Search Is What's On Your Mind

Last month I attended my 10-year college reunion, where the first question out of most everyone's mouth was, "What are you doing these days?" By day two I learned I was surrounded by college professors, writers, artists and gallery managers, lawyers, non-profit workers, an investment banker (just one--I attended a liberal arts college), a successful actor and, yes, interactive agency people (there's no escaping them). As soon as I got back to New York, I ran (of course!) vanity searches on Google on almost everyone I spent time with because, hey, I am in the search business.

My searches resulted in a lot of interesting information--I was able to view one old friend's recent artwork and read a white paper written by another. I began to wonder why I hadn't come across these people, their work and their accomplishments before. I thought, "If I had only known to search for them, I would have learned all of these exciting things about how their lives had progressed." Maybe I wouldn't even have had to go to the reunion (note to self: explore idea about virtual college reunions).



My personal experience exemplifies the key to search and one of the fundamental concepts on which our business is based: prior to attending the reunion, I wasn't thinking about my old friends and classmates and therefore wasn't searching for them online. These college folks are now top of mind, so I am interested in learning more about them. The upshot: how people think truly is reflected in how they search.

My fellow columnist, Aaron Goldman, asks, "Why Can't Everything Be Searchable?" While I find myself pondering the same question at times, and am excited about the prospect of pushing indexing further, I always return to the notion that if search is based on how people think, how can any engine anticipate how people will think in the future? Indeed, a number of engines have made strides to offer up suggestions based on previous searches, but how can the industry address the future--future thoughts and behavior - successfully? If that's too "out there," how could engines read my searches and URL selections prior to my reunion (the location of my college, my college URL, driving maps) and link me to my fellow-graduates prior to the big day? That is simply a matter of expanding the realm of what is indexed.

Bringing these "what if" ponderings back down to earth, I leave you with an interesting tidbit: when conducting a search for my friend Delia with her first and last name (which I won't provide here), a paid ad came up for Delia's, the teen girls' apparel retailer. It seems one company is doing its homework.

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