My wife’s blog is indexed by Google. I am not sure how that happened.
She didn’t ask for it to be indexed. So how did the blog get into Google’s index? OK, so maybe Google followed a link to my wife’s blog from a web-page already in its index. But that means that the web-page owner would have had to discover the blog somehow (to add a hyperlink to his page). So how exactly would a web-page owner discover the blog? (answer at the end of the post)
Nobody thinks too much about this, but how do users (and search engines) discover content on the web?
Remember that “discovering” content from results of a search engine query doesn’t count as content discovery – that’s actually content rediscovery. Before a user can discover new content through search engine results, the search engine itself has to discover said content. Surprisingly, even the search engine’s discovery of new content by following links is not content discovery. Before a search engine can discover new content by following a link, some web-page owner had to discover the new content and needed to add a hyper-link. I’m more interested in that fundamental process by which newly published content is discovered by other users.
I count three fundamental methods by which users (and search engines) discover content:
- Portals: Users go to a well-known website (like New York Times) and find new content. Search engines also may have a list of well-known websites to index by default.
- Social Network: 10 years ago, this meant email. A content publisher might send an email to all his friends. If the content was good enough, it may get forwarded, and linked to by a wider set of people. Today, it encompasses Facebook and Twitter.
- Interest Groups: I use this term to mean groups of people interested in the same thing getting together to exchange information. 10 years ago, this meant distribution lists and usenet groups. Today, it means Yelp, Twitter, etc.
Note also that I do not consider advertising to be a significant mechanism for content discovery. The primary purpose of advertising, in my view, is for discovery of products and services available in the real world; it is rarely used to advertise information available online.
It is interesting to list out how each of the three mechanisms of content discovery has evolved to deal with the higher rate of content generation on the web. Notice how Twitter has innovated on two of the content discovery mechanisms (while Facebook has innovated on only one). This is why I believe that it is hard to beat Twitter as a content discovery network.
|Portals||10 Years Ago:
Portals content used to be editorially managed. A small group of (paid) writers would submit articles for review to the editors (typically salaried employees), who would then approve publishing it up to the portal.
|Social Network||10 Years Ago:
Email was pretty much the only alternative. If you were a content publisher, you’d send an email out to your friends, and if they found it interesting, they would forward it further. Many successful portals (Angie’s List, for example) actually started out that way.
|Interest Groups||10 Years Ago:
Usenet groups were the primary mode of communication among users with similar interests. This was cumbersome in that you actually had to get approval to create a usenet group, etc. A secondary approach would be to create a distribution list.
More than anyone else, this is one space that Twitter has revolutionized (Facebook, not so much). Twitter has made it easy to create an interest group for content – in two ways:
Oh, and about how my wife’s blog got into Google’s index. It could be one of two ways:
- I have often referenced my wife’s blog post on my company’s internal parenting alias – it is possible somebody found the content interesting and linked to it (this would be the “Interest Group” method outlined above).
- I had left a comment on a New York Times article (ahem) about my wife’s blog. Google could have gotten it from there. That would illustrate the “Portal” method of discovery outlined above.