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December 6, 2006

Keynote: Search In 2006

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[I’m kicking myself right now for forgetting my camera. Danny Sullivan and Barry Schwartz are sitting huddled together on the edge of the stage quietly chatting and it’s perhaps the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. There’s a total “my buddy” moment going on.]

It’s time for Danny’s keynote and I’m personally psyched. The chair-throwing mood Jason Calacanis inspired yesterday has subsided and now it’s just time to have an interesting conversation about search. You can almost feel the relief.

Danny’s starts off talking about search convergence. The idea that search is colliding and merging with all sorts of other things. Google, Microsoft and Ask have become search utility companies that strive to provide you with whatever your search-heart desires – be it video, Web programs, radio ads, whatever. They’re there for you.

Danny says if you’re a successful SEM, it’s not because you know how to rank for a specific search; it’s because you understand how Google gets information. You take that information and that skill and you apply it elsewhere.

See that, Jason; it’s a skill.

Danny talks about the search wars going on and highlights Microsoft, Yahoo and Google.

He says Microsoft is sending out mixed messages. First stating they’ll kill Google and be more relevant, and then saying that we’re just at the beginning of search.

The new challenge facing Microsoft is that they’re trying to build it up from scratch. Microsoft’s Erik Selberg said Microsoft’s engine is "not better yet, but [it’s] no longer laughable". You might snicker at that, but it’s true and it’s something to be proud of. AdCenter has been an even bigger victory for the company.

Yahoo!’s Susan Decker announced it wasn’t Yahoo!’s goal to be number one in Internet search and that they are fine to simply maintain market share. Later they said the troops were pumped and that Yahoo! was about to take charge. Then we got the Peanut Butter memo. Today we hear they’re reorganizing.

And then there’s Google. They’ve been very busy this year but we hear they’re doing okay. :)

[Notable: I just realized that all Danny’s slides have the Search Engine Land logo sitting on the bottom. That made me smile.]

From there Danny launches into a discussion on video and brings up how important Google’s acquisition of YouTube was because it was very unGoogle. Typically, Google finds a small company they’re interested in and buys it simply because they want the individuals running it. They pay some paltry sum, get the company, and it’s over. But this time Google was willing to shell out $1.6 billion. That’s noteworthy.

He says video search is currently just video on demand. “I want to see that Colbert Report I missed, where can I find it?” Or “I want to see that viral video going around, give it to me.” Video sharing has created the FBS network aka the Friends Broadcast System (“you gotta see this”).

From there Danny goes back to talking about search. He defines search marketing as putting messages in front of people who overtly and explicitly express a desire – usually via keywords – for a particular product, service of information.

Search engine optimization is the act of doing this by trying to influence unpaid listings, usually crawler-based ones, while search advertising is the act of doing this through direct paid methods.

As the session moved on, Danny talked about all the big dollar issues that were supposed to crash Google but didn’t (clickfraud, copyright), shares his indexing wish list and highlights some of the major search-related news stories that hit the press this year (NY identifies a woman based on her search history, Danny gets interviewed by Nightline, etc.)

If you want to know what kind of a speaker Danny Sullivan is, know that the session went almost an hour over and most people didn’t move an inch. In fact, we probably wouldn’t have even realized it had Danny not kept apologizing. The truth is Danny Sullivan is an amazingly humorous and engaging speaker and people would have been perfectly content to sit there all night listening to what he had to say. He’s our search leader and we look up to him because he motivates us.

And as I sit here, I can’t help but wonder how hard Incisive is kicking themselves right now. They won’t recover from losing Danny. He’s what brings the life to these conferences.

He’s on stage right now talking about search, practically tripping over his words because he’s so excited and passionate about it. He makes you passionate about it too. You can feel his energy and it’s contagious…and so are his giggles (yes, grown men do giggle). Sitting here is inspiring and I have Danny to thank for that.

I hope Bruce lets me tag along when Danny launches his own conference in June. If Danny’s involved, it’s going to be amazing.

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