Sitting there at lunch at this neat little Cuban/ Argentinian restaurant in Coral Gable’s, Florida, I actually experienced someone look me straight in the eye, and poo poo search.
“The Search Engines are a thing of the past” he says to me as he waves the thought away like some bothersome fly blowing little fly kisses in his ear.
“Google is non-consequential, they are part of the past, we won’t need search.” he continues to say as he looks at me like I’m some lowly waterboy learning the secrets of the universe from him. His community building technology will attract an audience because, like a stormtrooper, it will enforce it’s authoritah.
Yes, this conversation actually happened.
At first, I thought that he meant that he didn’t need search to attract an audience, basing his search marketing on viral methodologies. A link here, some buzz there, a good news article, and a viral thing happens. Hey, it works. Most of the major social community sites didn’t attack search at all, they just created a little buzz on the web about what they are doing, and why, and we are off to the races. Search results will come, especially when you have a few hundred users tagging, talking and bookmarking stuff. Before you know it, you’ve got thousands of pages of relevant content that you did not have to create, from a site that is actually a magnet for users.
For instance, thisnext, which is a social shopmarking site where a community of avid shoppers bookmark deals, steals, gifts, clothes, beauty products, shoes, and unique…stuff from all around the web, is just that kind of site. I can definitely say that I’m a fan of the concept. I’m sure I’m not the first one to notice the potential, especially in monetizing such a framework. I mean, where else are you going to find the Hello Kitty Assault Rifle? (something my wife has been eying, so I’ll be sure to bring her chocolate everyday)
It’s not new, per say. Forums have been attracting this kind of search results for years, but with a bookmarking site, you can create your own little celebrity status, becoming an expert in something. This can be attractive.
Eventually, viral marketing affects search, (linkbait, linkjuice, linkwhore) and I’m sure that most of today’s thisnext users found the site through search. I’m not your most accomplished journalist, so I haven’t asked before I started this post, so I can’t vouch that my opinion is valid. It’s an intuition, and not an opinion that should be taken as any kind of fact. All I know is my experience with thisnext, and my observation of the people around me. My wife found thisnext through searching for hair care.
This conversation started when he began explaining his online community building “software” as he calls it. In all actuality, I’ve been researching the semantic web, ontologies, meta data and associative word knowledge based systems for awhile. I’ve got to tell you the truth, his technology is impressive. I’ve also done a little database work, since my primary field is e-commerce, relational databases are always on my mind. (I’m actually preparing a post for this whole semantic, ontology, tagging thing, so stay tuned) So I was excited to hear more on his concept.
But when he said search was a thing of the past, my ears started to bleed. Unless I misunderstood, which has happened my times I’m sad to say, his idea was “build it, and they will come.” His technology would create instant authority because it created the proper meta data that pushed the concepts the community was most authoritative out into the web.
I asked, “Out into the web, …where?”
Remember “build it and they will come”? The basic concept of what NOT TO DO, when thinking of promoting a website. I mean, the search engines have all improved over the years, and Google’s capabilities are really staggering. I can pretty much bet you that if you have a url, and a bs index.htm page with nothing on it but company name, no inbound links, no site submission, and a noindex in the meta and the robots.txt file, google still knows it’s there, and would probably list the reference to the site in a search for the url. But there is no amount of meta, semantic, topological, ontological or any other “ogical” technology that will enforce it’s rules upon any of the SE’s, especially Google. It’s Google’s algorithm that decides if your an authority site, not your algorithm TELLING Google your the authority. Just doesn’t happen. Even though the technology was super impressive, his reasoning, his attitude was just wrong. You need to market your business, at least one freakin link somewhere. Nope, not according to his plan. According to him, people will go to a site they don’t even know is there.
So my main dilemma was trying to figure out how people where going to find this site. So I give him a theoretical situation. Say you build a community site for women entrepreneurs. There is PLENTY of interest on the web for that. How do you attract the visitors? How does a woman entrepeneur, who wants to network with other women entrepeneurs, find your site?
It’s as if I asked what 2 + 2 is to Albert Einstein. He was incredulous. How could I ask him such a question.
“The meta data engine will push out this information to the right people” he says.
OOOOOHHHH, wait a minute. Are you saying that you’ll have an RSS or syndication service that will push out the content of your community to web properties like Yahoo or Aol or MSN? You’ll be using a proliferated data model? Where will you get the initial content? ( I learned this stuff from Mike McDonald)
“No. We can use RSS and the syndicated datamodels of other websites that have information our users want. In the case of a woman entrepreneurs social site, we can draw in the information that they want to have, based on their movement inside the community. When they network with people from their own state, or college, or they communicate an economic idea, or their favorite accounting package, or where the best source for labor is, they will be creating meta data that is quantifiable. We can present her with everything she wants all within the same matrix, she won’t even know she’s always within the same structure.”
Right now I’m thinking ‘OK, listen. I AGREE 100%. Your technology is awesome. The relational data structure is simply massive in it’s implications. FACEBOOK is based on a similar concept. But even FACEBOOK had to let someone know they existed. “Hey, look at me, I’m FACEBOOK, you cool new toy”‘
So I ask him again –
“But how will a business woman know your site exists?”
“From the users” he says.
BIG SLAP TO MY FOREHEAD CURLY STYLE.
I say “And those users will find your site how?”
I had to ask this again. I was starting to feel all weird in the head.
“Because our technology will push the data out to those users”
Can you see where this is going?
Since we where sitting at a restaurant where a lot of professionals like lawyers, doctors and businessmen hung out, I ask the young lady next to me what she uses the web for. I had to make sure he listened to this conversation, so I made it look as if we where going to flirt with her.
“Hey” I ask her. “Do you like to use the internet?’
“Yeah” she says “I do a lot of research, and I network and communicate with others in my field. I buy a lot of stuff online as well.”
When he heard the word network, he grinned at me like saying “You see”
So I asked her, “How did you find these professional networks,” and I could see his face, waiting for the kill, to show me how I was an antiquated, silly and stupid individual who knows nothing of web technology and shouldn’t even be allowed in the room.
Wait for it….
She said “Oh, I did a search on Google for a young lawyers group. I did different searches. I used Yahoo as well. I found this blog of a young attorney in San Fransisco, but I also found a listing for a discussion forum for young lawyers, and a Linkedin listing.”
His smile faded.
“Ahh, you SEARCHED for it. Google is a great search engine. Yahoo is a little better at groups and such” I said.
“Yeah, but pretty much everything you want to find, you can find it through Google. If not that actual web page, then a reference to a web page” She said.
“Cool” I said.
I looked over at this incredible intelligent man who developed something I couldn’t even begin to comprehend, and I said. “You see, she searched for this, on a search engine. She might have also been on a forum that had a link on it, but she found that forum via search to begin with. Those websites didn’t just appear on her page because they know who she is and came to her, and jumped through the browser. Now that she knows they are there, she’ll return on her own, WHEN SHE NEEDS TO. Not because she’s always in there.
He fell silent for awhile. I couldn’t comprehend how search didn’t even come into this man’s attention. Did he think that people would go online and pop into the url field his website because that’s what their fingers did?
Social Networking, social media, bookmarking, meta tags are a wave front of the future, but it’s hard to comprehend a future without search. Social technologies will never replace the need for search, I don’t care what the experts say. Search was borne out of necessity, and that necessity remains. But the social aspect of search WILL jump forward to show it’s face and be an active part of search. That is without question. Right now, you don’t have to go to a lawyers website to find out how the law works or what you need to do for a special case, you can read someone else’s account, and see different people’s reaction to that situation. That’s authority, and the SE’s like authority.