Liveblog: SMX West 2010 Keynote – The State Of The Search Union

It’s day three of SMX West 2010, and we’re going to kick off with a group keynote conversation called “The State Of The Search Union.” The description hints that we’ll be talking about where the industry is today, and where it’s going in the future. No doubt the Microsoft-Yahoo deal will be a big discussion item.

Chris Sherman will moderate, and scheduled speakers include:

  • Vanessa Fox, Contributing Editor, Search Engine Land
  • Avinash Kaushik, Analytics Evangelist, Google Inc.
  • Misty Locke, President, Range Online Media & Chief Strategy Officer, iProspect, Range Online Media / iProspect
  • David Roth, Director of Search Engine Marketing, Yahoo! Inc.

It’s all set to start at 9:00 am, so come back then to follow-along with what’s being said (or at least to watch me fumble desperately as I try to keep up with what five people are saying at once).

CS: We’ve had an interesting year in search. Quite often, it’s just Google, Google, Google. But in the past year, we’ve seen more radical change than I’ve seen in the past 15 years of following the search industry. It’s very exciting. And that’s why we’ve assembled this panel.


The key question, when we were here last year, we were in the early stages of an economic meltdown. One year later, how are we doing? Does search still have a bright future?

DR: One of the interesting things about the economy as it relates to search marketing was it gave us a chance to show off our stuff. As a marketer, we were able to show results. There’s been a shift back to SEO, and not just focusing on the paid side.

ML: We’ve been meeting with clients, and while their business as a whole may have had problems, the e-commerce side didn’t suffer. It even grew when they didn’t expect it to. We saw many using really smart techniques. A lot combined search with other channels to do some innovative things. Our business was rewarded for that. I think many search marketers were rewarded. We had a record breaking year.

CS: Asks Vanessa about her Super Bowl ad watching.

VF: Pepsi decided to spend their money on social media. But what struck me more than that was that so many large brands seem to STILL be just starting to understand that search is important.

CS: Asks Avinash about whether search and branding mix?

AK: Branding was a great metaphor for wanting to do something without understanding a particular outcome. But search is different – you can understand exactly is happening. Mentions his blog post about 7 Ways to Measure Branding (I think this one). When people tell me they want to run a branding campaign, I ask what they want out of it. Search is a massively effective way to show up at the point of relevance.

CS: Asks Dave about the YHOO-MSFT deal.

DR: The integration is on. There’s a lot of resources being put into it from both companies. The proof of pudding will be when advertisers start to get moved. Yahoo’s stance is about continuing to innovate on the user experience.

CS: Asks about integration of cultures.

DR: There are a lot of resources from Yahoo that will be moved over to Microsoft, and some will stay at Yahoo. A lot of it remains to be seen. We just got clearance a couple weeks. But everyone understands that this is critical – it’s absolutely-must-work project.

CS: Asks Misty about client reaction to MSFT-YHOO.

ML: I think they’re really excited about it because it gives us a viable number two. It lets us shift strategy and focus. Rather than 70-20-10, it’ll be a 60-40 time-split in our focus.

CS: Is the opportunity reach, or getting more customers?

ML: That’s what we’re asking, and what our clients are asking. I think it’ll open up opportunities for new customers. We’re seeing new customers from Bing Cashback. True new customers.

AK: It’s important to realize that competition is a good thing. You should have a portfolio of advertising. You should have an effective strategy across all search engines. You should have a strategy for doing SEO for Bing and for Google. You want to find every person in the world, regardless of how they exist.

VF: I’m waiting to see how all that works out with Search Monkey and BOSS. If the search engine doesn’t exist, will they be motivated to continue that? The integrations are going to be huge and complicated.

CS: Asks Vanessa about Google and Caffeine update. What will the impact be on SEO? Asks Avinash about Google’s willingness to continue offering tools.

VF: Normally I say you don’t have to worry much about SEO aside from the foundation stuff, but over the last year there was a lot of new stuff that people should’ve paid attention to. I don’t Caffeine will have a big impact on SEO. It’s a better way to crawl and index the web. It’s not a rankings impact, except in an indirect way — your site is crawled and indexed more quickly.

On your other question, I hope Google keeps reaching out. I think they will.

AK: There are two parts to Google’s tool strategy. One, even if every Googler spent a whole day answering questions from webmasters, it wouldn’t answer the world’s questions. Our approach with tools is to find out how to help users at scale. We’ll keep doing that. The second part of the strategy is to keep sharing data. I’m orgasmic about the amount of data Google has put out in the last year – tools like Insights for Search which I love and adore. Google AdPlanner is another one – it’s the only tool on the planet that does what it does.

CS: Back to MSFT-YHOO. There’s confusion about who’s doing what and Yahoo’s commitment to search.

DR: Yahoo is staying committed to search. Yahoo will maintain high-touch with big search advertisers. And then the platform itself, the goal is to make MSFT Adcenter the platform of choice for the smaller advertisers. (Discussion gets very specific into advertising technologies and platforms. Time for me to take a photo.)

CS: Asks about social (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) replacing search. Facebook was most visited site on the web for a day around Christmas.

VF: People are actually searching more, not less. It’s not an either/or thing.

ML: I agree. We’ve often complained that search is sometimes only a line-itm in budgets, but now we find that there are so many new opportunities. Search is actually driving campaigns and dictating discussions about PR and branding. Search is at the core of these things. We can drive lift, we can engage and enable our customers to carry that awareness into social and real-time search. I think it’s a new beginning for search.

DR: I’ve always told people at search conferences to sit tight, the rest of the marketing world is coming your way. I see all the discipline and accountability that search has grown up with is now paying off.

AK: The media loves “or” stories — Facebook or Google? Twitter or Facebook? But the world is an “and” story. Video did not kill the radio star. I once said Twitter is the dumbest thing in the world and got hate mails, but now I think it’s the coolest thing since sliced bread. But you can’t use the same strategies across different channels. You can’t use the same approach on Twitter that you use in TV advertising.

CS: Asks about information overload and will search be siloed – will it become just another function?

AK: Asking “how can we keep advertising more relevant” is sub-optimal. Shouting at people is going away, and that’s why search is becoming so important. The single reason for Google’s success is relevance. At the point of searching, the right ad shows up. We have to experiment with new and innovative things.

The smartest companies will use search to achieve a variety of goals. Not just selling products.

DR: If you look at how social media is managed in an organization, SM is the first channel that has delivered on being able to engage and connect directly with the customer. It’s breaking down the panels and divisions in a marketing company. Everyone has to consider it.

ML: I agree. Everyone in the company wants to own a piece of social. PR is involved, search is involved, marketing is involved. Search makes us tap into what the consumer really is looking for. It breaks down all barriers.

VF: Yeah, we have to go the opposite way of silos. Search affects marketing, web development, and so many areas.

CS: Asks about changes over last decade, black hats, privacy, and a host of other things. (panelists slightly confused about how to handle this one)

AK: Spam has been a problem for a very long time, and will continue to be for a long time. We need to suppress it as much as possible and provide incentives for people to do the right thing. We need more people to choose those incentives.

ML: Yes, there will always be spam. Marketers are always going to find a way to use new mediums. Now the users are replacing the good and the bad out there. Consumers can sniff out what’s authentic and what’s not. You don’t want to get called out by your consumer. I’m opimistic things will get better. Users are doing the policing.

DR: On the topic of regulation, there’s some risk there. There’s the potential not only to do unethical things, but illegal things. There’s not enough awareness and understanding of advertising mediums not only in the government, but also in the general public. If you’ve ever seen anything on Capitol Hill about the Internet, it’s frightening. My fear is that the legislators aren’t up to speed on what’s really going on.

CS: Let’s take a global perspective. One, what’s the global opportunity? Two, how do you work with restrictions in other countries?

VF: You have to understand your audience, where they are. If you’re going out globally, you can’t just localize your message. You have to understand the culture and the government. And you’ll see that audiences are very different. But there are lots of opportunities to do this.

AK: There are very sophisticated marketers in other countries. There just aren’t enough of them. Many of these countries are extremely young (population-wise) and so there’s opportunity to have an impact. As Vanessa said, you have to truly understand the market and demographics.

ML: In other countries, I’ve seen marketers doing some very cool things in social media. Maybe because search wasn’t as effective at the time, or other problems, but they’re doing some very cool things.

DR: There’s a lot to be learned from other populations online. They’re skipping email and going straight to Facebook.

CS: Outside the US, there’s a huge mobile population. We’ve heard mobile’s coming for years. Is it here?

DR: Yes, but it may not be what we thought it would be. We’re now at 20% penetration of smartphones across the US. I think we’re about to see dramatic changes. The iPhone was a gamechanger and things are headed in a direction that maybe we didn’t anticipate a few years ago.

AK: Tells story of being out with kids recently (and namedrops the Google Nexus One) and use of mobile during the day. “This is search!” People don’t think of it as search. But it is. Are our web sites optimized to “do this kind of magic”? Not even a fragment of search marketers are thinking about this as search. I encourage you to think of mobile as search.

ML: We need to teach clients about web site usability in mobile, but start with covering the basics and local information, local listings, etc.

VF: The ubiquity of mobile opens the door for a lot of new search opportunities. We have new ways and new devices, and we don’t even know that we’re searching.

And with that, we’re done. Excellent discussion.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | SEM Industry: Conferences | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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