Zeitgeist

Well hello there, Google Zeitgeist. Nice to see you again:

http://www.google.com/intl/en_us/press/zeitgeist2009/cities.html

Every year, Google releases data on the most popular searches of the year. It shouldn’t be surprising that terms like aig and michael jackson and swine flu topped the list in various categories.

What might be surprising–it surprised me–are the results for the local searches. Google also broke down the top ten popular searches in a given geographical area, like major U.S. cities. The break out shows what is important in a particular city.

In Indianapolis to top search was msdwt. Msdwt? You would think it would be the colts, or peyton manning. But no–msdwt won out. Metropolitan School District of Washington Township. A school system. Second place? iarbed. Hm? It’s an intranet for IU School of Medicine faculty, students and staff. Coming in third? epike. Metropolitan School District of Pike Township.

The top three searches went to public school entities. And then, No. 6 went to Ivy tech. Four of the top ten searches in Indianapolis directed people to schools.

And yet, it is the schools that often see fewer followers on twitter and facebook (see previous post, please).

Clearly, Google is pointing out that schools have an audience on the internet. This is the perfect situation to attempt to capture that audience while they are on the computer, in front of the glowing screen, and create a following–not just a search term. If people are searching for these school systems, they are most likely visiting the site for the school or school system. The school system must ensure that it is allowing that visitor to engage with the content.

Most people are looking for information about the school–maybe it is lunch menus, or homework assignments. Schools can then take this information and create interactive sites that continually lead people back to it, which will in turn create an online community for a physical place that already has a real community established.

Schools can start with buttons to offer visitors the opportunity to make the site their home page. nytimes.com does it. So can epike. As a home page, the visitors are given the opportunity to check out any news about the school or school system every time a window is opened. No more searching–it’s instant information.

Aside from home page buttons, schools can offer twitter and facebook connections from the home site. Students and their parents can engage with the school in yet another way. It is obvious that the audience is connected. The schools just need to keep them connected, keep them coming back, make them feel welcome, and provide a gathering place for an exchange of information that is not only the carpool pickup line or the PTA meeting.

It must be observed that msdwt and pike are more suburban townships. IPS–Indianapolis Public Schools–is not listed in the top 10 and it would be interesting to see why. As the largest school district in the state, and located in Indianapolis, why is IPS not drawing the same crowds? Is the homepage already bookmarked? Or do students not have computers at home? Many aspects of public education and home life combine to create this difficult problem.

Zeitgeist gives an interesting, inside look at what people care about the most, and I consider it a wonderful thing that education tops that list.

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~ by monifree on December 11, 2009.

One Response to “Zeitgeist”

  1. Type in IPS or “Indianapolis P” and IPS does not even come up under the more frequently searched, sadly. Good point about computer/internet availability at home, I suspect that may be the main problem. Another thing that stands in the way of public school websites is funding. Nobody with money wants to spend money on IPS because their kids go somewhere else. And then they wonder why crime rates go up. Hmmm….

    I find it interesting how many businesses do not have even a simple website to share basic information, and how to find them. I feel they are missing out on the population of people who are out and about with GPS-enabled phones searching for places to spend their money. Maybe I should be in website design instead of pharmacy….

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