Yesterday (technically still today my time), I did a keynote interview with Google vice president of search products & user experience Marissa Mayer during our SMX Sydney show. We covered a wide range of topics, including how "Previous Query" refinement will soon come to natural listings on Google, plus how Australia is to get StreetView mapping, Google testing how well Yahoo monetizes, how Orkut might have to be replaced in the US, and other topics.
Live blogging isn’t my thing, and live blogging when you’re asking the questions on stage certainly isn’t either. Heck, it’s tough enough to jot down notes of what was said. My recap below will be without a lot of direct quotes, but I wanted to highlight points I found interesting.
Last year, we covered (and here) how Google was changing the ads it displayed based on the previous query someone performed. For example, search for [spain] then do a new search for [travel], and you may notice how the ads will be targeted around Spanish travel (see also Google’s help page on this).
Google’s never given this feature a formal name, but Marissa said internally the company calls it "Previous Query," the first time to my knowledge that we’ve had some type of formal name put to it. Learn the name well, because Previous Query refinement is now coming to unpaid or "organic" search results, she said.
For example, if someone were to search for [spain] and then [travel] after that, BOTH the ads and the organic results will be altered to take the previous query into account. To some degree, it will be as if the second query was for [spain travel].
This is a big deal. Big deal. It means that the results for many "single word" queries, which can be hard for sites to rank for when billions of listings come back, will become queries involving two or more words — and much more specific ones.
When’s it happening? "Soon." Indeed, it’s already been happening for several weeks for some people randomly selected. Who will get it, when live? Everyone that accepts a cookie, meaning it’s not a personalized search thing that only happens if you’re logged in.
How could a user opt-out? Heh. I didn’t get to asking that, sorry. But I imagine any search where the + symbol is used before a word or words will override Previous Query.
Australia is to get StreetView mapping hopefully by the middle of this year, Marissa said. Cars have already been driving the roads in Australia for some time in preparation for it. See also this news article which picks up on privacy issues.
Google Testing Yahoo
I asked about the news that Yahoo would carry Google’s search ads, to the degree Marissa could comment about it. She remarked that it was a way for Google to test how well Yahoo monetizes. I thought this turn of phrase was important to note — that it’s not a Yahoo experiment, but a Google one. As I remarked in the story about Yahoo and AOL possibly merging, which we covered yesterday:
In my talk today at SMX Sydney with Google vice president Marissa Mayer, she noted that the Yahoo deal was a way for Google to measure Yahoo’s traffic and how well it monetizes. This is important. This is not just a Yahoo test – it’s a test for Google. And from that test, Google will better understand how much it could make in a crucial revenue guarantee to a combined Yahoo-AOL, which might help the deal move along and keep Yahoo out of Microsoft’s hands.
It being so late here in Australia (coming up on midnight) and me being both jet lagged and short of sleeping, I’ll come back to some of other points in more detail later. But here are some fast hits:
- Not A Portal: The goal remains for Google to still get users off
the site, rather than to try and host content that some feel is a way for
Google to either be a media company or capture the "second click." But in some
cases, Google hosts content because it feels otherwise, the content wouldn’t
exist — or not as much would be out there. YouTube and Google Book Search
were examples she gave.
- iPhone & Mobile: The iPhone in particular continues to show growth
to mobile searches. Could Google tell how many use the iPhone to reach Google
through the 2G cell network versus hotspots/wifi? Yes, and the traffic is
roughly 50/50, off the top of her head.
- Social Search: Tapping into your friends to refine search results
is an interesting idea but one that remains fraught with problems, as you
probably don’t want to actually share some search results with friends. There
are other issues, and she expects at the moment that this may be a minor
signal used to influence results and more likely to suggest potential sites to
- Orkut: She reiterated that the Orkut social networking site that Google runs remains strong worldwide. But she said that it might be that for the US and other key markets where it does not lead, the company might need to re-brand or build entirely new social networking services.
Postscript by Barry: Neerav Bhatt summarized his notes on the SMX Sydney conference as well.