Before search engines appeared, how did Internet users find information? Where was information located and who had it all?
It is hard to imagine what life was like before the Internet became part of our daily lives. Schools are removing classes on writing in cursive and replacing them with how to handle Facebook bullies. Google plans on the being the one and only place on the entire Internet to provide the answers to all questions by all people.
To do that, Google must know who we are, and this is not something we agree is what we want.
We do, however, provide the same thing we have been offering since we first plugged in a computer, dialed up a modem and waited for our email to load. For many people during the early 1990’s, American Online (AOL) was where the party started. We began by sharing what we found.
You Have to See This
In 1995 I bought a 286 PC with a 9600 baud modem that shared my phone line. To get email, access the Web and make my first AOL website, I had to call a long distance phone number to reach an AOL server. Once I was connected and the modem screeching ended, I went to my favorite groups in AOL that were arranged by topic to meet and talk with other people interested in the same things. I belonged to and moderated several email subscription groups that essentially did the same thing, which was bringing people and information together.
In the years to come, there would be all kinds of ways to find people to meet and share information with, such as e-zines, groups, chat rooms, listservs, Deja news, UseNet and early forms of instant messaging. In 1998 I launched a forums, while participated in several others. There was no shortage of information.
I met mentors who taught me how make my first websites by emailing me or recommending books. Back then, search engines were not born yet. If I wanted to know how to do something, I went to a forum or an email distribution list.
They all worked by making referrals and recommendations.
Search by Popularity
Before search engines, everything was referral based.
I repeat. The way to find information at the dawn of the Internet was by referrals.
If you are a search engine marketer, this is important. The basic core algorithm for all search engines is “What is the most popular website?” This one question tortures and challenges search engine marketers. They have created schemes, tricks and tools for the sole purpose of creating web page popularity. Their mistake is not studying user behavior. Companies do not invest in studying user behavior and how the data relates to their particular web site requirements.
Conversions and Search Engines
Today, rather than refer to words like usability and user experience design, the code word is “Conversions”. Call it what you wish, but the fact is, you can lead a person to a search engine result by hook or by crook, but if the web site is not designed for that visitor, they are leaving.
It is a fact that most companies pay for a web design, without understanding or caring about the user experience. Companies care most about search engine rank. They will do just anything to achieve this, but pay no attention to making their web site user friendly. Everywhere is the evidence, from banner ads plastered all over pages, to forms that demand to be filled out before a web page can be viewed.
It boils down to this one secret. Are people recommending your products and services? Are they chatting about your brand? Do they refer you? Are you providing a trusted resource?
If your website were to suddenly disappear, would anybody care?
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