Search and Hyperbole: Even the SEO Crowd Is Jaded

April 25, 2009

You must read Dan Sullivan’s “How to Overhype Your Search Engine” here. The title is not in line with the story as I interpreted it, but it includes two hot words: “overhype” and “search engine”. The author explains the basic public relations steps to get coverage of a Web search system. If you want a checklist of what you want Bryce or Buffy to do, follow Mr. Sullivan’s checklist. The second part of the essay tackles “over hyperbole” (is that a bound phrase?) and seems to get into more subjective aspects of search; for example, “stealth”. If a search engine is in stealth, no one should know it is there. Therefore, a “stealth search engine” by definition is a poorly kept secret in my addled goose view. The beef in the essay is broiled for the search engine developed by a real live math guy, Dr. Stephen Wolfram here. Dr. Wolfram fares slightly better than Microsoft, a company that is almost too easy to make a case study for unsuccessful search management.

My take on this essay is the following:

  1. Search hyperbole is now part of the landscape. The claims and assertion that a specific system will revolutionize search or “kill Google” is tiresome. In certain parts of the world, “killing Google” is going to be difficult. In Denmark, for example, more than 90 percent of referral traffic comes from Google based on my examination of a number of high traffic sites Web logs.
  2. Mr. Sullivan notes that Google is an exception. I am not sure that I line up on his side of the gymnasium. Google faces some challenges in China, Korea, and Russia. Each country has a dominant search engine and Google is working to gain traction. So, there are three or four examples of successful Web search systems, not one. A thorough study of the business models and technology of,,, and probably some about which I have no knowledge are indeed “out there” and doing reasonably well. Google is an exception, but its approach to search is based on a combination of methods that work reasonably well, but Google’s secret sauce is its platform’s ability to scale at a relatively reasonable cost and handle petabyte flows of data. The search is a combination of what’s popular with some clever math added to season the pudding.
  3. Over the years, one of the principal venues for introducing Web search systems have been search engine optimization conferences. I may be mistaken, but Mr. Sullivan has been involved in the two highest profile SEO conferences, which are in my opinion, platforms for incredible claims and marketing that reminded me of some consumer product trade shows.

Three search engines doing quite well and keep Google at bay.




My conclusion is that substantive discussion of search and content processing is now quite difficult. Everyone is an expert. Even search systems with clever technology must position themselves as software that does everything. When the SEO guru identifies too much hyperbole as a problem, I am convinced that not only does a problem exist but it is too late to make substantive improvement. In short, hyperbole is more important than what a search system actually does.

Stephen Arnold, April 25, 2009


3 Responses to “Search and Hyperbole: Even the SEO Crowd Is Jaded”

  1. Search and Hyperbole: Even the SEO Crowd Is Jaded : Beyond Search on April 25th, 2009 2:08 am

    […] Read the original here:  Search and Hyperbole: Even the SEO Crowd Is Jaded : Beyond Search […]

  2. csharpvb on April 25th, 2009 4:59 am
  3. An Howl of Hyperbole Induced Pain : Beyond Search on April 26th, 2009 12:01 am

    […] to the public relations blitz that accompanies a new search engine. My take on his article is here. Now the journalists at are showing signs of stress. I can’t recite the entire […]

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