A capital idea should still be a consideration for search success

Do you remember back to the days when alphabetical order was everything when you were looking for a plumber or local tradesperson ?  Your pipes would burst, your ceiling would cave in and you would rush to the reassuringly thick Yellow Pages and turn to the relevant section where you would be bombarded by business names like “AAAAAlpha plumber” or “AAAAAron and Son”.  There was no respite from the competition to be high enough in the listings to be first at hand in a domestic emergency.

The internet has of course changed all of this.  If you were to go to a search engine or even to Yell.com you’d search for a plumber by postcode now of course, and you might prefer anyway to use a recommendations based website like “trustatrader.com” or “trustmark.org” (though nothing beats an email round the office asking for a personal recommendation).

Everyone finds their own route round navigating the internet.  Some use a search engine every time, some use the address bar, and some scroll up and down their favourites list of course.  And in this instance alphabetical ordering does resurface.   The other day one media luminary confessed that he’d read most of his coverage of a news story popularised by The Telegraph at guardian.co.uk because he couldn’t be bothered to scroll down the list of his favourites to get to the “T”s.

I have 165 on my list of favourites.  In alphabetical order Guardian.co.uk is only at number 56, The Sun – which comes under T not S is at 108.  Wikipedia interestingly shows up at 71 because it has listed itself under M for Main Page Wikipedia not under W.  When I use the “Favourites” I scroll from the top, I wonder whether this has a marginal and yet important effect on my web habits.   How many people favour Amazon, not just because of its longevity, and reasonable service, but also because it is near the top of their “Favourites” listing?

However my alphabetical skewed usage days are ending as like many others I have started using a social bookmarking site instead.  Sites like Oneview, Digg, Delicious, Facebook itself of course and others allow participation in “folksonomy” .  This allows users to sort out their fave sites in a number of different ways – last visit, most popular etc, and also to see what other users are signing up to.  For this is not just an organisational system to navigate the internet but also yet another way to share things online.  Of course there will be those, who may be the mass market online eventually or may not, who will wish to keep their favourites private for one reason or another, and who will stick with more traditional online sorting.

Two decades ago, you knew a busy high street because Woolworths was sited in its centre, usually just by the main zebra crossing.  Now those sites are frequently standing empty, awaiting a revival in retail fortunes.  And Woolworth’s future fortunes in its new online incarnation will not be helped by the W with which it begins.  Surely for some time to come an early initial is yet another consideration for online success.

As seen at Mediaweek.co.uk

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