Search: Controling the Conversation

by Ruud Hein October 17th, 2008 

In the past weeks we saw that Search can lead to Instant Answers, effectively reducing the amount of information we're exposed to.

The people involved in that behavior are key parts of our economy: Informers, Decision Makers, Students and Consumers.

These key people at best expose themselves to a maximum of 30 entries per search. In general through they "see" none but the first 3 entries for any given search.

The Big Deal

This majority share of attention for a minority portion of information, combined with the illusion of relevance through ranking of results, constitutes their main impression of you, your company, your brand.

Here's What That Means

After a Google search showed that published psychotherapist Andrew Feldmar had used LSD in the late 1960's, he was rejected entry into the USA and is no longer welcome in that country.

Says a USA Customs and Border Protection agency spokesman; "If you are or have been a drug user that's one of the many things that can make you inadmissible to the United States."

One: are you sure about that early afternoon Vodka tweet you just published?

Two: how difficult is it to rank you as a drugs pushing kingpin?

In 2007 a man who had been missing for years mysteriously reappeared, having no recollection of what had happened.

While police and other investigators were still flabbergasted a single mother typed "John Anne Panama" into Google. The first image that came up is the one that solved the case and got John Darwin behind bars.

One: which photos of you are out there on the net? Do they support your story (whether the story is private or corporate branding is irrelevant).

Two: which of those photos could be made to harm you?

If you're one of the world's largest technology companies and people search for the scanning software you bundle, what are they to think when out of the first 5 results only one is positive? (Compare with K Mart, Tim Hortons and Purina who do better job of trying to control the conversation; top award goes to Nescafe which apparently has never ever done anything else but make great products, support faraway places and in general, page after page, has been nothing but a swell company)

Here's What It Could Mean

The "3 first results" view we have on search is the Internet's equivalent of the 10 second sound bite.

Right now Obama's and McCain's results are quite clean, partly, I believe, because these searches are monitored for quality. Certain crap spam won't make it into these results until the election is well behind us.

But highlighting certain things from the past by making them come up through certain searches; this, I predict, will become common place.

Offensive SEO, so to say, will become common place. It will be sneaky and hard to trace as you can't monitor nor investigate every single search.

Matching good or damning "3 first results" to key and fringe searches will become as common place as buying AdWords for those searches is right now. Only AdWords is easily traceable, this isn't.

The key here is that you don't need to own the "conversation", you don't need to have every single blog post under control. You need to control the top 3 entries.

The task to build or destroy, improve or damage, might be much easier, much simpler, than we thought.

Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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7 Responses to “Search: Controling the Conversation”

  1. ian says:

    All very true. But in the world of internet marketing it gets harder and harder to control those top 3 spots.

    What makes me nervous is the idea that search is rapidly becoming another area where those with the most resources win. Up until now, it's been possible to control reputation via search by being smarter.

    But what happens when search reputation becomes a battle of funding, independent groups get involved, etc. etc.?

  2. Web Talk says:

    not only that. here were i live a geek managed to top spot on google when sombody typed "genius". He accomplished that by using black hat techniques and a bug that google fixed right away without saying anything to the world! In the Internet is still easy to become somone or stain someone else reputation if you know your way. Internet needs some kind of controla but you guess what, if i had to choose i would choose the internet not to be controlled cause being conntrolled means that sooner or later there will be some kind of discrimination…

  3. So it has arrived. Big brother is indeed watching you. Frightening!

  4. kouji says:

    good point by ian. having more resources allows one a greater chance of dominating. that person can buy backlinks, already probably has a significant flagship site, and can outsource much of the repetitive work, among others. makes it harder for the little guys, although not impossible.

  5. Downloadic says:

    You are totally right that it’s been possible to control reputation via search by being smarter.

  6. Utah SEO says:

    The more results the better. Not always easy to accomplish though.

  7. RE Utah SEO, nothing worthwhile is ever easy. If you figure out a way to guarantee more results, you've won the game.