Just a short weekend update.
I haven’t made a new blog post for about a week as my parents blew into town and took over my house for a few days…and then after that, I spent too much time in the sun one day and got a case of sun poisoning….basically a rash over a large segment of my body…..thankfully, it’s almost gone.
I learned to not sit in one spot for too long on a 95 degree, humid day for too long! Who knew!
This morning I heard an interesting segment on NPR radio here in the US. NPR stands for National Public Radio. They have a show called On the Media. Today’s show was covering Google and they had a whole bunch of people on giving their take on Google’s recent changes.
People were debating whether the recent changes were positive or negative. I think valid arguments can be made on both sides, but in actuality, the arguments irrelevant to us. The only thing that really matters to us is understanding the changes — even if we can’t do anything about them.
I wanted to recap a bit of what I heard because it was interesting.
Google has begun to personalize their results. This means that instead of everyone seeing the same results in the SERP’s for certain keywords, which used to be how it was done before, results are now becoming increasingly different for everyone!
The first guest summed it up when he stated that search used to be an active process — we had to look for information, then filter through that information, and then refine our search until we found the information we wanted.
With the new changes, search is moving from active to passive. Passive because Google is now filtering the results for you based on it gathering information ABOUT YOU, based on your preferences.
Here’s an example given by one of the guests: he had two friends searching out info about Barack Obama, the US president. One person got an article about him from the NY Times (a news source that is accepted to be left-leaning); the other person got information about him from Fox news (a news source accepted to be right leaning).
In other words, Google had enough information about the biases of both people and filtered the search results based on those biases.
Of course, the downside as it was pointed out by some guests, is that when search was active, people would be exposed to a wider range of information (some of which may have been highly beneficial to them and which their previous biases would have not permitted them to see).
For example, if someone had little to no knowledge about natural supplements, and typed in ‘lowering cholesterol’ Google may filter that person’s results to just show information about conventional pharmaceutical drugs, and not show any results on natural products.
Other online media seems to be following the same path. I believe Facebook was mentioned as example as well. One of the guests who I believe was politically left leaning friended people on the right to expose himself to a wider variety of opinion….but based on his actual actions (viewing the information of his friends who were more left learning, those people’s updates and information would show up in his friend feed much more prominently).
So, now that we live in a world of automatic filtering as Google, Facebook, and other companies try to ‘read’ into our biases and show us more of what we want, what do we do?
Well, to start, we just do more of what we were already doing. Because we’ll still be able to reach a wide audience of people who are biased to what we’re selling.
For example, someone typing up cholesterol and omega 3 fats…or best fish oil….or natural ways to lower cholesterol…..is a good candidate to come across our content whether we have a blog, a web site, or an article….because we are catering to that person’s biases.
Because natural products are a big industry, there’s a large built in demand we can always go after.
The other thing we can do (and I don’t have the answers yet on this) is to follow the changes as they are continually being rolled out and figure out ways to adapt to them and market to our target audience.
One of the examples on the radio show was given by a guest who said there was a family whose members were overweight (I don’t know how this information was gained, but somehow thru their actions, Google or whatever company was reading into it made this conclusion). After enough of this data was “known,” when members of this family were using the internet the advertising that tended to appear for them had to do with weight loss products and services.
Again, I personally am not making a judgment here… is that good or bad, I don’t know. I think personalized has a drastic potential downside…the only question is, is it offset by the upside. Only time will tell.
However, from a marketing point of view, there may come a time in the future where marketers can someone find out people’s biases and get their products and services in front of them.
In fact, in the offline world, before online marketing started to dominate, this is exactly what marketers did. For example, in direct response marketing, people knew that people who bought similar products to the ones they sold were much more likely to buy their products.
So, for example, if you sold nutritional supplements, you’d rent out a list of say, 20,000 people who had in the past purchased nutritional supplements, and then target and craft a direct mailing campaign for those people. You were, in essence, filtering out people rationally based on their biases and marketing directly to them with a related product.
In any event, because personalization is a radically new shift in online search, it’s something I will be following closely and when I find strategies that allow us to bend with it favorably, I will report on them in the private forum.