Search Engine Optimization

I admit that I’m something of a coffee snob. My favorite espresso drink these days is a cortado. And I really like a good pour-over. When I travel to a new city, I try to find and then frequent the good coffee shops. Of course there are web sites intended to help people like me with searches like this. The one I know best is Sprudge. I’ve found their city guides to be very helpful when they’re up to date. In my experience, a web search for “third wave coffee near me” often helps. But that search is compromised by the existence of a coffee roaster called Third Wave Coffee. If I’m in Chicago, I don’t need to know about a Virginia roaster. (I see now that Third Wave has rebranded itself as Kinship Roasters, so perhaps they’ll gradually drop out of the returns on this search term.) But perhaps they’ll also have their site set up so that people looking for any third wave coffee shop will continue to be directed to their site.

I admit it – I know just enough about web technologies to be dangerous, and not enough that I can claim to understand fully just how search engine optimization works. But I think I get the general point – putting data into a web page, some of it visible to the casual browser but other elements hidden from anyone who doesn’t look at the original source – to “help” search engines like google find the page and then offer it up to people using particular search terms.

Perhaps the best evidence that I know little about this is that I’ve made no effort to employ such strategies in this blog. I have vague memories of making some effort years (even decades!) ago when I was publishing, but I suspect that strategies have gotten much more elaborate now so it wouldn’t help me much even if I remembered what I did then. And I don’t.

All of this is on my mind now because I learned today that there’s a restaurant in New York City called Thai Food Near Me. Brilliant! Granted, this strategy focuses on google maps (and perhaps other mapping tools), rather than on the ubiquitous search engine. The restaurant seems to be at least relatively successful – it has a 4.5 rating on a recent Yelp page – so perhaps some day they’ll add additional sites and perhaps even start to franchise the business. Perhaps some day travelers looking for the local franchise of their favorite Thai restaurant will be searching a map with the term “thai food near me near me.” Or people who prefer to frequent the local independents instead of the big chains will search “thai food near me but not thai food near me.” Whatever.

Maybe I’m overly cynical. Perhaps I should see this as merely someone with a sense of humor. Or someone working to play the game well enough to survive and even flourish in the brutal competition among restaurants. I’m not quite sure why, but it saddens me just a bit.