Week 5: SEO + You – The New Holy Grail?

Google's Come Along Way

Google. Where do I even begin? Perhaps a well placed link to David A Vise’s and Mark Malseed’s ‘The Google Story’ would be a good starting point and definitely a recommended read, it’s undeniable Google deserves a book or two.

An organization built from the very innovation they brought to the search engine market, their unique and groundbreaking ranking system defined the business. Rather than calculating page rank by the number of keywords per page just as competitor engines did, Google’s sacred & patented algrorythm PageRank determined the “importance” of a webpage by looking at what other pages linked to it (Google c.a 2011). This fundamentally changed the way we viewed the internet; “we no longer searched, we googled” (Webber 2008).

A sensational claim perhaps but it’s undeniably true. Google is the global leader in search engine technologies, handling around 87.8 billion unique searches per month ComScore’s (2010), or 67% of the 131 billion global searches. Yahoo in the corner, well they handled  7%, and that’s only when including the Yahoo-Microsoft Alliance but it’s nice they try…(SearchEngineLand 2010).

Three Biggest Search Engines

Of course Google’s market leadership now extends far beyond the desktop as core search functionality is present across a range of devices; mobile, smart-phones, net-books, tablets, televisions, set top box and so on. If Google was knowledge, then knowledge now really is in our pockets, our front rooms and so forth.

A cute concept, but really we are no longer using google for just ‘knowledge’ but in fact an increasingly larger range of daily tasks. Google has cemented their market position with the provision of a range of free services.

So Yes ,although people still google we now Gmail, Blog, Youtube, Picassa, Maps, Orkrut, even sip Google Orange Juice…

What Next...Google Juice?

OK, maybe not quite yet but the point stands Google is more than a search engine. We increasingly turn to the trusted provider for so much more than search, it has in turn become somewhat of a ‘psuedo portal’. Just as Telang and Mukhopadhyay (2005) imply portals represent bundles of potential, capable of increasing time spent online within one site, implied user loyalty and increasing amount of user data for the service provider and advertiser.

With free portals, unlike the earlier subscription based platforms such as AOL, the consumer feels liberated. However for advertisers it’s pure opportunity, all off Google’s services offer one unifying feature, a commonality among a plethora of products, we could even stretch to dubbing it the ‘holy grail’. Of Course, I’m talking about the universal search function seen across Gmail, Youtube, Blogger, Chrome OS etc. they’re all built around the integral search function.

With a mass of consumers spending an increasingly focal time using Google’s Portal, engaging with search, logically arrives the need for SEO. SEO or Search Engine Optimization to the uneducated or like me uninterested is essentially the term given to a set of tactics to assist organizations concerned with amending their search position. Ensuring search engine visibility  is now undeniably an essential part of any online strategy, in essence the higher organic position of your site a wealth of positives benefits ensued.

PageRank pathed the way for Search Engine Optimization, the algorithm subject to a range of variables that could affect the search position, the end goal for brands to achieve a higher organic position within searches. SEO is a wildly discussed subject area, with extensive literature, academic research, specialized organizations and consultants to advise. However for me, I couldn’t possibly fathom to comprehend this area with any justice. Instead I recommend this highly insightful video with Google’s Matt Cutts on how to gain greater search visibility, and hey if that doesn’t work maybe Google provides some way to feature at the top of the page ( I hear they do paid advertisements these days).

Personally SEO comes across as a rather dull topic. It’s not inspirational, visually attractive, engaging or all that exciting. However when I started to read around the original PageRank algorithm this all changed.

Generally PageRank has been said to match the quality of human judgement, and this got me thinking. Is the future of search engines integrating actual human judgement, our ranking and opinions?  Weve all  been in that scenario where you ask your friend for a place to eat, or a local when your trying to find  the nearest supermarcado, al cine’ etc. It makes perfect sense we trust certain people and their evaluations but for the past twenty years we’ve turned to search engines, wouldn’t it be nice to discover? To integrate social to create better rankings?

The Future?

HypeMachine & Piccsy

There are two search engines I personally believe are fantastic examples of this concept, making constant steps to integrate human rankings into their platforms;

Both HypeMachine (Music) and Piccsy (Images) are content aggregators, not disimilar to a search engine, selecting high quality eclectic content from a range of well respected music bloggers and image uploader’s. Featuring the content each day, they are showcasing a range of human judgement to assist in the discovery of something so important to my daily life.

Both platforms integrate human judgements further, encouraging registered users to ‘love’ or bookmark their favourite artists songs, blogs and images while making use of user opinion and preference to develop the greater cause; Real time charts and lists of popular music and images.

Hype Machine

Piccsy similarly allows beta users (One of the lucky few) to bookmark their favorite images utilising folksonomy tags to categorise images in more naturally intuitive ways than popular services such as Flickr & Last.Fm.

In my opinion HypeM & Piccsy’s search functionality offerings are far superior than the commerical alternatives. Maybe not in terms of technical algorithms but in terms of the high quality results I find, then without a doubt yes! I wont lie, Piccsy is responsible for nearly all of these blog posts. The images I find often the driving force encouraging me to blog.

Interestingly both services feature a heart at the centre of their logos, and this to me reflects the living emotional nature of the content they provide. Personally I believe the strength in these platforms lies in the databases human nature, something until only recently the major competitors Google & Bing failed to provide.

Callum Raines

@callumraines

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