Shopping online has become a daunting venture in today's electronic world. Every search gives us literally millions of results leaving us with the impossible task of scrolling through them to find what we are looking for. This article hopes to give you some ideas on how to narrow searches down to find the most relevant results. This is a longer blog article than usual but it is all useful information.
Browsers, Engines, and Search Terms, Oh, My!
Imagine going shopping on one street (the Internet), finding a handful of gigantic buildings (Internet Browsers), walking down thousands of aisles (Search Engines), and turning every which direction (Search Terms) just to find the one thing you are looking for - not knowing what you are looking for because you don't even know what is available. That is the best analogy of shopping online today.
It's great that we have everything available in one place, but overwhelming that everything available in one place is seemingly disorganized and visible all at once. Let's see if we can make some sense of the Internet and figure out how to use it to organize and find what we are looking for. In this case, a great meditation cushion.
There is a difference between an Internet browser and a search engine. Browsers are simply software applications that are able to read the language of websites. Websites are written in a programming language known as Hypertext Markup Language or HTML. Browsers are able to read this language and convert it into the visual image that you are looking at right now. When you perform a search on the Internet, that is the function of a search engine website within the browser. Of the four most popular browsers, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, and Mozilla Firefox, most of the available search engines will work inside these browsers.
Search engines are complex applications used to find websites on the Internet. They use sophisticated servers (computers) and huge amounts of data storage to create a catalog of every website visible on the Internet. They use a process called "crawling" to read every word and gather every image available on each website. They then use complex programming algorithms to determine what the website is about and to establish a level of validity about that determination. This process is critical to everyone searching for information to ensure they receive the most relevant results possible. It is truly a monumental task not only because there are over 1 Billion websites but also because all of those sites are vying to get the top spot in a search result, and many of them try to get there by cheating and manipulating the algorithms.
For the purpose of brevity, I will refer most often to the Google Search Engine as it is the most common with more than 80% of users searching on Google every day.
The bread and butter of the Search Engine is the search term. A search term is a single word, a phrase, a question, a song lyric, or any string of characters that represent what the user (you) are trying to find on the Internet. Let's take a look at how to best use search terms to zero in on what you are looking for on the Internet.
Before we begin, let's talk about a few problems that arise from your device. We have all heard of Autocorrect and how it plagues us. We want to type a somewhat unusual word and autocorrect changes it to a more commonly-known word. With regards to "Meditation", autocorrect tends to want to change it to "Mediation". Note how it removed the first "T" and made it into a completely different term. We are trying to find peace in the world and autocorrect thinks we are trying to settle a dispute. If you are getting very strange results, be sure autocorrect has not changed the word you intended to type. If you think this is an issue for "meditation" wait until you start searching for " zafu" and "zabuton", which are types of meditation cushions.
This brings us to the next idea, which is that spelling is very important. Search engines are actually up to speed on misspelled words. They will look at what you've typed and compare it to a list of common misspellings of words. They will then offer a suggestion of the correct spelling of the word.
If you simply do not know how to spell the word, here is a little trick: On a tablet or smartphone, tap the little Microphone icon near the keyboard and then speak the word you want to type. Then watch your device magically type the correct spelling of the word. Tap the Search key and you are on your way.
Search Term Strategies
When first searching for something you know little about, start out broad. This will help you to learn the right words for the product you are trying to find and, since search engines offer suggested search terms, you will be able to more effectively narrow your search strategy.
For example, maybe you are looking for one of those round meditation cushions but you can't remember what they are called. Hint: they are called Zafu. Start your search with 'meditation' and you will get results for cushions, techniques, retreat centers, and so on. To narrow it down to cushions, you can search 'meditation cushions' or 'meditation pillows'. That will narrow down your results to cushions and some of the results will offer the correct wording for a Zafu, Zabuton (rectangular/square mat), or specialized designs such as the Cosmic Cushion.
To narrow the search even further, you can add descriptive words such as shapes, colors, and even locations if you are not in the Internet-centric United States. For example, 'sage green round meditation cushion Canada' is going to give you some very specific results.
When you are shopping for items, it is best to click on the Images link/tab. This will give you plenty of visual information and text to identify objects by name. Be careful about using the Shopping link/tab as those results will be limited to advertising. You can miss a lot of useful information when the information being given is controlled by ads.
On the Images tab of the Google search engine, you will find some filters across the top. Clicking on these suggestions will narrow your search down to those filters. On the Shopping tab, you will find the filters on the left margin and the filters include price ranges.
Managing Search Results
Even though you may have discovered a strategy for searching that narrows down the results to what you are looking for, you will still find a daunting array of results.
There are two types of results: Paid Ads and Organic Results.
Paid Ads are required to be labeled in search engines. However, the word "Ads" or "Ad" is not always easy to spot. In general, listings and images (in the case of shopping) at the top of the results are Ads in every search engine. There is nothing wrong with Ads. The search engines have worked hard to ensure relevancy of the Ads. If you search for 'meditation cushions', Ads for bed pillows will not likely come up because the search engines will prevent this from happening. If the company paying for the ads attempts to cheat, they will likely be charged a lot more for advertising clicks.
Paid Ads are known as pay per click advertising or PPC for short. Merchants place a bid for their ads to get improve the placement of the ad and they are only charged for the ad when someone clicks on it. Hence, PPC. It's important to know that, when you click on an Ad, you are costing the merchant money even if you don't subsequently buy anything. If you really like the merchant and want to save them that click charge, you can go to the address bar at the top and type their website in manually. But, PPC and advertising is part of doing business. Be aware that, the more it costs to run the business, the more they will raise their prices. Still, it is more convenient to click on an ad than it is to type out a website address.
Organic results are the most valuable because they have earned their position in the search results. Companies like Google and Bing have literally spent billions of dollars in research and programming to ensure their search engines produce relevant results. When Google first came out in 1998, they had only developed a method for "crawling" websites and making their database searchable. They quickly learned that the most unsavory of websites would figure out how to take advantage of their simple system to ensure their websites came up on the first page every time. You could search any term and at least one adult website would come up on the first screen.
Since then, Google has been able to refine search results through complex programming to ensure you get pretty much what you are looking for. Still, there are people who look for ways to cheat the system and Google has to create new programming, change rules, and sometimes completely block websites from their crawlers in order to "clean things up."
This article is long and covers a great deal of information. I've tried to keep it concise and not go out on too many tangents. I only hope that some of this information will be helpful when searching for meditation cushions or any other item on the Internet. The search engines are always improving but, as long as they earn money from advertising and as long as eCommerce websites such as ours earn our living from search engines, there will always be a financial influence on how search engines work. Maybe, one day, A completely non-profit, unbiased, ad-free search engine will arise. That's a dream that may never come true but one can always hope.
Thank you for reading,
If you would like to comment on this blog or have any questions, please feel free to Contact Sage Meditation Customer Service.