Why Search Engines will be redundant soon...

Part 1: Search and the Web 1.0: Gorblimey!

Those of you who reached here through Google, Yahoo or MSN are probably laughing as you read this. But do go on, there’s more. :-)
(Un)common Recurring Searches

Often our searches are simple keywords crafted with central themes in mind:

  • A name (e.g. Shrikant Joshi or Performancing)
  • A topic (e.g. Corporate Communications)
  • A context (e.g. “Spanish Omelette” +recipe)

Some of us might even burden the spartan box (or in the old days, the Butler) with an entire question. The faithful zombie then crawls its way through the innards of the webs, looking for that occasional diamond stashed away in the back alleys. Usually, in the common cases such as the ones defined above, results are returned in the correct context of our request. Often, the SERPs also throw results that are related yet not within context.

Robert Scoble’s post on Optimization had this line that caught my attention:

It all starts with the blog. Now, why can’t I put my blog on the map? When you go to Live.com and search on “Scoble” why can’t I customize my results there with more information for you?

Well, I don’t agree wholly.

Search for my name on Google. There are at least three different people called Shrikant Joshi who turn up in the top 3. We keep exchanging the first three ranks. And all of us are pretty active bloggers it would seem. The see-sawing of rankings in the Organic Search results is not a matter of concern for me. Nor do I want to customise these search results so that I would get more result-space.

I am not a key-word

What are search engines? Simply speaking, search engines are content-aggregators assigned the additional job of classification. As humans we need to have everything classified into a taxonomy so as to facilitate recollection. Our knowledge depends upon storage which in turn depends upon collection and classification of data. Classification helps recollection and hence improves perceptive retention of knowledge.

Or, in simple words:

The more you know, the wiser you are. Hence, classify and remember.

Similar to how we retain knowledge, Search Engines classify the data they crawl according to keywords. A huge index is built up and referenced and cross-referenced until all the possible avenues of keywords linking to pages and vice-versa are covered. But you probably know all that and more already.

Keywords, mmmm… Aah!

The next step would be making sense out of the data, which eventually leads to contextualization. Don’t get it? Well, simply put:

“A search engine’s job is to make sense out of all that data.”

Let’s take a simple case. Someone in your town happens to own a convenience store named Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Let us imagine that an outsider in your city is searching for it. Here’s how the conversation would go:

Outsider: “Where can I find a convenience store?”
You: “That would have to be Uncle Tom’s cabin. Go straight down for about two blocks and then take a left. It’s right across the street.”
Outsider: “Would I be likely to get some cigarettes there?”
You: “Oh! If you simply wants cigarettes, there a tobacconist just round the corner!”

A normal conversation, eh? Well, let’s take a look at it again. Only this time, we’ll look at it the way a search engine would. Let’s insert some key words into it for understanding the flow of the conversation:

  1. “Where can I find a convenience store?”
    [New Search Query, keyword: “convenience store”]
    1. “That would have to be Uncle Tom’s cabin. Go straight down for about two blocks and then take a left. It’s right across the street.”
      [Response keywords:”Uncle Tom’s cabin”, “directions”]
    2. “Would I be likely to get some cigarettes there?”
      [Refine Search Query, keyword: “cigarettes”]
    3. “Oh! If you simply wants cigarettes, there a tobacconist just round the corner!”
      [Response keywords: “Tobacconist”,”Round the corner”]

With me so far? Here’s the stumper:

If each of these sentences corresponded to an entire blog-post in the Blogosphere, how would you track this conversation? How would you rank each post with respect to the keywords. Would those keywords be enough to cover all aspects of the conversation? Would you call those keywords as appropriate descriptors of the conversation? Where would these posts appear in SERPs for the combined keywords {“Your Name” +directions}

To be continued…

*Disclaimer: *
I am no Search Engine Expert. These opinions are simply my $0.02 worth. Or may be less. :)

Technorati Tags: search engine, optimization, keywords, web2.0, content, context

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