Let's presume that I was running a search engine and wanted to deliver results that the majority of searchers are happy with.
* Would I run a search engine based on internal links?
* Would I run a search engine based on page content?
* Would I run a search engine based on external links?
* Would I run a search engine based on brand?
Hmmm, I think I would do all of the above. The 1st 3 points are all relatively simple to implement as great people have gone before us and shown us the way to do it but how on earth do you measure "brand"?
It's a soft term, something that is hard to define, yet, as a business, you know it when you have it and aspire it when you don't. As a consumer you are aware of it when a product has it and quite often shy away from it if it is missing.
* Coke is a brand, but then again so is Rola Cola
When You search for Cola what would you expect to see?
* Aston Martin is a brand, but so is Trabant
When you search for cars which would be a "better result" for you ?
* RayBan is a brand, yet so are Dame Edna Everage's Glasses
When you seek information on spectacles what would you like to see?
Maybe "brand" is the wrong term to use, maybe we should be better by defining it as...
"a product or company that is already within our psyche?"
The one thing that Coke, Rola Cola, Aston Martin, Trabant, Rayban and Dame Edna all have in common with each other is that you mention their name and I am already aware of them, I have a mental image and I have pre determined views about them.
But then I have to work out what is the difference between say Rola Cola and Coke? I don't know about you but I like Coke and could never stand Rola Cola when it was sold over here in the UK yet I am sure there are many people who prefer Rola Cola's flavour over Coke. Either way you had to become aware of the product, it had to become ingrained in your psyche, it had to become a "brand" for you to make that 1st purchase.
Let's look a little deeper, let's go back in time and ask how these companies' built their position into our psyches.
* They were in in newspapers
* They were in magazines
* They were on TV
* They were in the cinema
* They were on billboards
* They undertook public relations
In essence everywhere you looked, everywhere you went, whatever you viewed on whatever screen you saw them, and slowly over time they worked their way into your pysche.
But how do you measure those offline unconnected media and incorporate the data to work WITH online links and content as a measure of "brand" ?
The first issue would be to ascertain how many people get to see the messages within the respective media. The second issue would be to recognise what messages and by whom are being pushed forward by the marketers that place the advertising.
Let's break them down by general category
* Print Media- All major print based media (at least in the UK and I am sure similar exist elsewhere in the world) have their readership and sales audited. This delivers real and meaningful data to show the amount of eyeballs that see any mentions of a product or company within them.
* Screen Based Media - These media also have their viewer numbers audited, with popularity of shows and films being available enabling price differences for advertisers between a main commercial channel with a popular show, say ITV's during Britain's Got Talent compared to say Discovery Shed's Wheeler Dealer
* Billboard Advertising - This one is trickier to measure, not in so much as how many eyeballs get to see them but where and what message is on every billboard out there. But let's presume for a moment that I had lots of resources available to me and also let's presume I wanted to deploy of team of cars going around the country with camera's perched a top. If I were trying to take pictures of the whole country I might well do this.... Hold on, wait a minute, hasn't a household search engine brand done this already? Those, multi camera wearing, life spying vehicles will be capturing billboards as well as the streets and people within them as well. WOOOHOOO - we have just solved a crucial problem, we now know when and where Billboard advertising changes and we have pictures showing what are on those billboards each time they change.
So now we know who gets to see marketing messages we simply don't know what messages are out there.
OCR is your friend and so are subtitles (closed captioning) within TV programmes.
TV and Cinema is nothing but a stream of images and sound. Subtitling makes life even easier as raw text data is present and accessible. Print media is nothing but images, and optical character recognition is pretty damn good.
Let me ask you, isn't it possible to run your theoretically infinite and scaleable resources into running a server farm to process all these images and closed captions looking for mentions of web properties ?
Whern THE becomes #*$!
When THE becomes #*$!
I admit that OCR isn't perfect, you sometimes get false positives (#*$! or THE ?) but overall it is pretty damn good and more importantly I believe it is more than "good enough" - Perfection may be sought but good enough is exactly that, it delivers a solution to a problem that is accurate enough to deliver acceptable data for our goals. It is "Good Enough"
So let's recap, in theory ......
* We can be aware of the amount of people that view offline media
* We can be aware of mentions of web properties and "brands" in offline media
But how do we incorporate that raw data so that it can deliver a Brand or Inner Psyche based search engine?
Let's work the simple angle 1st.
Viewers * Brand Mentions = Psyche Score
Quite simply we could combine the onpage analysis engines to ascertain the theme of a page & site then rank them according to the Pysche Score. In this manner Coke would rank above Rola Cola and Dame Edna would always come below RayBan sunglasses.
The next challenge would be to integrate this with link based algorithms. We would want to do this as we know they work. Yup, they've been spammed to buggery and back but overall, spam aside, they work and they work extremely well.
Let's presume that we have lots and lots and lots and lots of user data. We could gather this via advertising programmes, toolbar useage, clickstream data based on analytics or any number of numerous other data collection methods including running an existing and large search engine. In theory this would allow us to understand and see if there is a correlation in user activity and Pysche mining (Brand) related advertising and touchpoint opportunities (I had to get one bull#*$! bingo phrase in this post!)
If there was a correlation we would know the power of offline media in comparison to clickthroughs from search, specific search phrases, time on page and many other metrics.
Couldn't we then weight the power of the offline media accordingly?
Shirley Crabtree - The Big Daddy !
Shirley Crabtree - The Big Daddy !
Do you think the following might be worth testing?
Viewers * Brand Mentions = Psyche Score
Ranking Score = Link Score ^ (Psyche Score * Industry Related Offline Media Weighting)
I believe that this will ensure that larger businesses, essentially BRANDS that have succesfully made it into our inner psyche to rank extremely well and reduce the opportunity for small businesses who operate and market almost exclusively online to compete with the "big daddies" of their industry.
It would ensure that, as long as there was some relevant content on page, any Big Daddy domain name would be able to rank for almost anything. It would also reduce the amount of visible spam as most Big Daddy domain names don't directly spam. The link spam and content spam would still be there it would simply be invisible to the searcher as so few click past the 1st or 2nd page of results.
So let's recap over what would be required to implement this.....
* A large page scanning operation to digitise print based media
* A large base of camera equipped vehicles to capture billboard advertising
* A large server processing pool to work your way through TV, Cinema, print images and subtitles
* A great team of thinkers to convert the raw data to meaningful search results
Hmmmm, who do you know that might have that?