Search Engines and Sexual-Harassment – A Unique Parallel to Intent Marketing

By December 13, 2013making a connection

Hitting the news this week was a story of a six-year-old little boy who was suspended from school on the grounds of sexual harassment.

What was his offense? What was the particular action?

Apparently he kissed a girl, a classmate of his, on the hand and on the cheek. (some reports stated “hand.” Some stated “cheek.” Some stated both.)

Usually, I don’t bother getting wrapped up in a topic such as this – the kind where there’s much very subjective opinion and the fact is we don’t know the entire story. I don’t usually get into them on such a thing as a blog post because, hey – they can get messy.

However, when I heard this story, I was taken aback. My first thought was, “Why is the school administration putting a very concrete stamp, such a hard label on this offense for this behavior coming from a child that is so young?” It’s not that I don’t believe in civil law; if there’s a crime, then by all means, there should also be a penalty, a fine for that crime. But was this act innocent?  I remember my first kiss… and I do believe I took it, not with force, but probably not with open arms either, … but at the age of 6 as well.  I know I was in first grade and Kimberly Workman was my Sunday School class crush.

I had no clue about anything more. There was no goal to “go any farther” – it was just a peck.

But here’s why I personally believe that this boy’s consequence is ridiculous. And here’s where I shall make the parallels to search engines…

One word: Intent.

I’m not in the young boy’s head. I don’t truly know what things he’s been exposed to, what lies in his schema based on his mere six years worth of experience on this earth – but if it’s anything like what I am thinking, then his intent was innocent. At least, much more innocent than what his school administration is making this to be.

We have strong terms in our society. Sexual Harassment is one of those and it is reckless to use it so lightly.  That label is reserved for those guilty of having corrupt, sleazy or perverse intentions. See that? Intentions.

And admittedly, all I have is my own background, my own paradigm, on which to base my opinion. But my own action of giving Kimberly a peck at age six did not have an inkling of perverse intent. My mind, fortunately had not been fed many of the sexual and suggestive images that saturate our culture, especially in the marketing industry, therefore my intent was to get a kiss. Not exactly an ideal basis for more exciting psychological study… that’s all there was to it.

When someone searches for “wheelchair” on the internet, how likely is it for Google to serve up first page results about “puppies” or “tight rope walkers?”

I don’t think such a day would ever come. Google is too good at serving up much more relevant content and they know better. If they stopped being so concerned over that, their business would fail within months.

Ok, ok, devil’s advocates, I hear you. You may be saying, “C’mon now. ‘Puppies’ aren’t anywhere close to ‘wheelchairs'” And you’re right; they’re way off.

So we’ll even say, search term = band aids

and the results returned are pages about = orthopedic surgery.

There. See? A band aid is for a cut. And an Orthopedic surgeon comes in really handy when an athlete has a bone sticking out of his skin.

If you are looking for band aids on Google, chances are you don’t have a bone sticking out of your body. I would suggest calling 911 though, right now, if you do.

(and I do know an excellent orthopedic surgeon)

There you have it. The punishment is wildly overkill because there was not an ounce of investigation into the intent of the offender, just an exercising of muscle flexing from an administrator that needed to pin down “an example to everyone” on their zero-tolerance policies (disclaimer: that is my personal assumption).  And now, this boy’s got to be much more inquisitive. If he didn’t know what sex was before, his innocence was just tainted because now, it has to be an inevitable topic for him and his family, whether they were ready or not.

When it comes to this silly story or setting up an online campaign, never forget how important intent is. Do your best (and your homework) to jump into the heads of your traffic and analyze just what it is they are after.  Then… deliver that – IF it’s what you do. If it’s not, you’re going after the wrong intent.  Rethink things, rework things, relaunch things.

Match the intent of searcher’s with what they find both on the search results as well as your landing pages.

And, as for your bonus unsolicited advice, keep your children innocent for as long as you can. Monitor what they do online, even on your iPad (inappropriate YouTube videos are also a touch away). They’ll have plenty of years to ingest the ignoble things that have managed to saturate our world.

[UPDATE] Apparently, the charges against young Hunter have now been dropped. It didn’t even take the full week.

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