Search engines

Anyone who read the previous post in this subcategory understands that I’m a big fan of a rather open market – including the online variety. Limiting a business’ means of making money stifles development and innovation. And in most cases, the advent of new regulations on revenue-generating arms simply drains tax dollars with no real benefits. The cost of violating some regulations is nothing more than a slap on the wrist.


With that being said, search engines are beginning to run into some troubles with their current business model – selling sponsored links on key word searches to the highest bidder. Misleading and some times flat out fraudulent services are snapping up sponsored link status and passing themselves off as legitimate. This disturbing trend is particularly troublesome in the technology sector, where so few (myself included) have a solid understanding as to what we are agreeing to as we download and install material from the Web.


Watch this video of a 12-yeard-old English lad discloses some of the dangers of pointing and clicking without CAREFULLY examining what is being presented. The screen is a bit out of focus and he gets a little flustered here and there, but his points are valid and he shows more Web savvy than a hefty number of far more mature Web surfers.



So how can we continue to utilize search engines, but do so safely?


Step #1 – Look before you leap

Check the url of a site to see its origin. If it doesn’t match the product on offer in some way or appears to originate from a country know for lax laws on spammers, skip it.


Step #2 – Think before you type

Ask yourself what you are really seeking. Formulate that concept into a short (three or four words) phrase. If you are looking for the most effective spyware removal tool, don’t search for the generic term “spyware.” Try “spyware reviews.”


Step #3 – Use what is given

There are plenty of resources available to the discriminating consumer. Seek them out and use them for all they are worth. Here’s one for searches …


More tips can be found at …


Final bark

Regulation isn’t the answer to safer and more relevant Web searching, an educated consumer is.  



Here’s a shocker – Search engines are businesses that require profits to continue operating.


To anyone more than a year out of college, that’s not much of a surprise. Those of us who have been working in the business world for a while understand the basic tenet of survival – to keep the doors open, a business must make more money than it spends. But some academics – you know, those folks who peered out into the real world for a week or two and then retreated behind the relative safety of the ivy – have been casting stones at search engines, demanding an explanation for this heinous behavior. So sayeth these sage media researchers, how dare Google and the rest poison the perfection of the World Wide Web with consumerism!


Simple reply: If they don’t, Google go bye-bye.


Google and other search engines initially started out with a business model that leaned heavily on banner advertisements. While the Web experts were busy cataloguing and ranking the world’s trillions of Web sites, the money side was trying to sell skyscrapers and banners to businesses interested in reaching the exploding variety and depth of demographics rushing to the Web to find everything from stock tips to celebrity gossip. Unfortunately, no one was buying. Then communications experts discovered Web surfers rarely click past the first page of search results. Businesses quickly realized there is a very real economic advantage to being listed first; simultaneously, search engines realized there was money to be made in guaranteeing top billing. Google, MSN, Alta Vista and the rest began selling businesses the chance to be listed first for a particular key word search.


Critics moaned the public was being duped into thinking the top search results were “organic,” techno-jargon for unpaid, when in fact the top listings had been purchased. Google and others bent a little and agreed to mark the paid listings as “sponsored.”


Now some are crying foul again, claiming the current system unfairly excludes small businesses and limits online competition. NEWS FLASH – the largest and wealthiest companies have always and will always maintain a clear edge in reaching out to consumers through existing and emerging media. The hippie-esque notion that the Web would be any different died the minute mainstream consumers started logging on.


Final Bark

There is no such thing as a free lunch. Get over it!