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The Antique Dealer and the Web Search Engine

The Antique Dealer and the Web Search Engine, The Business of Doing Business in Antiques – The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles – May 2002
Along came a spider… and demanded money.
Search engines, as most people conceive them to be, no longer exist. At one time, it was possible to go to your favorite search engine and search for companies that sold “apples.” Such a search would return two types of results, computers and “eating apples.”
If you were looking for apples to eat, you would refine your search. For example, you could search for “apples from Washington State,” “Granny Smith apples, and so on, until you found the information you were looking for.
Vendors hoping to sell apples, apple seeds, cider, apple growing equipment, and other apple related products needed to construct their website in such a manner that the site would be displayed on page one or two when somebody ran a search on “apples to eat.”
Keywords for such a site would include the names of apples, the names of states in which apples are grown, the names of farms, and words such as grow, growing, sell, seeds, cider, growing equipment and the names of fertilizers and chemicals used in the apple trade.
You can have the best apple growing business in the world but, if your website is not properly constructed so that it scores a page one or a page two hit on a query for “apples,” that website is useless.
The secret to a page one or page two ranking is source page programming. Do it right and millions of people will see your pages, do it wrong and your website is lost in a maze of cyber clutter.
What I like about the Internet is the fact that it treats all web pages the same. My website is as powerful as Nike’s. My website is equal to the website of any Fortune 500 Company. My website is on a par with Microsoft’s website. On the Internet, we are all equal. No company has an advantage over me because they have millions, even billions of dollars and I have a few thousand.
In traditional advertising such as radio, television, newsprint, and magazines, the companies that have the most money can buy the biggest ads. A 30 second advertisement run on the Super Bowl costs millions of dollars. This is more money than I will see in my lifetime. However, on the Internet money does not count.
The coin of the realm on the Internet is source page programming. If you can write good source pages, you are rich. If not, you are poor.
I have seen major websites that cost tens of thousands of dollars fail to show up on any search engine. Most all these nonfunctioning websites belong to major corporations. There are many reasons why the websites of major corporations are so poorly constructed, however, this material is fodder for another article. The only thing relevant here is the knowledge that money cannot buy success on the Internet.
STOP! Hold on! Guess what?
Major corporations are sick and tired of paying tens of thousands of dollars for websites that do not generate sales. Guess what they are doing, they are bribing search engines for a page one placement. In all honesty, bribing is too strong a word. They are paying search engines for a page one placement.
The rates begin at $30 per page and top out around $400 per page. These rates are for one year. If a major corporation really wants to get serious about having their company’s name displayed on page one for search results relevant to the product they sell, the price is $2500 per month.
Paid search engine placement is changing the very nature of the Internet. The definition of what is and what is not a search engine is being called to question. If search engines are to remain true to their original purpose, search engines must return results that are relevant to the query.
If a search engine returns results based on who will pay the most money, is that search engine still a search engine or has that search engine become an advertising company?
I understand what an advertising agency is and I also understand what a reference resource is. If the publishers of dictionaries and encyclopedia accepted money to alter their descriptions and content, their usefulness would cease to exist.
When search engines accept money for sponsored links, sell keywords, and index only the pages of companies willing to pay, are they violating their public trust as a reference source?
In my opinion, they are no longer search engines. They are something else halfway between a search engine and an advertising agency, a new kind of business yet to be defined or named.
The demise of the free search engine poses problems for the antique dealer. First, if you want to sell on the internet, you must pay for search engine submissions, pay for source page programming, and buy advertising on your primary keywords. If you do not pay, no one will see your website and you will not make sales. Secondly, free information and reference sources are becoming harder to find. This is true because academics and researchers who publish have no reason to pay for search engine submissions. Therefore, their pages do not appear in search engine results.
I believe that all of today’s search engines will continue to charge money for their services. I believe that all of today’s search engines will become a new breed of advertising agency. As long as such companies call themselves advertising agencies, I see nothing wrong with such agencies promoting their client’s products. The Yellow Pages have done much the same thing for years.
My concern is the loss of easily accessible academic research and free reference sources. I am also concerned about small Maw and Paw businesses, artists, hobbyists, and the websites of students and enthusiasts who cannot afford to pay.
I foresee the need for a new breed of search engine. A commercial free search engine that returns results based on the relevancy of the query, not the ability of some company to pay. I have no idea how such a search engine would be funded. Maybe Bill Gates can put some of his money to good use.
Students, programmers, hackers, computer nerds, anyone! Maybe this is the project for you. Allowing the Internet to become a forum for big business to the exclusion of everything else is not in the best interest of anyone.

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