A piece of software who loves me

A story doing the RSS rounds got my attention, but first – I must say a word about an issue that’s related to marketing and communication (which is what I do for a living). It’s about a story I read on the Search Industry Blog Normally, I would have left the piece for dead, because it starts with the oldest schlock-line in the business: “As part of their continuing efforts to help their clients save money, gain a more thorough understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and enhance the marketing potential of their websites…” dlah dlah dlah. To paraphrase Mr. Marks, the obnoxious chief-accountant in Mel Brooks’ masterpiece The Producers– “Do I smell the revolting stench of self promotion?”

A search-engine-ranking-company called Brick Marketing is responsible for this drivel, and there are many more clichés in the piece.  The sad thing here is that Brick Marketing’s actions are way-smarter than their PR work: they have now enlisted the services of an unusual search analysis engine named SEOENG (an acronym for Search Engine Optimization Engine, pronounced see-ohnj) SEOENG mimics search engines by sending automatic agents (‘bots’) to registered websites and collecting information about them.

There is a major difference in outcome between SEOENG and Google, Yahoo and other Search Engines: while ‘normal’ search engines collect data and present it to searchers $according to specific keywords and ranking criteria, SEOENG scans the target website for enabling strengths and disabling weaknesses, it then analyses how these strengths and weaknesses affect the site as it strives to climb up search engine result pages.

The engine returns crucial information in detailed format, including page quality, missing website info (such as META titles, descriptions and keywords), duplicate website info (notably in the META data sections, URL spelling, and duplicate ‘Market Focus’, where various parts of the same website seem to hold similar – or closely resembling – information.

Other issues include outgoing and incoming link quality, link neighbourhood (links to, or from, un-trusted websites), and link loss (erroneous links leading nowhere or taking hours to load, etc.) I can see how SEOENG can appeal to owners of unsophisticated websites. Here, finally, are suggestions allowing you to notice and fix many of your site’s shortcomings.

David Weinberger, marketing guru and co-author of the hysterical hit (and deliciously readable) The Cluetrain Manifesto, argues that automation is designed to help us “feel that somewhere there’s a piece of software that loves us for who we are.” A sobering thought – but we all end up find infatuated with automated applications, mostly — for a good reason, I may add. SEOENG is a new-age automated function application, not the first, or the last to offer tangible functionalities, using technology to do stuff we need badly, quickly and cheaply. Automation can be bliss, for example, using macros to automate repeated, meaningless, sometimes boring, actions.

Some applications, such as ReadmeSoft’s Auto Macro Recorder turn the age-old Macro function into a zinging tool. Think about it, next time you’re retyping identical forms with tons of repeated data. Anecdotal application include, for example, an automatic auction bidder – allowing you to bid for items during the final seconds of the bidding, thus improving your chances of winning the bid. If you are interested in other automated applications, browse here.

Last of the automated start-ups to land on my desk (thanks to BA for his!) is called Remember The Milk – an online, automated reminder, scheduler, time-manager, calendar, to-do list, organiser, task-locator, shared worktable, planner, sidekick and reminder – all in one. It’s an efficient personal assistance on anabolic steroids. The system inputs from (and outputs to) a myriad of communication channels including Gmail, Google Calendar, iGoogle, iPhone/iPod touch, MilkSync (for Blackberry and for Windows Mobile), Twitter, Jot and IMified. Now, if only I could integrate this application with my house lights and heating, the alarm system, the back door (aka dog exit), the coffee machine and kids’ bedrooms (morning wakeup sequence) – I’d be down some 30% on my stress inducers.

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