“We wish Google didn’t exist”

That was the phrase that got my attention.

I was talking to an exec at a 1999 new media company… one of those anchor tenants on the web, a big content website. She said something that, in retrospect was obvious, but so shocking it made me sit up straight.

"Google doesn’t help us at all. It would be great if they went away."

It’s so easy to count on search, depend on search and assume for search that most people don’t realize how the dynamic has changed. If you’ve got a portal or a big store of content, Google is, probably, not built into your DNA.

If there’s no search engine and you need a recipe or a pot, you visit cooking.com and they find you the best match on their site. And it goes beyond web companies. If there’s no search engine and you need to buy coffee, you go to Starbucks.com, right? Leaders in every field had no reason to invent for search… it’s not good for them.

In fact, most market leaders still have web sites, not web pages. A website is a place, a sticky collection/connection of web pages with a search field. A website is a place you want people to "check back often and see what’s new" and where people are either in or out.

I’ve gotten a bunch of invitations to feature my RSS feed on other people’s sites lately. At first, it feels a little weird… my content on your site. But then, once I get past issues re endorsement etc., it makes perfect sense. Because search and RSS have exploded the web. (Tip to David Weinberger, twice in one day).

It’s no longer an organic web filled with organisms or even a molecular one. It’s atomic. Each page on its own, each RSS drip its own entity.

The punchline is that you can wish all you want, it’s not going to make search go away.

Wishing is not much of a business strategy, and the realists among us will probably focus on three things:

  1. turn your website inside out as fast as you can. That means RSS everywhere–in and out. And it means encouraging your readers to flip the funnel.
  2. continue integrating your pages into your site, but prepared to do a better job of integrating your pages into the web.
  3. remember that every single page is now a landing page. "First time here?" is going to be answered  yes more often than not in an atomic world.

What hasn’t changed is an imperative to get active, explicit permission from one-time visitors to have an ongoing dialogue. A dialogue that is anticipated, personal and relevant, and that leads to turning those strangers into friends… so that one day, they become customers.