When author Nicholas Carr wrote for WSJ that the Internet is making us dumber I felt that he just needed someone to help him organize his distractions.
Carr wrote “When we’re constantly distracted and interrupted, as we tend to be online, our brains are unable to forge the strong and expansive neural connections that give depth and distinctiveness to our thinking.”
Well, it is only a “distraction” if it is not related to your intent. But it is a two way street. Companies can organize their content by intent and users can control what they want to find by social connections and recommendations.
For example, Google.com has over 2 billion results when I search for “cars” and 1.8 billion results when I search for “adobe.” When I’m watching TV, I see ads for Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 movie and for our client Ford Motor Company as well as other car manufacturers. Banner ads from our client Adobe System follow me as I visit different web sites.
With billions of results for the cars and adobe examples, Google has to process thousands of calculations to come up with the top ten results to display on the search engine results page (SERP). These calculations have been evolving since 2007 when Google announced “Universal Search” allowing users to find links to any medium including photos, videos and news articles. Last year, Google announced that the engine was analyzing the Web in small portions and able to update the search index on a continuous basis globally. As they find new pages on cars or adobe or new information on existing pages, they could add these results straight to the index.
We can now find the latest information even before we are done with our search query as Google has a predictions engine and makes recommendations as we type. But to truly leverage the results, we have to understand that the backbone of the algorithm is a collection of signals that Google continues to tweak to provide additional ways to search and better results for both users and content providers.
My SERP for cars included Ford.com and a small picture and annotation to inform me that I’m getting this result because I follow the Ford account on Google+. Ford is one of the accounts Google is working with to test the Google+ user experience with brand pages. Ford’s global social media lead Scott Monty is also active on Google+ and already has over 9,000 followers that will be able to see the items he shares on Google+ as well as the +1 pages he “likes” all over the web.
Users concerned about the amount of information coming their way can personalize their results by creating search profiles to tailor SERP according to their social media connections and actions. You can also filter results by location as well as to pages that you have or have not already visited if you are signed in to your Google account and have Web history enabled.
Brands with a social media strategy understand that they have to be active on different platforms and provide content that has a chance to rank according to how users might filter the information. This way, SERP have an opportunity to display the Ford Mustang Facebook page with over 1.5 million people that “like” the page or the @Ford Twitter account with 74,000 followers.
Another social media solution that brands can implement to help search engines find their signals is to engage with influencers and have them share your good work.
When users search for adobe, Google has to figure out if you are looking for Adobe Systems, the software company founded in 1982 or if you are searching for adobe sun-dried bricks for your patio. My SERP for adobe includes a blog post and video by technology evangelist Robert Scoble: Adobe’s Dreamweaver CS5.5. I see this result because I follow Robert Scoble via Google+. If I was not following him, Google still has to figure out what are the best 10 results to show me out of the 1.8 billion adobe results on their index.
At Ogilvy, we create Consumer Intent Models for our clients to help them optimize their content and improve the signals they send to Google. Ford Motor Company makes Trucks, Hybrids, SUVs, etc. Adobe Systems has software for print, web, mobile, etc. By understanding the different stages of the consumer journey, brands can optimize pages to limit competition between internal pages and dominate the search engine results page by having all of their different assets ranking. With internal advocates and influencers promoting your product, Google will be able to organize the results and offer your assets to your prospects and customers.
Start now. Search for your brand. Do you dominate the results pages? Was Google able to find your YouTube channel and your Facebook page? Do you see recommendations from people you know and trust? If the answer is no to any of the questions, you have an opportunity to improve your signal. I would love to hear from you. Do you think Nicholas Carr is right? Add your comments below.
Julio Fernandez is Vice President, Enterprise Search & Social SEO, Global Strategies at Ogilvy in New York City.