Is today’s Internet your friend? Alas, for the typical EMDT reader, I have a mixed answer.
At about the same time as the first stirrings of the worldwide recession, the world’s search engines began to start favouring local companies. Localised search algorithms (among other changes) are a predominant part of the 200+ factors that affect a web page’s so-called ranking. (In subsequent columns, I will explain why I qualify the word ranking in the way that I do.) These algorithms assume that a searcher (i.e., your prospect) is more interested in finding local sources for whatever he or she is seeking.
Are search engines capable of sorting out the things you want to source on a global basis from what you want to source on the nearest corner? Based on repeated Googling experiments, I conclude, not necessarily.
For example, let’s say you are doing R&D for a new drug-eluting stent. For that, you may want to source a temperature and humidity data logger, a technology with which I am very familiar. I have worked with two data logger manufacturers—one with a good-enough low-priced offering; the other with units priced above what the market typically will bear and achieving a level of accuracy exceeding the requirements of most applications. I have also talked with most data logger manufacturers worldwide, with technologies at various points between the aforementioned extremes.
My curiosity about the search key phrase data logger was first piqued about four years ago. An editor of a high-profile health informatics publication had gushed on the phone to me about a very cool ultracompact data logger. The maker of this device was in Europe. Knowing that the services my 20+-year-old PR firm provides are key to worldwide lead generation, I decided to call this manufacturer and see if there was any interest in our services. During the course of my conversation with the company’s very capable VP of Marketing, she mentioned, as an aside, that they had absolutely no need for any services—PR or otherwise—to help in their search engine rankings because they were “always number one.” As we continued talking, I Googled the term data logger and its permutations. This company did not appear on page one, two or three—where the average Googler would give up—or beyond. I mentioned this to her but she was adamant: “we are always number one!”
My experiments continued. (For those in the know about personalised search, please note that my experiments were done from the same laptop without any cookie cleaning in between experiments.) I have now Googled data logger in the following locales: Chicago, London, Oxford, Paris, near Scotland, Bogota, Recife, New Orleans, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, San Francisco, Fresno, someplace in the redwood forests where connections were spotty, and along roads between X and Y. What I get when I Google changes. Yes, these are not clean experiments as they are not done at the same time but, rather, are stretched over time, but . . .
That said, Google (or Baidu, Bing Yahoo and so forth) do have localised search algorithms that work wonderfully for my local grocer, but not so well for anyone selling or sourcing more technical products online.