Sunday, 5 September 2010

Google Spain recommends Marathonman!

When you type 'Stefaan' in Google Spain, you get this:

As you can see, the first 3 search-recommendatios are refering to 'Stefaan Engels'. Stefaan Engels is a friend of mine. Stefaan runs marathons. He runs a lot of marahtons: one marathon a day, to be precise. And he's doing this for a whole year. That is 1 marathon, just over 42km, every day during 365 days. I'm not kidding.
He likes to call himself 'Marathonman'.

Marathonman started with his effort at the beginning of 2010 and recently he reached his 200th Marathon in 200 days.

Congratulations and big cheers rise from the crowds!!

He tries to convince people to start exercising as well, and he invites everybody to join to run with him. You don't have to run the whole marathon, you can join for the distance that you like.

Stefaan Engels runs most of his time in Belgium, but every now and then he goes abroad. He's been in Portugal and Spain and has just taken of to Canada and Mexico.
He has been already quite a few times in Spain: each time he comes over, he runs a week of marathons. He was first in Barcelona, then Madrid and a bit later Valencia. When he's in Spain, his sponsor Pronokal tries to attract some attention in the press and that has had its repercussion on the on-line world in Spain, and specifically on the search-engines in Spain. I'll explain.

We all use Google's search engine. You type in what you search for (the keyword), and when you click 'search' you get a list of web pages which give you relevant results, based on your keyword.
To help you a bit with your search, Google reads the first word you've typed and gives you a list recommendations, like in the image above. A drop-down menu gives a list of what other people have searched for using the same first word as you just typed.
Say that you're looking for 'American Airlines': you type 'American' in the search bar, and by the time you've finished this first word, Google will give you a list of possible searches. In that list you'll find 'Amercian Airlines', but also 'American Express' and 'American pie'. You can directly select what you're looking for from the list, so you don't have to type the whole keyword and it will help you to search faster.
This is clever: a lot of people are searching constantly on Google, so it's pretty easy to use this 'wisdom of the crowds' and recommend popular searches. By doing this, your search has just gotten a bit easier: instead of typing the whole keyword, you just select it from the recommended list. And if your search isn't on the recommended list, you can still type your own particular search and don't bother with the recomendation.

These recommendations also tell us something about what people are mostly looking for. I've just had a search for the word 'free' and the first recommendations are: 'free hotmail', 'free rider 2' and 'free fonts'. This gives a nice idea of what people want for free when searching on Google. Using this tool gives us the opportunity to listen to our clientes and to read the puls of the 'searching masses': what is a popular search and what isn't. And you can find out (for free) if if your company is talking the same (search-)language as your searching customer. Say that your offering fonds on your site, you might want to talk about 'free fonds' instead of 'download great and unique fonds'.

It's also nice to see if a campaign has been picked up by the people. Stefaan Engels (pictured during his Marathon in Madrid 2010) has been running marathons in Spain this year. His story has been picked up by the media and it has been published in blogs and websites. On his trips all over the world, he invites local runners to join in and run with him. So people talk about this, and want more information about his adventure and where and when they can join him in runnnig. People start to search for 'Marathonman' on Google, Google picks this up as a popular search and uses it as a recomendation, 3 recomendations actually. So based on the 'recommendations' tool on Google España, like pictured above, you can say that his trips to Spain have been quite a success and that quite some people have been looking for him on search engines.

It's interesting to note that the recommendations don't have anything to do with the actual search result. Even if 'Stefaan Engels' is recommended, the first result when you actually search for 'Stefaan', is my profile on LinkedIn and MarathonMan only shows up on a blog entry which is listed as third on the result pages.
It's also good to note that when looking only for 'Stefaan', his own website isn't even listed on the first page. But 5 out of 10 of the results on the first page are blogs or sites telling hist story and dedicating a page to him. This is an example of good online press: Sometimes your goals are not the traffic to your own site, or the position that you are ranked in Google. Sometimes it's more important that people talk about you, or that your name/brand/product resonates on the webm independent of the site where you're mentioned. Like with Marathonman, the word-of-mouth works that good that Google recommends him in Search, even if the SEO doesn't rank his page on the first page.

Of course, 'Stefaan' isn't a vey typical name in Spain, and this makes it easier to be picked up as a recomendation. If Marathonman's name were 'José', he would have a lot of competition, for example by José Mourinho and José Saramago. But my name is Stefaan too, Google doesn't consider me as a recommendation when searching for 'Stefaan'. Maybe it's just that Google favours healthy lifestyle and maybe I should start running marathons as well, so my 'recomendable-factor' will increase for Google. I think I'm starting tomorrow.

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