Advertising is the number one option to monetize content on the web. Even with the advent of the real-time web, until a viable model of in-stream advertising is conceived, search engines and their means of online marketing, such as SEO, AdWords and AdSense remain dominant. As in-stream and other real-time web marketing models mature, become relevant and non-intrusive, search engines will have to undergo fundamental change to keep a significant segment of the market.
Keywords are bad
In order to induce fundamental change first we have to identify the fundamental flaw. At the dawn of the World Wide Web the paradigm of search was borrowed from text documents where a certain paragraph is easily spotted by looking up a few words we presume to be in it.
With more extensive content and less prior knowledge about it this paradigm became harder and harder to apply. However, in our efforts to rank content by its structure, context and user preferences we kept keywords all along. Moreover, keywords today fuel an entire industry of online advertising, recklessly overlooking the distortion they add between content and the user’s specific preferences.
To make search and search-based ads as relevant and as non-intrusive as the real-time web has to offer, keywords must be forgotten once and for all.
Content mapping connects units of content directly by user interaction via a rich, irreducible set of relations. Between your content and others there may be similarities, equivalence, references and other sorts of relations of various significance and strength (relevance). Content that is relevant to yours make up its ideal context. The first n results a search engine returns is on the other hand the actual context.
The distance between the ideal and actual context marks the accuracy of a search engine.
Now, when you’re searching with Google, you’re basically trying to define the ideal context for the content you need. Imagine just how clumsy and inefficient it is to do through a couple of keywords.
Using a content mapping engine you type in a piece of content, not context. That content (or one that’s semantically identical) is probably already placed and centered in its ideal context. You’ll receive the elements inside as results in decreasing order of relevance.
Search engine optimization is an attempt to match the actual context to the ideal. Inevitably, when you tune your webpage for certain keywords you’re guaranteed to bolt it into the wrong context.
With content mapping, there’s no need for SEO. Not in a fair use scenario anyway, but on the other hand, the well-known SEO exploits (black hat, article spinning, keyword stuffing) obviously won’t work either. If the actual context of your content changes, it will re-position itself automatically to a new context that approximates the ideal as close as possible.
Shooting in the dark
When it comes to online marketing, SEO is just one of your options. Ranking algorithms may change and your content gets easily ripped out of the context you worked on so hard to match. So, you turn to a different, somewhat more reliable marketing tool, AdWords for example.
What happens from then on is again viewed through the smudgy glass of keywords. First, you take a wild guess at what keywords will best match your ideal context, bid for them and see what happens. If the conversion rates are not satisfactory, repeat the process until you get the best achievable results.
Assuming your campaign was successful, along the way you’ve probably
- lost a lot of time tweaking
- lost potential customers / deals
- paid for the wrong keywords
- took an exam or hired a consultant
- and ended up in a wrong context anyway
In a content mapping environment however, you land at the center of your ideal context. With no tweaking, no time nor money lost.
What’s the catch?
I’ve hinted in the definition that content mapping relies on user input. In fact it relies on almost nothing but that. I admit that building and maintaining the connection index takes huge collective efforts, but I’m convinced about its feasibility.
We only have to make sure it
- Provides frictionless tools for contribution: When the entire index has to be collected from the network it’s vital for the process not to demand more time and attention from contributors than what’s necessary.
- Treats harmful activity as noise: Random noise is natural in content mapping. Useful information within the system – however small percentage – is expected to be coherent and thus extractable. In order to suppress useful information a successful attack would have to insert harmful information of at least equal coherence. Input gathering tools within the system must be designed with that in mind.
Regardless of how cleverly we gather information from the network, latency remains an integral property of content mapping. Changing actual context needs time to catch up to the ideal depending on the size of the network. The bigger it is, the faster the response. At the start of a campaign one must be clear with the delay by which the content gets centered in its context.
Unfortunately neither of the concerns above are comparable to building the network in terms of size and difficulty. However, the steps through which this can be achieved are yet to be defined.
- Click-through rates: It’s sort of self explaining, but it may be necessary to emphasize the following. When a piece of content is centered in its ideal context it will yield the highest click-through rates when placed on a blog or website in an AdSense fashion.
- Similar solutions: MyLikes has implemented a system in which advertisers may reach a higher click-through rate by placing their ads next to (or embedded into) relevant content produced by trusted “influencers”.
- In-stream solutions: Take a look at this list of Twitter-based marketing tools on oneforty. They may not be all in-stream, but they can give you a general idea of advertising in the real-time web.