Most previous TopSide blog posts cover technical features of search engine marketing or measuring of phone calls from web traffic. Although one idea in this blog came from a technical tool we use in online ads, negative keywords, you’ll find today’s post different. Rather than a technical article, today’s post is a combination of observations and predictions about information overload, the web, and products and services in general.

The stage on which we operate today
The quantity of information and delivery devices is exploding, but the hours in the day to process information (and determine what is useful) stay the same. This has been becoming increasingly evident in the tools we use and in working with our clients, who are mostly owners of small to medium sized businesses. Also, I began to pay more attention when I am in public. I’ve started to notice people staring at PDAs, driving distracted and one-handed while talking on their cell phone, and so on. Even when face to face with another human being, a surprising number of individuals will disengage to read their email or text messages, or look at FB. Not only if they are expecting something time sensitive — which we all sometimes have to do. Nope, just to check in. So, they check out in person so they can check in online, all the while being amazed that their device or program gets more intuitive.

Finding what you need can still be more difficult than it should
How happy are you with the results you find when you search online? Two recent but unrelated experiences I had prompted this post. They were: a- looking for an online collaboration tool to use with remote colleagues and clients; and b- finding a local auto shop to install a specific type of shock absorbers on my car. The collaboration tool was inherently not local in nature, and the auto repair was just the opposite. Without going into excruciating detail on these, I’ll summarize by saying: a- even with a deep understanding of search queries and search results pages, both tasks took way more time than they should have; b- neither solution was eventually found in the way I expected; and c- in both cases, I found the solution by talking to experts — one on the phone and another in person. If this topic proves to have legs, I’ll write a follow up on these two examples and what didn’t / did work. But for now, I’ll go out on the limb of predictions that resulted from these experiences.

TopSide’s 5 observations or predictions for online products or services
1 – Website meta data will eventually include a new section for SEO: negative keywords — just like search engine advertising platforms do now. These will filter out natural results that are related, but not relevant for the site. All parties – searchers and publishers — would /will be better served.
2 – Search engines will eventually enhance results with what I’ll call “intent category” options. These will help you clarify what you need when your query will likely trigger mixed or poor results. (Example: your query for “Bilstein shocks” will prompt the question: Do you want to do research / compare features and benefits, get shocks installed locally, or buy them online? A better example: your query for “AC repair Austin” would prompt the question: “do you need AC repair for your car or dwelling?”
3 – Increasing overload in info and choices (and more competition for the all-important first page) will decrease the adoption rate of, and increase the cost of launching new products and services to a more significant degree. Like in an economic downturn, weaker or undercapitalized players will not get traction and drop out.
4 – Web related products and services will require increasing amounts of face-to-face or other real-time human interactions to get noticed or increased traction.
5 – Due to being manipulated or noisy, previously relied upon types of online rants, recommendations and posts will become decreasingly useful. Possible exceptions: a- topics that are inherently social in nature (pubs, restaurants, clubs, yoga classes, group activities, team sports, music, movies, etc.); b –topics that have very large amounts of input from users somehow proven to have actually purchased or used them.

One last prediction: computer users will increasingly opt out of services or settings that annoy or distract them.

We hope you find this post thought provoking, and welcome your comments.