Installing Google for your public website or intranet does not replace the need for professional management. The cult of technology can be disturbing. For years, a scruffy bunch of people within organizations went around muttering: "A Portal. A Portal. What we need is a Portal."
Some of these people became seriously disturbed and could be found in meetings waving their arms wildly and chanting: "All hail Great Portal! Solver of the intranet problem."
These people had intranets full of out-of-date, badly written content, and applications that were terribly designed and horrible to use. And so they believed in the magical portal software that would transform everything. Of course, it didn't, and in fact often made the problems worse.
The same cult-like behavior can be found today with regard to search. Some managers have gone from ignoring search as a pursuit of the nerdy and lost to becoming true believers. They now think that search can solve ALL problems Internet.
And, of course, Google IS search. So, it's easy, really. Buy Google and everything is solved. You don't need to work on the structure and navigation of your website. You don't need to write quality content and review and remove out-of-date content. No, the magical search engine looks after everything.
Except, of course, that it's not nearly as easy as that. A major reason why Google is so successful on the Web is that websites really, really want to be found.
Almost every search result in the first page of search results for practically every important search has worked really hard to get into that first page. The owners of these websites have worked hard to make their content search friendly. They have worked hard to make their metadata search friendly. They have worked hard to get as many links as possible, knowing that every link increases their search rankings.
Having good search does not mean you shouldn't have a good classification and navigation. In fact, a good classification will make for even better search results. Search and navigation are interdependent in many ways. People often use search to jump a couple of levels down into a website. Then, they like to navigate.
Technology is an essential driver of innovation and modernity. But the capabilities of a particular technology are nearly always oversold. And within many organizations there are those only too willing to believe that the latest cool technology will magically transform everything.
A great many organizations do not take search management seriously. They do not invest the necessary human and technical resources to increase findability. But at the other extreme, some managers think that all they need to do is choose the right search engine.
Technology on its own will transform nothing. Without human-designed and managed processes that focus on harnessing the technology, no improvements in efficiency and productivity can be made.
It's down to that old computing adage: garbage in, garbage out. If your website is full of badly structured, poorly written, out-of-date garbage, then the first result, the second result, and the third result from your fancy new search engine will always be garbage.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.