The Search (for yourself)

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 10/18/2005

One of the side effects of being awash in the data-stream of search hits is spotting vanity searches. Blogging is very ego-driven, and recently, very profit-driven. I’ll never forget how David Sifry of Technorati telling me how the desire to ferret out these non-linked citations is how Technorati was born. But if you’re controlling a site, you have access to a very large chunk of that database of intentions related to your own company, product, service or blog, as the scrolling Matrix-like area at the top of this screen gives you an idea.

Currently, I am promoting Connors as the purveyors of a rare form of PR (Web Service-driven, search-centric & efficiency-obsessed). And I’ve had the topics of Search and Web Programming on the brain. The biggest thing going on in search is not some new site like IdeaLab’s Snap, although pay-for-conversion is pretty cool. But it’s the mainstreaming of the concept of intention-based marketing by John Battelle’s book, The Search. I’m about half-way through it, and while I wouldn’t call it archetypal yet, such as Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm or Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, it is the first book that collects together the arguments for why everything is changed forever as a result of “the search”, and how it’s bigger than just the Google story.

But I am also trying to get John Battelle’s attention, and like any author these days whose looking for mentions, John is undoubtedly googling on his name and the name of his book—usually in combination. So as someone promoting new ideas (SEO is still new, as it is not in the mainstream), I’m trying to get the attention of the most influential bloggers. John is one of them. John wrote a book, so I can get John’s attention by discussing self-referential googling, and the flip-side of reaching out to these influencers by citing them, and watching for their searches in return. I suspect I’ve seen John surf in on this search. If I haven’t got his attention before, I probably have now. The efficiency part of the equation is that when I do get directly in touch with John, he will have quite a bit of background on what we’ve been trying to do (how we define PR 2.0 differently from many), but read-about on his own time, and as a result of his own intentions.

So, this is typical of PR 2.0. I am demonstrating our own credibility by posting, making wholly original content on matters of public relations and programming. But I am not surfing out and doing the equivalent of pitching in email and blog comments, a PR-industry practice often frowned-upon. Instead, I’m observing the desires and intents of the people I’m trying to influence, and when it is appropriate, mentioning them in my own posts. In that way, I am joining the online dialogue in a genuine fashion. As you look around at my other posts, you won’t find a buzz factory, but rather the voice and sincertity of a thoughtful blogger.

To make sure my site was in shape for John’s visit, I implemented a cool app to help people visualize the searchstream data that serves as the cornerstone of our optimization strategies—in much the same fashion as fictionally portrayed in the movie The Matrix. Yes, with searchstream data, you really can see the woman in red. It’s a shame more people don’t have this perspective on their own sites. It’s absolutely fascinating. Viewing the organic search life of a website helps to put paid AdWord and Overture (Yahoo Search Marketing) campaigns in perspective. We’ve optimized sites that would have broke the bank if the traffic levels were being obtained through PPC. As Neil Moncrief is quoted as expressing, “[The ads] didn’t work that well,” explaining people tend to click on the organic results far more often than they click on ads. To this, the SEM people (those who manage AdWord campaigns) will occasionally predict the nearly total commercialization of search results, which of course improves their business and plugs the annoying hemorrhage of editorial search traffic. But one must always remember that Google built its brand on search that “just works”. And just working often means non-commercial/non-paid results. It’s a détente. Expect natural search to solidify as an industry and market and lose that Wild West feel. While it may never rival the total market for paid-search, it will be to SEM what PR is to Advertising.

The other self-referential search I notice is Brent Ashley of AshleyIT, of JavaScript Remote Scripting (JSRS) fame. Well, maybe not fame, but when you were a developer looking for a cross-browser method of interactive communication with a web server without a page reload, Brent was a celebrity to you. Apparently, that was only about 100 of us until Google mainstreamed it with Google Maps, and Jesse James Garrett gave it a nice viral name in this fateful article. I’m fairly certain that I’ve seen Brent surf into my site 3 times, even though he mostly reads it through a feed. And I see him re-discover my site with tools such as citation search. Whereas reaching out to John is somewhat deliberate, and I’m hoping very welcome because of how I’m promoting his book, reaching out to Brent was totally accidental. But it does illustrate the irresistible temptation to investigate your own back-links and citations—and how in PR 2.0, there’s watchers watching the watchers.