Apr. 11, 2013 | by Georgie Wright

I recently read, with great interest, of the legal battle between Sweden and Google around the country’s wish to formally insert the word ‘ungoogleable’, or ‘ogooglebar’, into the Swedish language. The definition that was offered around this new submission to the Swedish lexicon was ‘something that cannot be found on any search engine’. Google’s response was around its trade mark; surely the definition should be ‘something that cannot be found on Google’?  For me however, I translated the actions in an entirely different way, struck with horror at the personal revelation – something can’t be found on Google!?

I am, I hate to say, one of ‘those people who, at times, can be seen to run for my Google safety blanket and dive into my handbag for my beloved phone to settle a factoid discussion – the height of the Scottish lock in the 2013 6 nations? Did Larsson live to see the publication of his first book? The capital of Hungary? You get the picture. I am not proud of it but I am of the generation where instant access to a vast wealth of information has been readily, and easily, available. To consider something ‘ungoogleable’ – preposterous!

But it exists! And some people do it on purpose! *Queue gasp!*

Further reading into this ‘ungoogleable’ phenomenon lead me to discover a so called ‘ungoogleable’ band called –isq (nope, I’ve never heard of them either). Band member, Irene Serre explained that,

“We didn’t want to give everything away straightaway. If you want to hear about us you’ll need to try just a little bit harder. And then when you do actually find us online we have lots in place.”

I couldn’t resist! A quick search for –isq – true, nothing come up due to the structure of the search term. Insert some speech marks with “ –isq” and the brand is brought up, in 0.25 seconds no less. On Amazon and iTunes it’s an instant search result, minus the speech marks. I can understand Serre’s view, as we proceed throughout the digital revolution the world is increasingly becoming smaller, content is shared more freely, easily and we are able to get it 24/7. Would a little bit of anonymity and secrecy online be a good thing? We’ve all heard the horror stories of job seekers going for the job of their dreams and then the potential employer doing a little bit of a Google search and finding that their perfect candidate has had a shady past, the current misfortune of Paris Brown illustrating that point clearly. I can completely understand this from a personal point of view but what about brands? Surely, ‘hiding’ your online presence seriously limits the commercial return from your actions or do certain brands feel that being harder to find increases their desirability by being exclusive?

A quick search through the Superbrands list seems to prove this false; all have very active online presences. Quick searches for exclusive, luxury brands such as Breitling, Rolls Royce and Chanel again proves this not to be the case as all of these brands show that they have heavily invested in their online identities, ensuring that their websites and content instantly reflect the quality of the brand and its value. Whilst the idea that there could be luxury brands, restaurants, clubs that have no presence on Google is an interesting concept, commercially today, it’s not a concept that I could fathom.

So, could something actually be ‘ungoogleable’? As in the case of –isq, the minute that you have a presence online, search engines can find you – such is life. True, you may have to be a little bit more of a savvy searcher but you can find the band and their related content, and it’s pretty straightforward on the leading commerce site which of course will influence search results too. From my view, you’re shooting yourself in the foot commercially speaking if you are not utilising the power and opportunity that search engines provide you and I doubt that there are many brands going down this route. There may be incidents where you are at a disadvantage, for example a brand name with a broad context. Sticking to the music theme, one of my favourite bands, The National, are battling in an obvious competitive landscape with a multitude of newspapers, horse races, theatres and venues to stave off. But clever optimisation, engaging content and most likely an influence from my search history and social data, brings them up to top spot for me! Search bliss! Indeed, the Urban Dictionary’s definition of ‘ungoogleable’ recognises it not only as failing to return results from a search query on a search engine but also for producing an overwhelmingly high return of results which effectively renders search anonymity. It’s all about the first page!

Ultimately, I am a lazy searcher – there I have said it. I genuinely get frustrated when I do not get the results that I want through a search.  I love it when a brand understands me; my search behaviour; what I want, when I want it. I love it when they take the time to invest in long tail search terms, provide engaging content that I am genuinely interested in across a number of channels and react to real time events.  It took ages to find out how tall the Scottish lock was whilst watching the game down the pub with mates – 6ft 9in in case you were interested! I would have been over the moon if the national teams had made easily available key stats on their players, and optimised this, or a quick fact sheet around the 6 nations for pub based discussions. It’s simple content but shows a clear understanding of your customers – we don’t always want to revert to Wikipedia!

Today, search has evolved. It’s become second nature. We’re good at it and we want the results straight away, in the right context. As Amol Rajan puts it in his recent Guardian article, ‘It used to be that Google was constantly in the news; now Google constantly is the news.’ Search is marketing! Brands need to advance beyond just simple optimisation in order to reap rewards and remain connected with their customers. Being ‘ungoogleable’ just isn’t an option.

The idea of being ‘ungoogleable’ really jumped out to me as an interesting concept that I would love to get your feedback on below, what do you think?


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    Please note: the opinions expressed in this post represent the views of the individual, not necessarily those of iCrossing.

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