Searching For Cream: The Endless Battle To Find The Best

At the end of the day, the search industry comes down to a battle between the contenders and the pretenders -- and we all have the same tools at our disposal.

Search represents the coming together of two parties: the seeker and the sought. Just as communication engages both a "sender" and a "recipient", effective search consists of helping people find the most relevant result, on the assumption that that result wants to be found. It is a fact, however, that many people who do want to be found and who deserve to be found are failing spectacularly in doing so, because their methods of drawing attention to themselves are ineffective for the system in which we operate. Enter SEO. Although FOX News recently described SEO as on of the Top Online Marketing Jobs To Leave You Friendless, the actual purpose of white-hat SEO is to help deserving sites get found. In a universe of billions of companies, products, services and individuals, there are clearly some who have more to offer than other. Thanks to search, our process for identifying those quality players has improved dramatically. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Consider the entertainment industry. For decades, quality talent has languished undiscovered, simply because there was no effective mechanism for making sure that the most capable got the best shot at the spotlight. Then along came American Idol, and suddenly thousands of ordinary folks from around the country had a chance to be heard -- but even then there was a significant filtration process. Once YouTube and the democratization of content removed all barriers to publication, there was nothing stopping anyone with a webcam from broadcasting their performances to the wide world. The net result of all this de-frictionalization? So many people have broadcasted themselves that it once again takes nothing short of a miracle to get noticed. We've gone through a similar evolution in the way we find quality content. First, we relied on “experts”: editors and journalists and critics whose job it was to cherry-pick the stuff worth paying attention to. Then we figured we could find it on our own. Then we figured we could write it on our own. Then we figured there was a lot of junk out there and we needed some means of wading through it, so we created sites like Digg and Sphinn and let the wisdom of the crowds take the place of all those experts we used to rely on. And now we use white-hat SEO to help people and search engines recognize our quality content for what it is. It’s worth noting that quality is in the eye of the beholder. Lots of people go on American Idol who -- let's face it -- are best left undiscovered. And lots of sites want to rank highly regardless of whether their goods and services are appropriate to the query. As Douglas Adams put it in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy:

The major problem — one of the major problems, for there are several — one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them. To summarize: it is a well known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.

To summarize: the purpose of search is to find the result that most resembles cream for the searcher. Your purpose, if you have a website and wish it to be found, is to be cream. The purpose of white-hat SEO is to allow your cream to be appreciated for what it is. Everything else is just curdled milk.

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