The more stuff there is, the more difficult it is to find the right stuff at the right time. Guess that's almost Google's raison d'etre, but have they got it right? Is there a better or alternative search approach for you and your colleagues, and what would this mean for your marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO)?
Google's highly secretive approach to working out what might be more relevant to your search query is called PageRank. Fundamentally, their innovation counts a link to a website as a vote for that website's content. And a link to your site from a higher PageRanked site is worth more than a link from a lowly site.
This approach blew the competition away (remember Alta Vista?), and Microsoft and Yahoo! have been playing catchup since.
But when was the last time you hyperlinked to a website?
The vast majority of people are not webmasters. Most people do not have content or linking responsibility for their organisation's website. Most people don't blog, and the vast majority that do blog have a PageRank of almost no consequence. So PageRank is most impacted by links from the BIG blogs (Huffington Post, Techcrunch) and the BIG media websites (BBC, CNN), which ends up not being quite so "democratic" then as Google makes out.
(Note, I don't know for sure how Google et al 'weight' things, but I'm not alone in reaching these conclusions).
Enter social bookmarking
Every Web user can use a social bookmarking service. The immediate advantage is the portability of your bookmarks ie, they're not stuck on one PC but available from any Internet connected device. And a bookmark, whilst convenient and directly useful to the person making it, is also a vote for the webpage in question.
It's not surprising then that one of the big search themes resonating on websites such as SearchEngineWatch is social search. Some social search purists believe social bookmarking is all you need to deliver more relevant search results, and some see this approach augmenting the PageRank-type algorithms of the current dominant search services.
Here's a great post from the CEO of Taptu, a mobile search company, about the history and pros and cons of socially assisted search. And the Wikipedia entry for social bookmarking that also covers a bit about developing a search engine from bookmarks, and the Wikipedia list of social bookmarking services.
How can you use socially assisted search in your organisation today?
You might not be surprised if I assert that what's relevant for your team mates is probably relevant to you. And what's not, is not! If they bookmark a great online resource, a great restaurant to entertain customers, the website of a supplier or competitor, news articles about your market, then all these things are relevant to you too.
So why not get everyone using the same bookmarking service, so long as it's one that allows you to search within your network. I use Yahoo's Delicious (the first and best in my opinion), so let's take a quick look at how it would work for you?
Once you've signed up and installed the Firefox add-on (or Internet Explorer buttons if you don't use the world's best browser!) you can get bookmarking. You can also import all your bookmarks (aka favourites) currently kept by your browser on your computer into the service.
Add your team mates to your Delicious network and you can tell your boss that you've social-search-enabled your business :-)
As per the screenshot below, to conduct a social search (1) select People _ My Network, then (2) type in your search query eg, "restaurant", "news", "customerX".
Implications for marketers
At Racepoint, we recognise that every piece of content we produce for ourselves and for our client campaigns must be written for humans first and search engines a close second. That entails "search engine optimisation" designed ligitimately to take advantage of the most common approach to search today: PageRank style.
However, marketers must acknowledge the inevitable rise of socially-assisted search too, or "human-powered search" as some pundits refer to it. Are you making it easy for people to bookmark your content? Are you prompting them? Here for example, the main bookmarking services are just a click away (in the column to the right of this post).
If you're not, then you're not building up your position in the social search engine results today and, more importantly, for tomorrow.
Photo by Vitó.