This month I’ve been looking at the newly emerged term – influence engine optimization. In this post I will provide you with a brief outline of the history of SEO as well as the consequences of tricking the algorithms and what Google implemented in return.
We will then move on and take a look at the behaviour economics of humans – highlighting the concept that humans are rational & narrowly self-interested actors, and providing you with an understanding of human psychological aspects that further contribute to the transmission and popularity of influence engine optimization rather than search engine optimization. And last but not least we’ll take a brief look social scoring to explore why and how (on earth) Justin Bieber managed to have a higher influence score than Barack Obama.
How Did SEO Come About?
Back in the early 90’s the internet’s fast evolution has quickly overpowered human maintained web directories and saw the birth of the first search engines. In order to present retrieved information to users in a more meaningful way, search engines needed to rank their results according to relevance showing the most relevant pages at the top. A true milestone was set with Google’s PageRank – the first ever relevancy ranking algorithm scoring a site’s authority.
In online terms I think it’s plausible to say that some would go as far as to cheat the algorithms to obtain a better score. As a result an entire industry evolved around Google’s PageRank, namely SEO. An SEO’s profession is to increase the PageRank of websites. However, over the years not all brands and individuals have followed best practice suit so search engines had to find new ways to overcome this obstacle. As most of you probably know these were in the form of Panda & Penguin updates. The objective was to improve search results relevancy for the best user experience.
The Consequences Of Tricking The Algorithms? Google Authorship…
Due to the enormous social web adoption search is becoming ever more personalised. Google was quick to spot the human need to be connected with each other and has realised that individuals are more trustworthy than random websites. As a result Authorship was introduced referring to a set of methods to verify connections between published content anywhere on the web and G+ profiles. At the end of the day online content is nothing else but an extension of authors themselves (see my previous post here). Rankings now depend far more on who you are and what you have to say. And what better way to do so than acknowledging authors that are publishing compelling content?
Behaviour Economics Of Humans
When we look at behaviour economics of humans [PDF] it becomes quickly evident that we put a score on things. According to Rittenberg and Trigarthen it is the concept of ‘humans as rational and narrowly self-interested actors who have the ability to make judgements toward subjectively defined ends. Using these rational assessments we attempt to maximise utility as a consumer and economic profit as a producer’.
It’s human nature to care about ourselves and any comparisons that concern us: be that our websites, car, home, work or simply ourselves. Once we’ve put a score on something we’ve created a motivation/incentive and some of us want to improve our personal scores. My fellow State of Search blogger Barry Adams provided a more in-depth look into the behaviour economics of humans and how to apply the concept to digital marketing which you can read here.
This rather newly emerged term refers to the rise of so called influence scoring tools such as Klout, Kreed & PeerIndex. The popularity of these new technologies highlights the fact that we as humans now put a score on our capability of influencing others via social media channels. Various studies have looked at individuals & brands and how they are using and misusing these tools.
According to Andrew Smith the issue we have is that by placing a numerical authority score on each other this will have an impact on other individuals’ opinions regarding our authority, influence & status. However, these scores can easily be tricked and are therefore not necessarily reflecting the reality. If you’re a bit confused then listen to the next example.
Justin Bieber vs Barack Obama
If we were to believe Klout – the US teenage sensation Justin Bieber who has a score of 100 compared to Barack Obama’s 91 is more influential than the president of the United States of America. That can’t be true…. No, all Klout tells us is that Justin Bieber has the ability to move content through his online channels far quicker than Obama.
The Birth of Influence Engine Optimization?
All these developments pave the journey from search engine optimization to the newly defined term – influence engine optimization. Can you now see the link between behavioural human economics and social scoring, and why some of us might be tempted to game the system? Only time will tell, but who knows we might see the emergence of influence engine optimisation consultancies in the not too distant future.