What if Search Engines Didn’t Exist?

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by Steve Heideman on March 9, 2010

The other day I was over at the great web marketing blog dosh dosh and read an interesting post on marketing your website without search engines. This got me thinking back to my early days on the web when I was in college (Does anyone remember those news updates?).  Basically, I would have to spend about 2 hours hunting and pecking through directories like gopher (named for the University of Minnesota mascot where the protocol was invented) for something that would now take about 10 seconds on google, bing or yahoo today.

I am a fan of kung fu movies–in Enter the Dragon,  Bruce Lee says when talking to one of his pupils: “It’s like a finger pointing a way to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all the heavenly glory”.

In the context of marketing ourselves online, this quote reminds me of all the things we do to design our websites so that we will be discovered by these search engines. Today, search engines are the finger pointing a way to our websites. If we are not careful, we can almost forget about the fact that the goal of building a website for our businesses  is to get HUMAN BEINGS to read it, understand it,  and take action on our product and service offerings. As Bruce Lee says in the scene above: “We need emotional content”. In other words–we cannot just write for Mr. Googlebot. Now, I understand AND appreciate the revolution that search has brought to our lives. I mean, being able to find the exact wording–heck the actual scene of a Bruce Lee quote from an obscure 1970’s movie in 15 seconds is REMARKABLE.  But, I also think that becoming solely reliant on a search engine to send us traffic is not only not optimal–it is dangerous–what if Google all of a sudden decides that it doesn’t like you anymore??

So, what if search engines didn’t exist? What would people do to find their information? How would they learn about your product or service?  Maki over at dosh dosh put it this way:

Without search engines, people will do what they’ve been doing for thousands of years. They rely on each other. They rely on the community, on the collection of publications known within their geographic location or industry. They rely on word of mouth. And they also rely on getting information from common resources like a public square, library, forum or marketplace.

If you think about it, social media sites like twitter, facebook and LinkedIn are the digital equivalent of a public square. This is why building your social media footprint and helping people share your content online is so important  to really pack the punch that you are looking for from marketing your business online.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Matthew O'Brien March 10, 2010 at 8:46 am

…and never take your eyes off your opponent, even when you lie (down). – Bruce Lee

Great posts, too bad Gopher wasn’t invented at UW, it would be called Badger. So true that social media is bring community to what was once a analog, one-way means of communication online. Web 1.0 is comparable to the cement walls that separate track homes . Now, Web 2.0 is bring a sense of familiarity with the way most of us grew up (especially in the mid-west) where no walls existed between houses, we know our neighbors and we took the time to engage with them. We are evolving online and social media is the vehicle to break down walls and build community.


Steve Heideman March 10, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Badger…that sounds more fun 🙂


Kurt Krake March 30, 2010 at 3:43 pm

How about Demon Deacon? If it was named that for Wake Forest, it would blow up and not be usable at the most important times…. like our basketball team who FAILS year in year out when it matters in the NCAA Tournament.


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