Research indicates that, despite all the hoopla about social media, that the majority of folks still get their information from traditional sources, i.e. print and broadcast media, but not entirely. Hanging right with those ol’ fashioned TV news shows and magazine articles, there’s search engines.
I have no trouble believing that. Whatever you want these days, just google it, right? I once had a significant other who was heavily into lemurs so I went online, did a search, and found a website where they sold purses that looked like lemurs. Really. And just last week, the cover story for TIME Magazine featured Google’s attempt to solve “death.”
Is there nothing Google can’t do?
Most recently, USA TODAY (http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/09/26/google-overhauls-search-engine/2877491/) reported that Google has trotted out a new algorithm called Hummingbird, “designed to make search results more relevant and useful, especially when users ask more complex questions…For example, the algorithm might understand that ‘place’ means you want a brick-and-mortar store. Hummingbird is also designed to pay attention to each specific word in a query.”
The article goes on to note how this change may impact public relations:
“As search gets more sophisticated, PR execs may have to modify and/or reevaluate their search-engine strategies. They’ll need to think more holistically about how search engine campaigns and keywords can be wed to other communication channels."
What’s interesting about this is, how people search is predicated upon their education and our natural inclination to be, well, simple.
People don’t search for “gastroenterologist,” unless they’re a gastroenterologist themselves, they search for “stomach doctor” or “intestinal doc.” People don’t search for “municipal government,” they might instead try “city hall.”
So you have to keep it basic. And you have to repeat yourself. Repeat yourself.
Which, of course, goes against everything those of us who were educated during the Nixon-Ford-Carter-Reagan administrations knows. Don’t repeat the same word in a sentence! Well, now maybe you should if you want people to find you online. It's all about the SEO, Search Engine Optimization, which is just a fancy way of saying, "way to make sure you show up in an online search." But SEO is clearly easier to say and alot more memorable...because it's simpler.
It would stand to reason that if people were better read, better educated, didn’t have a penchant for the monosyllabic, our search engine algorithms might be a bit different. But they’re not.
Now all this came to mind to me this past weekend as I was eating a ham and cheese grilled sandwich at the Taylor Haus Family Restaurant in Stewartstown, PA.
This is my Dad’s regular haunt, where myself and my siblings typically take him for lunch when we visit throughout the week. Everybody knows him there, he’s the town’s (un)official poet (my Dad self-published a slim volume of his poetry in 2005), and he always gets a laugh by telling the wait staff, “It better be good or else, I’m the meanest man in southern York County!” Which, of course, he isn’t.
My Dad likes to say, “You don’t find too many restaurants like this anymore,” and he may be right, especially on the East Coast. Just imagine a restaurant run by the Waltons. And if you can, you’re dating yourself, as just about anyone under the age of 30 would say either “Who?” or “You mean the family that owns Walmart?”
Point is, Taylor Haus makes this nice by keeping things SIMPLE. The menu rarely changes; if it’s Sunday, you know the special is fried shrimp. The bus boys get your drink order and the waitresses take your meal order. The menu is straightforward, the food is typically American (you can get chicken-bacon-Ranch-dressing wrap or a hot roast beef sandwich with gravy…the modern and the traditional under one roof).
You don’t need to ask for anything to be translated (nothing in French here, besides the salad dressing). The restaurant understands what it is and who their target audience is, i.e. local rural church-going, farm-living folks. If Taylor Haus was a search engine, you’d say they have developed just the right algorithm.
So, what’s my point? What’s new – Google, search engines, algorithms to determine what people are REALLY looking for when they search for “rag top” (a convertible automobile, not a bad toupee) – is really old, i.e. knowing your target audience, how they think, how they communicate, what their needs are, what they like and dislike…this is all part of “PR 101” and has been since there’s been PR.
No matter how advanced we may become, how many layers of technology we apply to our worlds, human beings remain, for now, essentially the same. By the time human nature changes, we’ll all be gone, and chances are, whatever passes for human (the rise of cybernetics may mean the Borg will be more than a Trek fantasy) won’t care that much about 3-cheese omelets and automatic transmissions anyway.