Failing that, the fifth store might make a recommendation for other, similar stores (outbound links), but they missed the sale.

I submit that there is no such thing as the "best" site for anything, unless it is purely proprietary and offers a verifiably unique perspective/service/catalog. As long as there is competition, then any vendor can take the sale from another vendor if they (a) know their customers better than the competition, (b) can write good copy that brings the customer into the store and (c) are adept at closing the sale.

No search engine will ever be able to divine the "best" search result for an individual searcher. That's why we have the "description" meta tag, and why engines often quote copy directly from the page: To help the individual find what is "best" for THEM.

If your website is #1, then you have played by that particular SE's rules (that you are aware of), you probably have appropriate content for the search phrase, and other web sites in the same result set are probably not as sophisticated as you are at communicating those things to the robot...oh...did I mention the robot? That's right, mdvaden...pure machine.

Google is not a directory, anymore. People become involved during the development and programming of the robot, and in verifying its findings, but they are not active in modifying its results except to exclude violations its programming missed.

Power to you, if you're at #1 for now. Life is long, and the web is still a baby (14 years old and counting). You will not always be #1, but for now, your competitors haven't done the things you did, so you're unrivaled.

But keep in mind that the web is anything but static. And so are those who use it, including user, advertiser, and tech provider perspectives. The user changes every day. The algorithms change frequently. And the advertiser (you) need to stay diligent, stay focused, and keep on rolling with the changes.

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