The Declaration of Dependence

Here’s today’s column, continued in the extended entry.

The Declaration of Dependence

WE HOLD these truths to be self-evident, that all search
engines are not created equal, that they are endowed by their creators with
certain unalienable qualities, that among these are Spidering, Indexing and the
Pursuit of Monetization through text ads with a maximum width of 35 characters
per line.

This doctrine of inequality can be best expressed as the
Declaration of Dependence, whereby the masses grow increasingly dependent on
Google to provide answers for every query imaginable. It’s against this backdrop
that a new movement is arising from various search industry pundits to stand up
for the little guys — even when the most prominent little guys (Microsoft,
Yahoo, AOL, and IAC) have a combined market capitalization of over $400 billion.

Among those at the vanguard of this movement is a quixotic hero,
Charles Knight (whose name is perfect for serving as our Mr. Quixote). He
launched the Alt Search Engines blog with a quest
to educate the world about the thousands of lesser-known search engines, the
plucky bench players who never garner enough votes for the all-star teams.

Last month, Knight proposed “A Day
Without Google
,” encouraging searchers to spend a day without their safety
net. Given the important role search engines play in people’s lives, search
engine promiscuity is a noble pursuit. Granted, it’s possible such promiscuity
wouldn’t affect the engines’ market share in the slightest. How many Pepsi
Challenges would a Coke drinker need to try before he’d change his consumption
habits? As personalized search gains steam, expect the barriers for switching
engines to rise even higher. Consider the “My TiVo Gets Me” ad campaign — when
you think your engine really gets you, the search engine’s power shifts from a
technological advantage (which another can always usurp) to an emotional
advantage (a much harder feat to mimic).

It’s one thing for consumers to have their habits, but what about
those more vested in the search industry? Do we need our own Day Without Google
or a similar cause célèbre? Danny Sullivan offered his own challenge on Search
Engine Land dubbed “Google-Free Fridays.”
Inspired by “A Day Without Google,” Mr. Sullivan proposes using one of the other
top five engines each Friday in July, starting with AOL on July 6, and then
moving to Ask.com, Windows Live, and ultimately Yahoo at the month’s end.

While the idea of expanding one’s search horizons is worth
spreading, Search Engine Land missed a chance to speak out to search engine
marketing professionals specifically. For those in the business, there shouldn’t
be a need for Google-Free Fridays. Marketers should make use of multiple engines
regularly, as they’ll find a number of benefits:

 

  • Brand monitoring: How well does your site rank in various engines for
    queries related to your business? Does the copy reflect your positioning? Are
    the wording and links current?

 

  • Competitive intelligence: Which sites appear for queries related to
    your business, both in the natural and paid search results? Are there
    competitors on the first page of search results you hadn’t considered?

 

  • Consumer empathy: Use your consumers’ search engines and queries, and
    even search on the peak days and times for your visitors — anything to get into
    their mindset.

 

  • Productivity: You might find you prefer certain engines for different
    types of searches. You might also discover certain shortcuts speed up how
    quickly you can access certain engines. For instance, there’s a setting with
    Google Desktop where you can click the CTRL key twice to bring up a box to enter
    a query for Google’s main engine, while you can set up Yahoo with instant search to access answers to
    search queries as you type.

If you’re only relying on one search engine, you’re not doing your
job. Whether it takes a reminder such as Sullivan’s, bookmarking other engines
or downloading their toolbars to make them more accessible, you need to branch
beyond your default, even if it’s just a few queries every week or two on other
engines.

Such experimentation might not change your mind about your
favorite. All the major engines and quite a few of the up-and-comers have their
strengths, so it’s easy to rationalize sticking with what you have. It’s a
Declaration of Dependence we all can sign proudly.

And for the support of this Declaration, we mutually pledge to
each engine our Queries, our Fortunes and our sacred Search History.