Search Optimisers can’t boil the ocean

Rebecca Berkich works for Xerox. She manages their seach efforts in-house across most of the world, except the Far East where she has to coordinate efforts with a sister brand. I had the pleasure of hearing her take on search marketing at the International Search Summit, held at the British Library a few weeks back.

Rebecca’s role seems to mostly be going around variuos stakeholders within Xerox trying to edge them slowly… ever so slowly… towards understanding what they are doing from a search perspective. It’s got to be tough call, trying to convince copier salesmen that they need to write search friendly copy and use a search friendly architecture.

She used the phrase “you can’t boil the ocean”. I had never heard that phrase before, but it SO applies to search problems in large organisations. I see so many parallels with the anaology:

“You Can’t Boil the Ocean” can be applied to what you want to achieve in search. A large company has hundreds – if not thousands of web addresses and domains. But you still can’t be number one in search for everything (unless you are Wikipedia, in which case… can someone fix that please? Jason Calconis has had a free ride for far too long). Why would you want to be top for everything? Seth Godin talks about the “Purple Cow” – a product that can rarely be found – as the way to get noticed. Being all things to all people is the way to be nothing of value to anyone. You can’t boil the ocean… because it won’t all fit in the saucepan!

“You can’t boil the Ocean” can also be applied to the people within a large organisation. You can’t get them all fired up to move in the same direction. It’s frankly like trying to heard cats (or DUCKS as we were doing on Tuesday!). Again – why would you want to? Everyone in the organisation has a different agenda – sometimes in the company interst, sometimes in ther own interest, but rarely in YOUR interest. You might get a few ducks to line up all at once, but never all of them. You can’t boil the ocean, because the water just keeps on drifting back into the sea.