Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Social Nuances Hold Sway in Search

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Social Nuances Hold Sway in Search

Article excerpt

In the 1800s, the Hooligan family established a reputation for themselves in Ireland that caused their name to fall in to the language In later years, perhaps understandably, the family changed its name, adopting Houlihan to distance itself from its forebears' reputation.

The Hooligans knew the value of a name. They knew it could create personality for a person one has yet to meet. Think Rockefeller, Iscariot, Hitler, Hilton - they all create associations you just can't help but recognise. And just as this works for names, we're seeing a similar phenomenon online today, a sociological effect replicated by search-engine algorithms and the optimisation of websites.

Each site has a name (its domain), and to a search engine this represents its family and background. More established sites tend to have more visibility in natural search results, resembling a family with deep historic roots. Families like this tend to have built generations of wealth, be it in property, land, financial assets or treasures from centuries ago; and this is how search engines value sites.

If a site has been running with a steady flow of good insightful content for many years, it will have built up a good presence on search engines. Stronger sites end up linking to this content as a result, just like families tend to associate with others in their social class and with similar interests and background.

In search-engine results, we are presented with listings for hundreds of sites that we might never have visited. It is a chance for the websites to present themselves and see if we want to associate with them.

Many portals will have optimised title tags and descriptions in their listings, going beyond a simple brand listing and providing some further background information to help users choose. Users make instant judgements, using subtle cues in the search-listing copy to determine which sites they want to spend time with, just as they make snap decisions about people based on first impressions. This is a game of nuance and delicacy, where getting the right level of optimisation is crucial, and a title that screams keywords all over it may not appear the sanest of characters to deal with.

In life, some families migrate, split, or start anew, and it is usually these that have a tougher time making ends meet. …

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