Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon And The Power Of Google

Working after hours at an agency can be quite the experience. The combination of deliverable reviews, data crunching and process definition, mixed with an empty office and some zany consultants, ultimately leads to shocking discoveries in the search landscape.

Like how Google has taken all of the fun out of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Do me a favor – pick a real Hollywood actor and search “ActorFirstName ActorLastName Bacon Number.”

Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon And The Power Of Google image Kevin Bacon Star Walk of FameSix Degrees Of Kevin Bacon And The Power Of Google

Clark Gable? 2: Gable + Ely Wallach in “Making the Misfits,” Wallach + Bacon in “Mystic River.”

Guy Pearce? 2: Pearce + Gary Oldham in “Lawless,” Oldham + Bacon in “Criminal Law.”

Drew Barrymore? It can’t be 2, can it? 2: Barrymore + Sharon Stone in “Irreconcilable Differences,” Stone + Bacon in He Said, She Said.

A hard one, let’s see… Kevin Smith? 2 again: Smith and Casey Affleck in “Chasing Amy,” Affleck + Bacon in “Lemon Sky.”

Damn it. Google is FAR better at this game than I ever was, and at Indiana U., I owned Half Price Pints and Apps night at Yogi’s on Wednesdays. Google is just too smart… but how, and why, and… as an inbound marketer, why should I care?

The history of the Bacon Number

According to Wikipedia, the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon phenomenon can be traced back to a 1994 “Premiere” magazine article on the movie “The River Wild,” in which Bacon commented that he’d worked with most everyone in Hollywood, or someone who had worked with them. The game was created shortly thereafter by a group of Albright College students and soon took off. Bacon enjoyed media exposure through talk shows, books, games and credit card commercials, while the rest of us tried our damnedest to stump our smartass friends over beers at the local bar.

The concept of the Bacon Number grew out of the game. It is at its heart a “shortest path” algorithm, as explained by expert Bacon Number site The Oracle of Bacon. The concept is simple – a database server uses a breadth-first search to find the shortest path between pairs of variables – in this case, pairs of any actor plus Kevin Bacon. The Oracle of Bacon database is based on actors listed on

It appears that Google also has access to this information, because… well, it’s kicking our butts at this game. So how does the Bacon Number shortest path algorithm compare to Google?

How Does the “Google Algorithm” Work?

It’s not even close.

According to their own story of How Search Works, Google describes their search algorithm like so:

“We write programs and formulas to deliver the best results possible. As you search, algorithms get to work looking for clues to better understand what you mean.” Pretty simple so far, right?

“Based on these clues, we pull relevant documents from the index. We then rank the results using over 200 factors.” Whoa. That’s a lot more variables than an “Actor 1 + Kevin Bacon” search in a movie actor database. There are nearly 150,000,000 active websites on the Internet today. And that, my friends, is a lot of Bacon.

All Part of a Nutritious Breakfast Inbound Marketing Strategy

What this means for us as inbound marketers is we must never, ever underestimate the power of Google. The smarter it gets, the smarter we must become. Understanding Google Analytics, using Google AdWords, Webmaster Tools, specialized tools like Trends and good old-fashioned searches are all keys to understanding our audience, what they’re looking for and how they’re looking for it.

Google does more than beat us at “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” It can predict our search queries and start to deliver results as we type. It can recognize a pattern in a group of words and deliver related relevant results. Hell, it can even beatbox better than we can.

As you’re plotting out your next inbound marketing moves, don’t forget the power of a tool as easy to use as a search engine. Use the tools, programs and information Google provides you to build the foundation of search understanding… then take it to the next level.

As Google becomes more and more relevant and intelligent as a product – delivering up results to users searching for your products and services – you’ve got to remain just as relevant and just as intelligent. Click here to read about how digitalrelevance using Google as the basis for any inbound marketing campaign with epic owned content and viral earned media.

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