Bridging The Gap
From The Search Engine Report
March 3, 1998
Background: This is a reply to a story in the February 3rd edition of The Search Engine Report entitled, "A Bridge Too Far?" The article was written about the appropriateness of "bridge" page technology in elevating a web site’s listing position in the various search engines. The article focused on "State Farm Insurance employing [bridge pages” in a highly sophisticated manner." The company employing bridge page technology on State Farm’s behalf is Green Flash Systems, a San Diego-based Internet software company specializing in search engine technologies. The following is a reply from Green Flash CEO D.R. Peck.
Ask yourself how many times have you ever heard a new user on the Internet remark how great the Internet is because it is very easy to find what they are looking for? Not very often. Wouldn’t it be great if that really were the normal experience? Enhancing the end user’s Internet experience, by providing their search efforts with very relevant web sites is our primary purpose here at Green Flash.
Since the February 3rd Search Engine Report article, I have had numerous conversations with search engine executives, clients, prospective clients and investors explaining our technology. We were hired by State Farm to elevate their positions in the search engines.
In all these conversations, not one person disputed that when a search is conducted for auto insurance, that State Farm, the #1 auto insurer in the United States, should not appear in a search engine’s result page. In fact many believed that the failure of a search engine to include State Farm would lead one to question the usefulness of that engine’s information.
Even though the superior technology developed here at Green Flash eluded, for the last 11 months, the "checks-and-balances" of some of the search engines, their charter to their customers to provide RELEVANT RESULTS had never been compromised. In fact, the nearly 100,000 users that clicked on the Green Flash generated links for State Farm is testimony to the relevancy of State Farm’s search engine positions.
Since the article, the State Farm pages we built have been penalized because they use sophisticated techniques, even though they are quintessentially relevant to the search results. With this concern for "proper" methodology receiving greater attention than the relevancy, some of the search engines are not fulfilling their charter to the end user.
However, I completely understand their concern about high-end technology manipulating their search results. The fact that technology can be misused is not the issue, any system can be misused. The search engines need to be checking for CONTENT relevancy, not method of delivery.
It seems that some search engines would like to "level the playing field" for all sites that submit. While this sounds ideal (especially for the small sites which have limited resources), it is just not realistic. In any medium, those who have the advertising budget can buy the more sophisticated delivery systems, whether it be TV ads, print ads, or search engine placement. They cannot make the playing field "level", they CAN make sure it is "honest." And, as long as you are registering and delivering relevant sites, the system is honest.
Let us for a minute, take a step back and imagine that those of us in the Internet business are all on the same side (search engines, web masters, web surfers and page-optimization consultants) in trying to better organize the incredible amount of information on the Internet.
A major part of our challenge comes from the current "key word" search technology that is in place. In its original conception, the text search programs indexed documents that were mainly textual content, well focused on a single concept, and designed to communicate technical, academic, or scientific information among a narrow group of information seekers. Now, we have a case where the documents being searched have, like a futuristic computer sci-fi movie, gained self-consciousness and are waving their hands with images, sounds and multimedia content saying "look at me first." None of this very relevant content can be assessed by the existing search engine technology.
Next we have the supply and demand realities. If one types in "New York restaurants," there are 1000 restaurants that qualify? Which ten "deserve" to be on the first page? There will never be an intelligent enough search engine algorithm to show the "best" ten restaurants.
So, how can we as a group solve this problem? There is, I believe a solution:
Instead of the typical adversarial role between web sites fighting with the search engines for favorable positioning, the search engines can and should decide to work with the web development community and transfer all their quality control efforts to the quality of the search results and not the methodology. User utility and useful results will be more clearly set at the top of the Totem pole.
Adopt a pro-technology mindset and allow web masters to utilize various technologies to enhance their positions within each search engine. This is the Internet - the newest fountain of technological development. I believe that sites willing to spend the time and /or money to earn high placement in the search engines, probably have a very good business reason to pursue this strategy. If we believe that professional businesses know their customers, users will be rewarded with a better list of links that more closely reflect the nature of their search
Right now we are letting sub-optimal algorithms determine, for the entire world, what is relevant. I expect a much better overall result if we let the businesses of the world compete in the marketplace for our attention. As long as you belong in the category, then you are free to use technology and ingenuity to elevate your listing. Let the more technology capable sites win. Isn’t this the true spirit of the web?
In order to manage this process and to keep order, search engines could require each site using ANY creative re-direct techniques to purchase a 6 month permit priced at $1 per link to fund the software development and supervisory team to facilitate proper placement and eliminate abuse. Currently, the overhead to insure good search results is an expense that is unfairly being laid at the search engines’ door step.
For those that abuse this system, we now have a self-funding mechanism to provide better resources to manage the search results so that all will benefit.
As members of the global Internet community, we still have a ways to go before we can say we have provided millions of users with a useful, easy-to-use information retrieval system. As more sophisticated techniques appear we should eagerly apply them. Together we CAN improve this situation and have people praising the efficiency of the web. Millions of non-users are waiting for the Internet to truly affect positive change in their daily lives. It’s time to build bridges to that bright future and bring the rest of the world online.