Search Engine Optimism

I’m dating myself (I might as well—no one else will. HA HA HA!), but do any of you remember the time in which the Internet was borderline magical? When luminaries no less brilliant than Timothy Leary would get up on stages and predict a world in which he and a friend from Singapore could play tennis in real time without leaving their living rooms, all via the magic of the Internet and virtual reality? (I saw that on “Peace Day” at Michigan State; I was like, “dude, tennis?”) The dewy days of the mid to late 80s in which if you even knew someone who had a dial-up, had access, you were practically a spaceman?

In my work I occasionally am provided a glimpse into a world that most of us have chewed up, spat out, chewed up again, then spat over the side of a fifteen-story parking ramp. Then run over on the way out. The idea that the Internet is a place of magic, that computers and search engines are the stuff of wizards, demons, unicorns, and Tron. And all I can say is “awwwwwwwwwww!” And I want to tousle peoples’ hair. And my burnt-black popcorn kernel of a heart grows three sizes.

Recently while doing keyword research for one of our clients, I generated a list of terms that people have plugged into search engines. Near the bottom of the list were a few phrases that had been used, surprisingly, more than once (admittedly, maybe by the same person) that made me go all Care Bear inside. I’d like to share them with you (industry-related and thus potentially client-confidentiality-ruffling identifying terms replaced by Smurf language):

“Where do I [Smurf Smurfy Smurf] in Ottawa County, Michigan?”

“I need help [avoiding Papa Smurf and his incessant slavedriving] by five o’clock on Tuesday.”

“Please help me find a [pretty Smurfette dress and matching Smurfette shoes; indeed, an entire Smurfette ensemble] before next week.”

Holy Smurf!

So, I guess what I’m saying is that, even in our jaded, rarified world, a world in which if we don’t get what we want on the first search, and if the time required to wait for the results of that first search is longer than five seconds, we’re liable to throw our computers into the street, there are still people out there for whom the Internet is a thing of magic, to be spoken to humbly, as though it’s a reference desk librarian. There are still people out there today who ask the Great and Powerful Internet for help, as though it’s a bush-league Wizard of Oz.

Awwww, you little cuties!