How Humans Search for Things Online: If That, Then This

How Humans Search for Things Online: If That, Then This

Search engines help us get closer to things we desire by decoding the intent behind our verbal cues and filling in the blanks between what we want, and the where, when why and how of getting it.

Humans are an “if that, then this” creatures. If I want that, then I do this to get it. Sometimes, we don’t know what it’s called, nor do we know how to get it, but sure as shit, if it exists, Google can find it. 

How Does Google Know What You Want? Even When We Don’t?

Google answers questions the only way it knows how “if not that, then this”. Humans, however, are “if that, then this, this and this might happen.” 

Humans don’t always know what they want, but they always know what they don’t want. 

Humans get the benefit of conversation, context, and follow up questions. type creature. Humans get to ask follow up questions. Robots get to observe follow up searches.

Before the Search

Google bots don’t understand what you’re asking them. Bots don’t know how to answer a question, they just know how to find the answer to a question someone else has already answered. Google doesn’t know what users are thinking, it just connects users who “they think” are “thinking the same thing” 

After the Search

After any search, Google determines whether or not the user found what they were looking for. If 99/100 users click the back button after clicking the first search result, Google bots know what you asked for, but they don’t know what you’re looking for. Google makes its money in gold by understanding what happened after the click.

A robot may infer what people want to find, because after they click on a search result, clicking another link on the page indicates that the content display is at least somewhat related to what they were looking for. 

Google not only knows what you click on after you search, but it also knows what you click next, but it also knows what you click after that.

Even if you clicked the first search result, and thought “get me the hell out of here”, you’ll probably keep Googling until you find what you’re looking for.

Google evaluates all of these interactions, creates metrics based on how related the search results were (did they click, download, or keep searching), looks at the previous searches, and then infers the most likely meaning based upon those who were analyzed in the same way.

Now imagine this happening on a scale of billions of search queries a day. Every variation of two or more words allows Google an anonymous-looking glass of what users wanted to find…and what they actually find.

Yeah, robots are still a bit awkward and clumsy — they were trained by the best..

There’s a Gap Between Digital & the Corner Store – Asking the Right Questions

There’s a gap.

Together, big and small businesses alike spend millions of dollars educating their customers, doing redundant paperwork, fielding pointless phone calls, and responding to emails written by cave dwellers.

It’s how a lot of big and small businesses blow billions of dollars each year…not with their advertising budgets…but by how much time they spend educating customers about solutions that might work. Do you realize how time you spend in this unbalanced information spin cycle every day?

Why do we spend so much time writing bits, blurbs, and pieces on our website for people just looking for our phone number or store location?

How do we stop wasting time reaching the wrong customers?

Things we need to consider in the digital realm

Do you have any idea how many people read your last email newsletter or Facebook post? How many of them actually clicked on it?

Did your last email results look like this?

Emails Delivered to Mailbox: 15,465
Emails Opened: 592
Email Clicks after Opening: 71

Pay for Only the Clicks That Make Money

Did any of your last social media posts or email campaigns make your business money? Did any of those clicks generate meaningful action toward a purchase? Did any of these actions actually drive revenue?

How much time did you spend responding to emails or wandering through the comment section on social media?

Did anyone even read it? Is this thing even on? Are there better ways to reach customers?

Things we need to ask in the retail and brick-mortar world

Do you know how much extra revenue you generated from your last coupon or discount campaign? Are you sure that customers weren’t already going to buy that product even without the discount rate?

For the time and money spent on advertising and its related activities, what other activities could you have been doing?

It’s easy to forget that it’s not just the money we spend on advertising, it’s the time spent in the trenches: responding to new emails and new messages from potential new customers.

Time is fickle, and the real cost of digital advertising is sublime when we’re not looking at the full picture.

Is your advertising and marketing strategy actually driving you toward a more robust market position? Or is it just sucking money out of the bottom line?

It’s easy to point out how many people liked your Instagram photo, gauge how many people saw your billboard based on traffic volume, or reach 99% of drivers over 35 by running radio ads. It’s really easy to make up statistics in hypothetical scenarios. It’s really easy to justify marketing activities by clicks, likes, and views.

What’s hard is making predictable and scalable advertising models that keep money where it belongs: in the net revenue pile.

What’s Hard About Digital Marketing?

It’s easy to justify marketing spend. What’s really hard…validating that spend.

Validation: the action of checking or proving the validity or accuracy of something.

My goal with every advertising campaign is to make you $10 for every $1 spent on digital advertisements. Does that seem like a lot?

But even a 1000% return on investment doesn’t mean you actually made money.

That’s a 10X (1000%) return on investment (ROI).

Let’s say your products costs $100 (MSRP) and costs you $20 to make (80% net revenue).

Now let’s adjust for the cost of actually delivering that product.

Shipping = $5
Transaction Fees: $3
Advertising and Marketing: $10
Overhead inventory: $10

$100 less total cost of goods sold so far = $31 for overhead + $20 to make the product = $54

Want to sell that product on Amazon? Subtract another $20.

So let’s just say that if

Continuing, your overhead costs (keeping the lights on, paying your employees) costs you about 60% o

For 99.9% of sites, that rate is probably closer to 0%. And that’s okay. One of the biggest differences in overhead websites costs is whether or not your require the infrastructure

It certainly doesn’t mean they’ll buy it. Not even if the want it.

Selling products online is competitive. It’s easy to eat up your margins before you’ve cleared any sales. This is not the field of dreams. It’s a long-term game that requires a long-term strategy.

If you’re tired of burning through your budget faster than you can say “advertising agency”, then you’ve come to the right place. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel; we just need to provide information in a more compelling and organized way than our competitors.

I build lean marketing and advertising campaigns that connect ideal customers…the ones that deliver long-term profits and repeat purchases. I catch the bigger, badder fish and leave the junk trophies for my competitors. But first, what are we trying to catch?

The Digital Divide of Country and Electronic Dance Music

The content herein is a modified version of an article I originally published in 2013 on the music culture website Do Androids Dance (DAD). DAD was later dismantled and reintegrated with its parent company, Complex, including my original article.

Complex reached over 90 million unique users per month in 2013,[4] across its owned and operated and partner sites, socials and YouTube channels.[5]

In August 2014, Complex ranked #3 in the United States in a ComScore survey of unique visitors between the ages of 18 and 34 with 20.3 million in that demographic per month.[29]

In 2013, Complex launched the dance music site Do Androids Dance[22] and Green Label, a branded content site presented by Mountain Dew. That year, Complex also acquired the sneakerhead culture magazine and website Sole Collector.[24]


In America, Country and EDM Can Coexist Without Comparison

Comparisons are ultimately about relationships. When determining the merit and relevance of these relationships, context is everything.

Comparing the historic and long-lived American success of mainstream country music to EDM (electronic-dance-music) seems like cannon fodder for web pages. Or… is it a fair comparison?

In retrospect, it would have been easier to cast these ideas off as heresy rather than explore the validity.

The short-term optics and parallels between country and EDM and the American “pop” mainstream might be more comparable than once thought.

But the distinctions between the two must consider whether the massive growth in EDM demonstrates a lasting and sustainable future for decades to come.

What must be highlighted are the contradictory measurements of success that define country’s mainstream prosperity. Additionally, both genres’ unique structures of industry and creation, which equate to very distinct and divergent identities, must be contrasted.

If there is one thing apparent about EDM’s success up to this point, it has had little to do with America’s mainstream radio broadcasting.

EDM listeners have little interest in American broadcast radio

Country’s traditional measurements of success in previous time periods have been based upon hard copy record sales and radio play, unlike EDM. While there may be a push of youth into the pop-country market, the traditionally older audiences of country are being pushed away, and understandably so. This division could become troublesome for the future of a formerly undivided market.

Country is built on lifestyle and cultural sediments.

It appears that country genres, in the midst of an anemic sales market, are closer to an identity crisis than to a push for mainstream dominance.

Reports of east coast radio stations moving from EDM to country doesn’t say a whole lot. One could speculate that EDM listeners have very little active interest in American broadcast radio, therefore making pop-country radio a more profitable market place.

The contrast here is that EDM on American radio has been relatively rare since its mainstream inception, and most EDM listeners have no intention of switching mediums just to hear repeated, advertisement-based propaganda. Most EDM listeners are using mobile streaming from SoundCloud, Spotify, and Internet radio, supplemented with digital downloads. EDM fans are active listeners, and are heavily invested in choosing the material they consume, rather than having it chosen for them.

The New World Order: country WAS Built to Last. Is it Still Built to Last?

It’s hard not to agree with the statement, “country music in America is built to last”. The next question in order must be “is it still built to last?”

Pre-Internet, and generally for the last century, content and distribution was scarce. Consumer attention was abundant; the tools for creators were slim. The barriers to market entry were high, while information was exponentially more scarce and less accessible.

The overwhelming majority of country music success was built in decades pre-Internet, where traditional record labels flourished. The music industry used to be a sellers market, with the cost of substitutes being high and the quantity of substitutes being low.

In a physical world, with limited shelf space, scarcity makes things more valuable. The music industry has always been about selling hard goods—up until digital sales turned everything inside out. In the history of CD sales, 2013 was the worst year ever. In a digital world, high accessibility leads to exponential visibility, brand familiarity, and higher potential revenue.

The key comparison here is that EDM was built on, and for, a highly mobilized world. Old habits and excessive caution could mark the beginning of the end for those who cannot adapt. What remains certain is that independent creators will continue to innovate, and continue to push forward into the unknown.

The democratization of content, discovery, and creation challenges the traditional top-to-bottom hierarchies of nearly all mainstream music industries.

The Internet not only fuels independent innovation, but also influences corporate strategy and decision-making processes. *2019 Update*: Can somebody please explain to me why Trader Joe’s has a podcast?

The Internet is erasing the division between consumers and creators and this has the music industry desperately scraping to find ways to remain relevant. As previously reported, record labels and production companies have done this through acquisitions and stake holds in previously independent entities, such as SoundCloud. Big industry is no longer the gatekeeper, and EDM has proven that. Examples of this paradigm shift are the massive successes of self-built americanized-dubstep sensation, Skrillex, and the virally explosive mainstream introduction of “electronic trap” via the “Harlem Shake.”

The world is not flat and EDM is not geocentric

The lack of a kingdom to rule for EDM is not based upon its inability to create one. EDM relies on globalized and hyperactive lines of communication and creation. These new tech fueled capabilities redefine the rigid infrastructures, which create overhead expense, and inefficiency.

As quoted from a recent Billboard article featuring some random white dude, “…He (Diplo) was in Ibiza, Spain, with Skrillex, where they set up a makeshift hotel room studio… This is how a modern hit gets made, Diplo-style: not in big-money studios, but on the move, in hotel suites, private jets, SUVs — bits and pieces pasted together with collaborators all over the world.”

EDM is the pinnacle of lean business.

While industrial hubs create infrastructure and jobs, true success in business is about utilizing efficiency, and maximizing margins. The rise of EDM never required geographically based industrial hubs. This provides a case model of efficiency that exceeds all genres and movements that have come before. EDM holds a model of elasticity through flat organization and democratized distribution, which gives it an immense advantage in a world that is rapidly evolving. Fundamentally, its popular use of cloud services like SoundCloud and BandCamp is not only the future of musical movements, but also of business and commerce as a whole. EDM has not only mobilized beyond the geographical production of music, but continues to influence innovative and resources through symbiotic relationships with parallel industries.

The Making of a Country Hit

Country as a mainstay has been based upon simple principles: creating hits, and when the conditions are perfect, blockbusters. To quote DAD, “the deciding factor of excellence must go to the style of music that has consistently best lent itself to commercially friendly songs for a longer period of time with a more sustainable level of success.” To determine the value of this statement, we must examine the realities of how “pop” hits are made.

As Chris Anderson notes in his book The Long Tail, when it comes to creating hits there are two basic options: (1) search far and wide for rare, unpredictable genius, or (2) use lowest-common-denominator formulas to manufacture something to sell.

If you Want to Grasp Country Music’s Standard of Success, Look No Further than Luke Bryan

Luke Bryan’s 2013 album Crash My Party sold more albums in its first week than any male country artist in the last nine years.

Bryan’s August 2013 single “That’s My Kind of Night” reached #1 on the Hot Country Songs listings in its third week and #2 in Airplay for October 2013. While being a massive win for the country industry as a whole, homegrown country star Zac Brown regarded it as “…the worst song I’ve ever heard.” If the model by which we are judging value and success stems from creating hits, then country certainly holds the belt.

The two most important words in EDM are “new” and “free.”

When winners and losers are based upon sales, the automatic assumption is that if something sold poorly, it was of low quality. While this may be true in some cases, it makes comparisons slim within the shift that has led artists to give away music for free. When looking at key examples of American success based upon this model, one could point to recently Grammy-nominated artist Pretty Lights. While going into the depths of the value in delivering content for free isn’t the purpose of this article, you can read more about the ideas and successes that have underlined this new model.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a crusade against the sale of music, I’m simply defining the very different ways in which success is measured and sold between the twilight zones of EDM and country. As the previous article-in-question states, “mainstream music is a corporate democracy, a game defined by choice creating a clearly defined winner and loser.” There’s certainly some truth to this statement.

What needs to be pointed out is that an industry’s measurement of success by sale doesn’t define excellence. It also does not define what is in the best interest of fans, aspiring artists, or long-term sustainable profits. When comparing the limited amounts of visible country releases, to a wide variety of free EDM substitutes, the “choices” presented by the mainstream industry are merely an illusion,

More choice is more, for better or worse

The EDM hierarchy does have its valid criticisms, you won’t find country music divided into numerous and often times confusing subgenres. Even as someone spending the last decade immersed in electronic music subculture, I often find myself hopelessly surrounded by sounds that seem indefinable. As a listener of a wide range of electronic music it can be frustrating to sift and sort through the massive amounts of music-released daily, with value often times scattered few and far between.

There is a reason that EDM is so segregated and that is because the content often evolves faster than our ability to classify and organize it. As referenced, “EDM is very much temporal, in other words it is constantly happening and changing through time.”

While I agree this is problematic for gaining new audiences, strong sub genres provide niche content for retaining subscribers. In many ways, the very existence of music and culture curators is to guide listeners through these genres and present findings. Ironically, we don’t need writers and publications to sift, sort, and deliver us music over the web if all the options were obviously available over mainstream channels.

EDM Rarely Conforms to Mainstream Audiences, Success Never Required It

EDM has never been accountable to anyone, and as a whole, it never wanted to be. No one ever knew things would get this big; ideals and expectations were not based around it being so. Why should any of that change now?

One of the greatest statements made by the rise of electronic music was the freedom from image, freedom from perfection, and abstaining from the scrutiny and destructive nature of the public eye. EDM has been overwhelmingly free from the tyranny of the public eye, and up until recently the ever so tainted corporate money.

Over its short history, EDM has been dynamically creative, but also mindlessly not-so-creative. These dynamics are in large part because of the fact that creators pursued their own sovereign visions, beyond the dogma of big label money and influence, but also because they were able to appeal to mainstream audiences without needing big-label recognition.

If you want to press play on a multi million-dollar light cube with an LED mouse head, you can do that. If you want to throw cake at your fans, fans will eat it. If you want to create an entire orchestrated masterpiece, utilizing historically accurate live instrumentation, featuring members from the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, you can do that, too.

If you want to do absolutely nothing on stage, mainstream audiences won’t stop you. However, there is more depth to EDM than stage presence, and regurgitated cookie cutter acts who just happen to be really, really, really, really good looking. At the end of the day, you can just be you, because unlike country, the music travels further than the face.

A Marketer’s Field of Dreams

The coining of the term EDM has been a marketer’s dream. From packaging to selling everything electronic, an essential pathway has been created into all things mainstream. This point of comparison to coined genres like country is in fact very relevant, but only in the mainstream realms. While scattered fan bases may be a hindrance to effectively defining market segments and directing content, for those who really dig deep to find music they love, they wouldn’t have it any other way.