Search = Brand = PR (SEO)

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 09/22/2005

I attended John Battelle’s book signing in NYC yesterday at Coliseum Books. As far as I know, it was only announced on his website. About 20 of us showed up. I hope it was worth it for John. I’ll do my part by promoting it here. We already bought 2 copies for the Connors office, and it is one of the biggest favors he could have done for us in framing “the search” conversation: that how you’re found in Google is your identity as a company. Search = Brand = PR. John agreed, and in fact, that’s how he signed the book, which I’ll attach to this post. We will probably buy a few more to give to clients and prospective clients to read. John’s visit lasted for about 2 hours, and it was an interactive question and answer session, heavy on Google subject-matter, of course. He also spoke to us about his new business venture, Federated Media Publishing.

My question to John was about the naming of the industries surrounding the search. The paid keyword campaigns, which started out as PPC is coming to be known as AdWords—regardless of whether you’re talking about Yahoo’s whatever they call it. The paid keyword side of search has a name. But what about the search engine optimization industry? When you try to qualify the part of the search that’s not paid, you have to start saying “natural” or “organic”. So, now you have to say organic search engine optimization—it’s like talking to an engineer. If you don’t already understand how important the non-AdWords part of search is, the audience could zone out before you’re done introducing the topic. We need a better acronym than SEO.

Perhaps the book was a missed opportunity to attach a better moniker to the field of natural search optimization. But more importantly, John is eliminating the “Engine” in Search Engine (another overly-techie term) by mainstreaming the concept of search, and turning into a noun. Whereas Google crossed over into becoming a verb, to google, or googling, so must search cross over to becoming a noun: The Search. That way, we can simply refer to paid search and natural search and acknowledge the importance of the subject-matter. With the conversation thus-framed, it is much easier to start talking about the main search results, the unpaid results, the content which is the actual draw of the site. It would be interesting to see the actual statistics of paid-clicks vs. gratis clicks.

There is nothing really natural about natural search. They are algorithmic human artifact, and always subject to infiltration by paid results. Google’s mission is to make the searcher happy. If inline, unlabeled paid results would make the searcher happy, I’m sure it would happen. But there is an integrity issue here. Somehow, expectations have been set that non-paid results are genuine, relevant and more deserving of trust. As long as that perception continues, there will be a industry attempting to influence these results, much the same way the public relations industry attempts to influence the media.