I learnt how to play chess with a step-by-step guide which the all-pervasive search engine found for me. Not only that, I also figured out how to change my bike carburetor with a YouTube video. I am thinking of expanding my horizons and maybe learning how to play the banjo or the drums, with the right website of course.

Allright. Maybe all those things aren’t true, but they very well could be. The ubiquitous search engine has made life so simple. It is like a storehouse of information on anything and everything. Instant gratification at its best. Simply open the spigot and watch the information flow.

But let us pause for a moment and think. If the search engine knows it all, why is it so tough to find great sales leads and upcoming opportunities using the search engine?

Demystifying the search engine ranking

The search engine honors a search query with generic results. By generic, we mean the results are optimized for a wide range of audience, and are usually of high interest among high frequency users. Also other factors like social parameters can skew the way a search engine interprets results.

For example, a study on the ranking features for Google by moz.com exhibits the impact of social parameters on the top results for keyword searches. These include Page Authority (PA), number of Google +1s, number of unique IPs linking to the page, number of root domains linking to the page etc.

While a detailed discussion and analysis of these features is beyond the scope of this post, what clearly emerges is that a lot of credence is given to social contributions. Results will also depend on factors like the reading tastes of a typical user, the sites she visits most often and the trust factor of the website.

Making sense of the ranking

Search engine rankings get pushed up for a plethora of reasons. The number of Google +1s means that the pages are liked by the Google Plus user community. Similarly, there is a substantial contribution of pages liked by users on Facebook and Twitter.

Search engines also look for linkages from other sources. So the number of root domains linking to a page might make sense in categorizing the significance of a domain. This again improves the ranking as the domain is seen as being popular.

Spotting the ideal opportunity

Clearly the search algorithm is well tuned to generic queries, but it isn’t very useful when you are trying to find sales leads. All sales organizations value an opportunity which is fresh and early. By fresh, we mean recent and not already lost. And by early, we mean before competition gets to it. You do not want an opportunity which is placed on a bulletin board that everyone examines periodically. There are also other dimensions to a desirable opportunity like minimum budget, organization type, and which varies with the customer and their objectives.

Serving it fresh to our customers

A search engine does not solve this problem, because if an opportunity is returned as fresh, it is frequently re-indexed and highly socially visible. This would not guarantee an “Early Opportunity”, as the competition may have already started moving towards it. Similarly, a stale opportunity is not worth pursuing. Therefore, we have a very small finite window to detect a high value opportunity.

An opportunity may not always be Search Engine Optimized (SEO). It is an intent signal, typically blended tightly with a substantial amount of noise. So, it becomes tough to filter out the noise and extract meaningful and relevant information. This calls for a more focused (restricted) search strategy.

Which is what Compile is all about. In subsequent posts, I’ll elaborate on how we have built an engine that is capable of finding new and early opportunities – the holy grail for sales and marketing teams. Fair warning: some of the discussions may be technical, so be prepared!