For those searching for the secret key to help boost prominence of columns and editorials on Google search, Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow, has a very simple answer: think of how people post queries and be sure to include words that would appear in the search request.
Singhal, who was the opening speaker at the NCEW conference on Thursday, is the team leader of search algorithms for the Internet giant and was named by CNN/Money as one of the 50 smartest people in tech.
Perhaps most promising for opinion writers is a development at Google that will give more prominence to "trusted authors." The company is now evaluating who gets that blessing and whose bios will appear as links to their current pieces. The trusted authors will have expertise, reach, and offer high-quality writing.
The trusted author idea emerged as one answer to the barrier today of what Singhal calls "data noise." There is so much information on the Web that the noise drowns out quality information. Google attempts to give credible, widely followed and reliable writers higher status, and will highlight deep thinkers on search results. Creating a Google profile is a start. For more details on this venture, try Jake Parrillo, Google's Midwest Region Manager of Communications & Public Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As Singhal explains it, Google sees itself working toward a goal of turning data into information, then knowledge and eventually wisdom. More queries now provide knowledgeable answers, not just data links.
He explained that the mission of making information and knowledge readily available to all led to more mobile platform developments, better directional services, and more language options.
But for newspapers erecting paywalls, the news was not encouraging. Google thinks searchers don't want to be stymied by a link to an inaccessible author, so unless the paper has some "free" visits permitted, those sites will get fewer Google links, and that's bad for traffic.
"We want to support all revenue generation technologies investigated by the media, but we have to keep in mind users are the ultimate resource we shouldn't annoy. Eventually, users with subscriptions will see those results. Our philosophy is search results should be visible."
Singhal, who earned a Ph.D. in search, said he grew up in India watching Star Trek and was intrigued with the idea of being able to ask a computer a question and get an answer. "Twenty years ago, computers didn't understand language. I didn't expect such progress."
Miriam Pepper is the Kansas City Star editorial page editor.