Monthly Archives: July 2013

Explicit and implicit search

Go to Google and search for “restaurant”.

Chances are that a number of the results are local to you.

This is the result that I get:

Restaurant Search

The third organic result is for

How can that be?

I searched for “restaurant” – not “restaurant Witney”.

This is as a result of implicit search.

In the past, search engines have typically worked like this:

The user searches for a keyword – for example “restaurant Witney”.

The search engine then returns a set of results based on what was searched for.

There are now two things that happen in search.

Explicit search and implicit search.

The old way was explicit.

The search engine user would explicitly state what they were looking for.

Implicit is the stuff that the user does not consciously provide.

It can be their location.

The device they are on.

Their search history.

All of the things that Google knows about the searcher that the searcher has not explicitly provided.

The combination of explicit and implicit search is starting to fundamentally change the way we use search engines (and in particular, Google).

Back to the example search above.

I am sitting in an office in Witney, Oxfordshire.

I carried out an explicit search for the keyword “restaurant” on Google.

To have a local restaurant rank number three for such a broad term was previously unheard of.

But when we consider implicit search, the term “restaurant” no longer just means what it explicitly says.

Google has used my implicit search details to show me results that it thinks I want to see.

Despite making no conscious effort to provide this information, Google knows where I am.

That is implicit search and it means that the keyword is no longer at the centre of the search.

It means that a local restaurant can appear in a vastly elevated position for an ultra competitive search term.

It means that measuring rankings is a wild goose chase (more than it was already).

I might be seeing one restaurant, you may be seeing something completely different.

The result of this is that the keyword research model of SEO is going to have to adapt.

Planning and analysis is going to have to rely more heavily on the data gleaned from analytical tools.

Implicit search is also going to bring online results more in-line with offline domination.

If a brand has 100 physical shops across the country and another has only one, the large brand is potentially 100 times more likely to be in the localised search results thanks to implicit search – regardless of who has the better website.

Implicit search means that it is not all about what you say but more about who you are.


This post was inspired by this video from Will Critchlow and Tom Anthony at Distilled:

Twitter, the BBC and fast news

Apparently Twitter is a popular source of breaking news.

When something happens whitenesses grab their phones and tweet.

Probably before they call 999.

As soon as the tweet is sent, it is live.

Viewable by anyone, anywhere in the world.

A few carefully placed hashtags and the tweet can cause quite the storm.

It is certainly a delicious prospect for news junkies everywhere.

Except there is one major flaw.

Trustworthy news sources and Twitter have one key difference: the editor.

When you buy a newspaper you hand over some money in exchange.

The money you hand over suggests that the newspaper has value.

The value can be found in the editor.

The role of the editor is to maintain standards, check accuracy and cherry-pick the news that is relevant to the audience.

Twitter on the other hand is unedited.

That means that there are no set standards, no checks of accuracy and no-one is cherry-picking the news that is relevant to the audience.

There are two depressing things that result from all of this:

1. For every accurate example of citizen reporting on Twitter there are hundreds (if not thousands) of inaccurate tweets.

2. Cunning PR professionals can very easily inject their own spin on an event in the name of diverting attention to their own agenda.

Both of these options are crap for the consumer.

That is why users follow the Twitter accounts of news organisations.

These news organisations ply their trade away from Twitter.

I like to think of their Twitter accounts as embassies in a chaotic foreign land.

The BBC Breaking News Twitter account has over 6 million followers.

That’s 6 million people who crave fast news that is accurate.

The fact that it is the BBC means that fast is not the emphasis.

Having spent some time in a BBC newsroom, one thing I learned was that the editor would rather hold-off on breaking a news item until they knew it was accurate.

The followers on Twitter know that.

They know that their news may be slightly slower, but it will be accurate.

The BBC will never specialise in fast news at the expense of accuracy.

Twitter does, and will continue to do the opposite.

Twitter is a popular source of breaking news.

It isn’t a popular source of accurate news.

*Update – 19/07/2013

The BBC has just published a piece on its new Breaking News Tool (BNT).

It is a tool that allows journalists to publish breaking news.

Note the fact that the BBC BNT is platform agnostic.

Also note that “the BNT [allows] journalists to publish a single accurate breaking news line”.

The word “accurate” is the key there.

Twitter for all

I attended Marketing Week Live last week (26/06/2013).

The first presentation was by a man who works for Twitter.

He was a big fan of Twitter.

Engage this.

Content that.

You name it, he had a cliché for it.

One of his big success stories was that of Oreo.

During the Superbowl 2012 was a power cut.

As you’d expect, the lights went out.

Being night-time, it was dark.

Within half an hour Oreo had tweeted:

“You can still dunk in the dark” – accompanied by a picture of an Oreo cookie in the dark.

Very good, they managed to turn that around quite quickly.

To date it has had more than 15,000 retweets and so is officially a success story.

Is it going to help them sell more Oreo cookies? You be the judge.

At the end of the sales pitch talk was a short Q&A session.

One plucky audience member asked this:

You have spoken about how big brands have used Twitter to successfully market themselves…

Can it work for a small company? Something like a local concrete laying company?

After stringing some words together in no discernible order the man from Twitter concluded by sitting firmly on the fence.

In effect, he tried his best to not say “no”.

So in effect, he was saying “yes”.

There’s a challenge for you.

Market a local concrete company on Twitter.

Ok, so there will probably be a smart-arse who makes something go viral – like a blog about strange things you can do with concrete.

But that isn’t going to sell the stuff, it will just make teenagers laugh.

And it can only be done once, it’s not an industry changer.

So there is the problem with social media marketing.

It can and does work from time to time.

But there is a majority group of marketeers who are too obsessed with it.

They feel that it is simply ridiculous to think that it won’t work in some scenarios.

This attitude rubs off on many businesses who begin to question whether they should have a Twitter account.

The man from Twitter did nothing to fix this problem.

He knew that Twitter is perhaps not the tool of choice for a local concrete company.

But he couldn’t bring himself to admit it.

Sometimes it’s ok to say ‘no, it probably won’t work’.

Sometimes you have to admit, Twitter is not for all.