Search UnMarketing

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For this week, and this week alone, let's put marketing aside. My greatest search learnings tend to come from outside the industry trenches. Most often, a civilian relays a search experience that I would have never fathomed, opening my eyes to just how significantly that little text box has forever altered human behavior. This week, the stories also reminded me that much of what we search for has little to do with marketing at all.

Over coffee, a chairman at a major hospital both impressed and surprised me with one of his most common search activities. "I was recently teaching students in the operating room when I needed the exact definition for Gorlin's formula, which is related to cardiology. I used to send an assistant upstairs to fetch the standard text, but today I just Google it from the operating room."

Now it is one thing for someone like me to trust the Web for medical definitions, but a doctor? Educating future doctors? While a patient is in the operating room? (OK, so he is an anesthesiologist, which allows for some down time during the actual operation.) Regardless, the story suggests deep confidence in, as well as dependence upon, the search engine for non-commercial queries. It also stresses the importance of a uniform means of indexing important content.

Until recently, natural search optimization had been the task of the IT department or an SEM agency. However, the major engines' recent acceptance of a common system for submitting Web pages to crawlers has suddenly made the task much easier. Born out of Google's test in 2005, the protocol is now accepted by Yahoo and Microsoft.

A parallel might be drawn to the way in which new books are assigned an ISBN (international standard book number). According to the U.S. ISBN Agency, the system was born when W.H. Smith, the largest book retailer in Great Britain decided to a computerize its warehouse in 1967. Along the way, many consultants were hired and from here the ISBN was approved as an ISO standard in 1970, which is still used today.

In this scenario, a commercial entity developed a means of indexing content that was so useful it eventually became an industry standard. While many a marketer is probably thrilled with the standard sitemaps protocol, perhaps the initiative is the harbinger of a much greater movement.

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