The SEO community hashes new theories of search engine algorithms daily -- and such controversial discussions delve deep into the heart of optimization. However, with companies and Webmasters alike vying for the next quick optimization trick, many sites are left lacking the most fundamentally vital of components: user experience.
I've never hid the fact that I'm Canadian. I'm fervently proud of that fact, and more than willing to take the good-natured ribbing I often get on the road from my American friends. I usually bear the brunt of some Canadian joke on a panel (often, I'm the one telling it) and I'm more than happy to act as a one-person tourism bureau. But this week, at SES Toronto, I've got to say that when it comes to search marketing, Canadian advertisers are totally clueless.
As a freestyle karaoke'er, I love to take other people's songs and make them my own. There's nothing better than twisting the words of tunes everyone knows to really connect with the crowd. It's in this spirit that I offer up my first (and quite possibly last) installment of Searchery Rhymes for all the search marketers out there who need a little help falling asleep at night.
Ask.com is up to its tinkering again with a new a look and some twists on the search engine results page. Dubbed Ask 3D for the three dimensions of searching (don't ask -- pardon the pun), the renovation comes on the heels of Google's universal search update. Both offer the same moral: optimize around all major specialized and vertical search services to get first-page search engine visibility.
Here's a little-known story from the Golden Age of Television. Sometime in the 1950s, a media buyer locks in an ad placement with a TV network. In the contract for the deal, the TV network also puts in a "make-good" clause that, if uncontrollable events prevent the ad from airing on schedule, the network will run it in that same time slot, the following week. Before air time, a snag hits. The network tells the advertiser that there's been a fire in the film library....
A recent Financial Times article entitled "Google Data Versus Human Nature" penned by Lord Maurice Saatchi commented, "People do not know what they want until a brilliant person shows them." In the article Lord Saatchi also argues that while Google and others in the "Yellow Pages model of advertising known as Search" contend that they can eliminate the mystery and waste of modern advertising, it simply will not work out like that.
Everyone is taking a siloed view of personalization, looking at the organic results in isolation. It's almost as if they're assessing the amount of damage control required. I'm not sure they realize the import of personalization. This is a rule changer, a paradigm-shifter. This is the new generation of search functionality. It changes the game dramatically.
At a session on "Personalized Search: Fear or Not," even an audience of sophisticated search strategists said that personalized search was "creepy." Only time will tell if this attitude carries over to mainstream searchers as awareness broadens. Or maybe personalized search will get so good that the creepy factor will no longer be an issue.
At least Jason Calacanis puts his money where his mouth is. The Weblogs Inc founder who regularly unleashes his vitriol against search engine optimization has launched a new search engine, if you can call it that. Say aloha to Mahalo, a human-powered engine that is much more reminiscent of the search industry's past than a stepping stone to the future.
Assuming that GoogleClick is a threat to privacy (for the sake of argument), is it possible that we, as a society, could decide that we're OK with that threat to privacy - as long as we get a better online life in return? I'd have to say that the answer might be "yes." But before I explain, let me elaborate on the tradeoff I'm describing.