I read with interest the article today that the keyphrase “Facebook Login” was one of the top-seached phrases on Google last year.
As you can imagine, lots of scammers have latched on to this and are offering sites that try to trick folks into signing up for timeshares, or cellphone ringers, or becoming a Republican, or whatever else scammers attempt to get folks to do against their will.
But they all can’t be bad. You see, I am one of those folks. No, I’m not trying to make your hair grow or cure your depression or even annoy anybody, but I have a site that’s linked to the search phrase Facebook Login, and I think there’s a good reason for it.
I have always been curious as to how people interact with search engines. How does the search engine find stuff? How does it know what folks want? How do people actually go about finding the things they want, anyway?
As part of that, I’ve been playing with creating some content sites over the past year. Nothing (I hope) spammy or bad, just sites that are focused on a particular niche and that try to provide information for folks interested in that niche. Once again, just to emphasize, no rewritten content, no annoying ads, no tricks, no link bait, no link-spamming nonsense. Just quality content. After all, that’s what Google says we’re supposed to provide, right? Quality content.
It’s been an interesting experiment, one I hope to blog about once all the results come in, but when I saw the article on TechCrunch today titled Why we desperately need a better Google” I thought it was time to say something.
A few months ago I was looking at search results and also noticed people searching for “Facebook login” Like most folks, the immediate thing that came to my mind was “What a bunch of morons. Can’t they type in www.facebook.com into their browser”
And it’s true — many people use their search box as a white pages. These are called “navigational searches”, and they account for about 80% of internet search traffic. (The category includes not only websites, but also geo-located searches)
Thinking a little more, however, I realized that I was doing something that I hate — I was assuming that everybody else on the internet was just like me. Just as educated, just as resourceful, with the same capabilities and background.
That’s a ludicrous idea.
Looking at the stats further, I found that another 20% of searches are not navigational. Some of them are informational in nature. Or, to put it bluntly, folks need to know stuff, so they ask Google.
Is it possible that there are people who don’t know how to log into Facebook?
Of course it’s possible. Hell, it’s very likely that out of the million+ people searching for “Facebook Login” on Google, a fair sized chunk of them probably — guess what — are having problems logging into Facebook. Problems that have nothing to do with not being able to find the page.
If you doubt me, I direct you to the Wikipedia article on illiteracy rates in the United States, which states:
This government study showed that 21% to 23% of adult Americans were not “able to locate information in text”, could not “make low-level inferences using printed materials”, and were unable to “integrate easily identifiable pieces of information.”
Let’s say that you are a Facebook user, aged 22, from an urban area, and basically illiterate. You may know enough to type “Facebook Login”, but the minute you go to the Facebook login page and something happens, you are out of luck. Sure — Facebook provides lots of help screens and pages — for folks who can read.
So I created my own site, facebook-login-help.com, for folks who are having problems using facebook. I tried to include several versions of the misspellings (remember we are targeting people who are illiterate). I tried to find videos to display prominently that demonstrated how to log in. I tried to offer advice on keeping a secure password, and how to resist social engineering. I even provided some funny pictures that I know people like sharing on Facebook.
There are no tricks involved, although the site involves AdSense. (Which you never have to see if you use AdBlock or something like that)
Now from where I sit, I can already hear the outrage. How could I “domain squat” on Facebook?!? How could I be so dastardly? Don’t I know that I’m just polluting the internet? What kind of trash am I?
To those people, all I have to offer is my good intentions. I really wish I could have done more with videos and graphics — I feel like my readers would appreciate that more. I also wish I could have offered more in-depth assistance with some of the Facebook error conditions. There’s way too heavy of an emphasis on text on each page. But alas, I was pressed for time.
And I freely admit to using the project as an experiment. How many people would use the site? What would the retention and re-entry rates be? How many pages would the average person visit? I even included pictures of cute girls at the bottom of each page to determine what sorts of traffic I would get from Google images as opposed to text search. (I am beginning to suspect that many folks are visually searching for answers, but I may be wrong. Like I said, I want to blog about this once I get more data.)
There are those who would easily trash me and my site. It took two weeks to put together and I put a lot of hours into it, but to them the only thing they want to see when they type “Facebook login” is the Facebook login page. I get that. I really do. And I’m perfectly happy with my site languishing in the dumps of Google search results. I will look at the stats after a year, and if I think people are getting value from the site I’ll keep it. If not, I won’t. I seriously doubt it will do much more than pay for the domain costs — probably not even that.
But I would suggest — perhaps even plead — with my fellow internet citizens to realize that every informational search shouldn’t end up on a Wikipedia page. And not every search that looks like a navigational search is necessarily navigational. People are very diverse, and when they approach the search box they aren’t little cardboard people that look like you and me. There are tens of millions of people that because of their background are not getting the same internet experience that literate engineers and college students are getting. Everybody that makes a site that you think of as being crap and noise isn’t trying to pollute the internet. Especially as programmers, we need to realize that the web is used by folks who couldn’t plough through Wikipedia articles even if they wanted to.
Instead of adding HTML 5 and new apps, maybe we should be doing something more for those folks, you think?If you've read this far and you're interested in Agile, you should take my No-frills Agile Tune-up Email Course, and follow me on Twitter.