Interview with Bing’s Duane Forrester: Looking Into the Future of Search & Tech
Anyone who knows Duane Forrester, Bing’s senior product marketing manager, knows he’s a got a ton of SEO knowledge to share, plus personality to go with it (he is, after all, the U.S. Search Awards reigning Search Personality of the Year). Duane joined Bruce Clay in the studio for a special episode of digital marketing podcast SEM Synergy.
The podcast episode is 30 minutes filled with future-forward perspective on a lot of the search engine optimization industry’s favorite topics — from how and when wearable tech will really take off to the emergence of digital assistants like Cortana and Siri.
Listen to the full interview here:
Read on for highlights from this exclusive interview with Duane Forrester. You don’t want to miss it when he sounds off on:
- Why Google Glass actually matters
- What users really want from mobile search
- The growth of mobile-specific algorithms
- How Duane uses technology to overcome human flaws
- Bing’s approach to SEO wish lists
- Why search engines are as transparent as they’d like to be
Duane Forrester on Why Google Glass Matters
Everyone saw Google Glass come and go. I had Glass. I still have Glass. I still don’t use it. It didn’t meet my expectations but in some ways it exceeded my expectations because it was a first generation object moving us in a direction (towards wearables and augmented reality).
The biggest thing that something like Glass does is expose society to the coming change. Now you start to see things like Hollow Lens and you see all of these ideas that are natural low growths. Let’s be clear, all of these things were under development at the same time. You don’t bring something to market just after something else goes off the market because it took you a month to develop it. These are years in development and the time you roll out is generally decided by a number of factors, the least of which would be a competitors product.
Virtual reality, augmented reality, I personally can’t wait for these things. I’ve already told my wife to clear the credit card because whenever ones comes from market, doesn’t matter what the price is it’s coming home and that will be it. This is where Google Glass was pivotal for us. It’s that first iteration. It’s that gen one of a product. That gen one taught us that being able to talk to our technology, as goofy as it felt the first few times, actually had tangible benefits for me. Now we have things like Cortana on my phone. I’m constantly talking to my phone now. What’s entertaining and intriguing about it is that she talks back to me. I can carry an ongoing conversation across multiple points of reference just like I would with a human being and the system understands that what I mean is a continuation of the conversation, not individual, individual, individual each time but a continuation. Things have really progressed.
What Users Really Want on Mobile
Someone doesn’t necessarily want the latest, beautiful 3D movie playing in the background on their handheld device because they’re walking down the street trying to get to a location because they want dinner at this restaurant. The first thing in their mind is I want to go to dinner, not what does this experience look like and how do I feel about this place. It’s “get me to my location.” It’s “give me the object I want right now.”
The Growth of Mobile-Specific Algorithms
If you don’t render a good experience on mobile then you lose the affinity of the people. They generally becoming dissatisfied with you and they kind of move away. We face that same wall as everyone else does except the problem that we have is we also have the added hassle of we have to return the result and it has to nail it every time or people are disappointed with us.
People aren’t disappointed with the website that’s poorly designed and doesn’t render well — they’re disappointed with the search engine because we didn’t give them a good result. To avoid that, you see this growth of the mobile-specific algorithms happening. There’s a very good reason for it because it makes it a lot easier to be able to go into that environment and assure that that user, when they are on a mobile device, is getting the best possible mobile experience …
The natural growth is you will see that algorithms develop specifically for the mobile environment. You’ll see things like tags that are mobile friendly so that the searcher then has some indication.
That’s a step for us to help the searcher understand but it is a very long road to walk down because it doesn’t matter how much you actually put that out there, the general population of users will take a long time to adapt to that change and say, “Oh, hang on a second. I get it, so if it’s tagged as mobile friendly I have a better experience when I go there.” It is something that we feel is an important step to alert people to.
How Duane Uses Technology to Overcome Human Flaws
I was going out the other day and I promised my wife I would pick up the mail on the way home. I am probably the worst human being on the planet for making these innocuous commitments and then totally spacing out on them and just not …
Walking in the house happy that I’m home and hoping everyone’s happy to see me and being genuinely baffled when I’m asked where’s the mail and seeing the disappointment because I had previously promised I would get it. I grab my phone and I said set a reminder and it said what. I said get the mail. When? When I am near home again. That’s the when.
These digital assistants understand proximity to a location. They understand location because it tracks my time there over a period of time. Over about a three-week period of time my assistant looked at my pattern of whether I was in the office, whether I was at home and it determined that home was where I was when I was there for a long period of time overnight.
Bing’s Approach to SEO Wish Lists
There’s no sense being coy about this — there’s absolutely a wish list of items that comes to me. I never don’t get wish list items. That is a consistent inflow. What’s remarkable to me is how much overlap there often is. There’s a lot of chatter that happens in the industry and comes up. You’ll have different versions of the same concept basically. Then from there we have to look at it and understand what the business implications are for Bing.
Obviously if we will invest our resources, there has to be some return on that for Bing. Sometimes the return can simply be if you build a better website, the better the quality the search results are, the better it is for Bing. Other times the resources, the return on that resource investment has to be much more direct. A lot of ideas are great ideas but then the resourcing behind them, it may be a two and a half million dollar a month cost to us to actually enable that at the level it’s desired. I can tell you right now, right? Webmaster tools is not a cost center. We don’t make money.
Why Search Engines Aren’t as Transparent as They’d Like
If there were no such thing as black hat tactics, I think you’d see (Webmaster Tools) being even more transparent and even more helpful. Ultimately, if I want you to paint your barn blue it would be probably good if I called you, talked to you and sent you an email asking you to paint your barn blue …
The problem right now is that if I go around telling everybody they need more blue barns then suddenly all these fake blue barns start popping up and it becomes really difficult to separate an actual blue barn from a fake blue barn. This will always be a challenge. This is why you see this gap that exists, right? We, otherwise, wish there was no gap and it never existed.
To listen to more free SEM Synergy podcasts, check us out on iTunes. New shows air every Wednesday at 3 p.m. PT on WebmasterRadio.fm. Join Bruce Clay, Virginia Nussey, Mindy Weinstein, Robert Ramirez and me for lively discussion on digital marketing hot topics every week!