The Inmates Are Running The Search Engine Asylum
search engine marketers and clients to communicate effectively, they must
utilize a shared, common vocabulary. Some search engine marketing terms and
concepts are easy to explain, such as query terms, commonly referred to as
keywords or keyword phrases.
And some concepts require a little more clarification. For example, it
might take me weeks or months to undo the preconceived notion that PageRank
(PR) is a number between 1 and 10, because so many amateur search engine
marketers base their link-building services on the Google Toolbar feature.
Unfortunately, one of the reasons we search professionals have difficulty
establishing and using a common vocabulary lies with the search engines
themselves. If a representative from Yahoo or Google uses a term and shows
supporting documentation on the search engine’s site, their words are as
good as gold. In the meantime, I sit there with a furrowed, brow, clenched
teeth, and an eye roll that I could only learn from a teenager, and think, "Greeeeaaaat…here
is another search engine hype thing for me to deal with."
So, to help my fellow search engine optimization (SEO) professionals,
here are two examples of misunderstood terms and concepts created and
propagated by search engine reps. Before I begin, I want to establish a
frame of reference.
The inmates are running the asylum syndrome
Usability professionals (both software and web) are probably familiar
with Alan Cooper’s incredible book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum:
Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity.
This book was required reading for me in one of my graduate school classes.
In a nutshell, Cooper basically explains how high-tech interfaces drive
users nuts because they only make sense to the people who design and
architect these interfaces. Sort of like the tail wagging the dog. Or a
Dilbert cartoon. This is my frame of reference. And now, onto the inmates….
Google SiteMap = URL list
Okay Google, I get it. I am a marketing professional, too. I get that the
isn’t as sexy as the phrase "URL list."
I understand that the word "sitemap" is easier to understand because it
is almost self-explanatory. People with either technical or non-technical
skills alike understand the concept: map of a website.
I understand that many non-techies do not know what a URL is. I have to
deal with this situation all of the time. To reinforce its meaning during
training and consultations, I tend to write or display URL (web address)
But let’s just cut through the marketing hooha. A Google SiteMap does not
even remotely resemble the world’s concept of a map. In reality, it is a URL
list, clean and simple. I wish Google would do a better job at explaining
exactly what their version of "sitemap" is to people who might not have the
same context that Google has, or the same context that SEO professionals
have. Google has a blog, a Help section, a Press Center, conference
speakers. They could do a better job at explaining the difference between a
wayfinder sitemap and a URL list. Plus they could give SEO professionals
really good content to link to.
But I get it. SiteMap is sexy. URL list is confusing.
Yahoo Search Marketing = search engine advertising
I love Yahoo. I use Yahoo every day except on Saturdays (it is my
unplugged day). But man oh man, I was really unhappy at Yahoo’s rebranding
choice of Overture product – Yahoo Search Marketing? Huh? Trust me, whenever I watch people follow an information scent for advertising on Yahoo, they are
not looking for the phrase "search marketing." They are looking for the word
I have written about this topic for many years. I should not be writing
about this topic now, but I find I have to write about it every year because
this misconception will not go away. Search engine marketing encompasses a
wide variety of services, including but not limited to:
- Search engine advertising
- Search engine optimization
- Local search
- Video search
- Blog search
I implore you, Yahoo. Google has AdWords and AdSense. Microsoft has
adCenter. Will you PLEASE do some sort of contest and let your users come up
with a sexy new word that uses "ad" in it? The contest winner(s) can receive
free Yahoo advertising (up to a certain amount) for a year. Or give ’em a
link. You know, search engine optimizers love those links.
You can use the users’ language in a good way, you know. Readers, what do you think? Do you have any other examples where the
inmates are running the search engine asylum?
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)
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