Are Yahoo and PRWeb Confusing SEO and Enterprise Search?

November 21, 2013

I get a Yahoo Alert. My single Alert  topic is “enterprise search.” I want a bound phrase match. Like the other alert services I use, there are usually some obvious “false hits.” A “false hit” is an off topic story. The problem with key word alerts is that words have different meaning. A story with the word “search” for a new president often turns up with a story about Oracle’s Secure Enterprise Search system. Most of these “false hits” are easily ignored. Another problem is that some “experts” want a user to see something, so the query is relaxed. That’s a problem for me. For you, maybe not. For spammers, relaxation means more content baloney whether generated by an azure chip consultant, search engine optimization maven, or an organization desperate for visibility. In case you have not noticed, traffic to most Web sites is undergoing quite a change. One Web site owner told me, “We averaged 250,000 uniques a month in 2012. This year we are down to 48,000. What am I going to do?”

Go out of business? Change your Web site? Get a different job?

Perhaps the answer is, “Anything.

Desperation generates some darned interesting business actions in my experience.

There is another problem, particularly with the word “search.” I am interested in enterprise search, and I want to learn about new, substantive information related to information retrieval. The poor word “search” has been sucked dry of meaning. The wispy husk carries zero meaning. For most people search means Google or taking what an app delivers.

I noticed in my Yahoo Alert this morning these two items listed as the number one and number two most relevant stories for me:


Both of these are about an outfit that delivers search engine optimization services. The problem is that this sense of the word “search” is of little interest to me.

What is more interesting is that the outfit generating these items for Yahoo is called PRWeb. I don’t know much about PRWeb. My hunch is that one of the PR professionals I have used over the years knows about this firm.

I wanted to capture several thoughts about what I call “alert corruption.”

File:Gustave Dore Inferno1.jpg

Lost and desperate for relevance. Those in the woods are probably evil. See Canto One of the Divine Comedy.

First, Yahoo is not doing a particularly good job providing me with new information about enterprise search. Today I saw items related to OpenText, an outfit that owns a number of search engines. The story, however, talks about enterprise information management. I do not know what that phrase means. There was a story about Imprezzo, a company that purports to “overcome the problem of traditional text based search.” Well, maybe that is worth a look. Of the five items sent me, one was possibly of interest. Does a score of 20 percent warrant a pass or a fail.

Second, four of the items in the Yahoo Alert were from the PRWeb outfit. One thing is certain. PRWeb can get its clients’ content into the Yahoo system. The problem is that two of these stories are about practices that I find like tight shoes. I suppose the shoes look okay but I am uncomfortable. But SEO outfits and those who assist them make me uncomfortable. A buck is a buck, but content manipulation is like wearing small shoes that are damp.

Third, after 40 or 50 years of search innovation, endless surveys from outfits like azure chip consultants and morphing vendors like BA Insight, Smartlogic, and LucidWorks, I am not sure if significant information retrieval progress is evident. One would think that Yahoo would tap some super sophisticated new technology to filter out baloney, deliver on point alerts, and work with vendors who exercise some judgment about what passes for search related content.

My hunch is that PR is in a bit of a sticky wicket. It joins content management, governance, search, and Big Data. These disciplines have to find some way to call attention to themselves. Perhaps these “legitimate” disciplines should emulate the search engine optimization crowd. Visibility without a thought about precision and recall is their game.

I would like to receive alerts that actually match the string “enterprise search.” I think that is just too much for those who think that a user absolutely must have a “hit” whether that item is relevant or not.

Search and marketing may be a match made in heaven. Those who are interested in precision and recall occupy one of Dante’s less salubrious regions.

Stephen E Arnold, November 21, 2013


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