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The Vicious Cycle of Search Terms

February 8, 2010

I read the search terms that bring people to this blog. Occasionally, I see a combination of words that gives me an idea about something to write about. By doing this, I merely create yet more content of that which people are already coming here to read.

Think about it, this way. I tend to write quite a bit about laboratory informatics. If people type in the term “laboratory informatics” they are much more likely to find this blog than they are if they enter the search term “tuna fish sandwich,” for example. Thus, as I write more about laboratory informatics, even more people find me with “laboratory informatics” as their search, thus causing me to write yet even more about laboratory informatics.

There seems to be a kind of mystique about internet search terms but one of the keys behind them is that, while you do use search terms to drive traffic, you can only drive traffic when the search terms are finding your content. What I mean is that some search engines are looking where there is the most content that matches and fits their search rules and some even have complex formulas to rank content by how recent it is in order to determine which site gets ranked first in your search. For example, if I went to my own web-site and put the term “laboratory informatics” on the Home page 1000 times, not only is my site not 1000 times more likely to be found with that search term, but the more sophisticated search engines would purposely ignore my site.

When I do a Google search on my own company name “GeoMetrick Enterprises” I now find that my own company web-site comes up first. This was not always the case. In fact, if I want to find the Fortune 500 company “3M” they come up in third place in a Google search with their name. If I do a search on “ELN” I get the Elan Corporation, not an ELN vendor.

Thus, search results provide unexpected information, and some of the expected information is not necessarily of a high quality. This explains why there are companies that do nothing but provide advice on how to understand search strategies. The searching formulas held by companies such as Google are incredibly complex and kept as deep, dark secrets. These days, searching sometimes includes local information. For example, some searches are based on your own locality, which search engines can determine partly based on your IP address partly on cookies and preferences on your own system.

As with any other information we get, looking at the results of our search terms requires we spend time thinking about what we’ve gotten and in wading through the results. It is also an issue when we do these searches, internally. Internal searches do not have quite as severe a problem since the volume of information is so much smaller, but even Intranet searches can have these types of problems.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises
http://www.GeoMetrick.com/

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