This essay originally was published on June 17, 2021, with the email subject line CT No. 86: "MUM and the ideal search result."
What's your ideal search result?
I chew on this question with clients quite often: what do you actually want potential customers and readers to see when they search for your brand name? For a specific term your audience uses?
If you were to "own" the search engine results page (SERP) for that term, what would it look like? What types of content would it contain and how would they be designed? If there were an answer box at the top, what would it say? How would it be formatted?
I ask my clients to think about these questions not because any one company has much control over the SERP, which is an automated response for most non-controversial queries.* I ask because the simple consideration of the question shifts power to a more human-centered place: what if you could have more control over the results of what an algorithm serves up for you? What if it weren't about ranking and competition and instead about considering how your brand appears to others?
Visualizing the ideal search result enables stakeholders to see that there are other ways to consider our current technology, as well as consider that there are other ways to arrive at a brand's website and thought leadership beyond the homepage.
It's also a solid conversation starter: if you could edit the lynchpin of contemporary epistemology, how would you rearrange it? What features would you make more transparent, and which would you keep opaque? How do your proposed changes benefit, attract or impact your audience?
I start with these queries because that's how I think about search. If I were in the room at Google, if I wanted to be in the room, how would I shape the conversation about what search should be?
*As shown with COVID-19 information, Google can step in and design search results manually without much difficulty.
The mountains of assumptions and the future of search
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