SMX West Keynote Kickoff – Danny Sullivan

Okay, so for some reason, I can’t get the wireless to work down here in the session rooms so, you know, that’s awesome. I’m just going to eat my bagel, thoughtfully provided by the good people of SMX for the press room. Music: How Bizarre. Based on my morning, this is appropriate.

Danny gets introduced like a rock star by Chris Elliot but immediately turns it over to the biggest search geek contest. BC friend Keri Morgret won! Applause for Keri! She gets a shiny trophy thing and possible weapon.

Now it’s time for the keynote so let’s get down to business.

Danny starts off with pictures of his super cute little boys. “Even though they disappoint you sometimes it doesn’t mean you don’t love them.” Which of course segues to… heh, the search engines. Google, Yahoo and Live aren’t his kids but he still loves them dearly (and probably spends more time with them than his own kids). Even though he gets disappointed with them sometimes, he still loves them.

He shows the averaged scores of search share for each of the big three — Google is in the high 60s, Yahoo’s under 20, Live’s around 10 percent. Search growth over the last couple of years shows that Yahoo was close for a while but Google took off about mid-2005.

Google is an addiction — a deserved addiction, Danny says. They have a good product, love search, they have great signals to mine for data and their business strategy is to work in the users’ interest. (He references his article The Google Hive Mind.)

What’s the downside of the habit? There’s no reason to switch. The competition is a mess. Google is stronger than ever and it’s making them a target.

Danny’s wishes for Google:

  • Show real-time CPC for ads — this is part of why Yahoo-Google scared advertisers.
  • Tell publishers what the AdSense split is — this would help the content producers understand their value.
  • Solve map spam issues.
  • Think carefully before moving further into Google-hosted content — it worries people that they’re looking to take over instead of just indexing.

Yahoo is the little engine that should’ve. If Google is Coke and Yahoo is Pepsi, then Microsoft is RC Cola pointing and laughing at Yahoo for not being as big as Google and Yahoo believes it.

Yahoo needs to overcome leadership disarray, loss of talent and the “mojo” factor. They’ve thrown search to the wolves in order to survive. Google tried to catch it and wasn’t allowed, Microsoft isn’t giving up their desire to acquire Yahoo Search.

Danny’s wishes for Yahoo:

  • Restore faith in Search if possible.
  • Keep innovating.
  • Enough with the “open” solution — not everything has to be “open” and social. It just needs to be good.
  • Don’t do stupid things like angering your advertisers.

Time for a game!

What is Google’s main product? (Someone says money, someone says advertising. Finally someone says Search and Danny goes with that.) Official answer: search, ads and apps.

What’s Microsoft’s main product? Someone says “release bugs into the environment”. Hee! Danny was looking for Software and Services.

His point is that they aren’t focused on search and they’re battling a company whose entire focus is search. They need to make search a priority.

Danny’s wishes for Microsoft:

  • Love search and show us that you love it.

We’re rooting for you. (No, really, show of hands say that we are.) People really want to see that there is a real competitor of Google. The search product people are awesome and in love with search but the corporation needs to love it too. Even Google wants Microsoft to do well because people are scared of a Google monopoly and because they know that competition pushes them.

Pick a brand! Microsoft MSN Windows Live is not a good brand.

Do the hard things too. Giving up on book search too. Google didn’t and now they have a really nice product.

No one knows who the most relevant search engine is, not really. If everyone is the same, no one will ever leave Google. We need trusted stats that might help us see where Microsoft is better. It’ll help Google stay competitive too.

We need a bucket of key stats:

  • Share of searches
  • Volume of searches
  • Number of unique searchers
  • Number of search sessions

We need agreements on types of searches that are counted (local, game-related, etc.).

Can we all just kill the concept of a Google killer? No start up is going to kill Google, not in the next couple of years anyway. Bigger doesn’t make you better: Cuil played that card and lost hard. Natural language search isnt’ the silver bullet, Powerset tried that. YouTube was the closest and Google acquired that.

Competition is going to be many little companies, not just one big killer.

Time to talk Twitter. Twitter Search is great. Hee, “How many of you are twittering this very second? Thank you for paying attention.”

Earthquakes, political reactions, etc. It’s all instant feedback that really makes a difference.

Google and Yahoo should be offering Twitter search. Urbanspoon has amazing amounts of data that Google can’t get and can’t replicate. Eventful is another example of things that Google can’t do. He has more examples: Upcoming (also events), Yelp (Google Maps is growing in the local space but they’re not there yet).

The problem with little companies with different specialties is that it’s hard to remember them all even if they’ve been acquired. As a search marketer, you need to capitalize on the opportunities they provide.

Googlettes: YouTube, Google Blog Search, Google Maps

Danny preaches the gospel of engagement objects: do less PR chasing and think more about adding videos and taking advantage of the alternate avenues to get into Google.

Google’s way out front in terms of personalization and localization. No one else is there yet but they’re coming along. “Ranking reports are dead” says Danny and people are finally getting that. They’re dead because they’re no indication of how you’re getting traffic and because you’re fighting on a thousand different fronts.

SEO still has a reputation management problem. Just today John Dvorak slammed SEO (just like Seth Godin in 04, Mary Hodder in 05, Calacanis in 07, Shoemoney in 08, AmEx open forums in 08…) for being worthless and shady and snake oil salesmen. (Danny notes that real snake oil is actually an effective treatment used in China.)

There are things that you can and should be doing to on-page content and for search architecture. Maybe a name change is needed.

Danny’s plea:

Forget the black hat/white hat thing. Just don’t be a “crap hat”. Don’t do the crap stuff. Off-topic link drops, automated link insertions. It’s all just crap. (Says so right on the slide. And because I’ve liveblogged it, it’s now “livebloggiality”. Hee.)

Just say no to crap. And tell others to say no. Make it like racist jokes, don’t put up with it. Enough crappy MP3 sites, comment spamming, god knows what else. Just enough. Be leaders. Grow up and if it’s money you’re leaving on the table, leave it.

Danny and Jessica Bowman (and based on the conversation Scott Polk and I had yesterday, not just them) think there’s a rise in in-house search marketing. Agencies should think about how to support them.

SEM is not PPC. SEO is organic, unpaid traffic. Paid search/PPC is paid traffic from search. SEM is a combination of both. [Yes! This! Please.]

The future of search in the financial crisis and search: it’s still hard to say how hard it will hit. There’s conflicting reports of spend-pull backs but also continued support. We’re just going to have to watch and see. If things do become tighter, analytics become more crucial.

Danny’s writing a book this year, covering the topic of search marketing from a high level. He is going to cover how it differs from other types of advertising and marketing. It’ll be meant for those who still don’t get search and search marketing. Stay sharp because Danny’s going to want your stories and case studies. You’re living the book. He wants search marketing to be as respected as Super Bowl ads.

Be proud of what you do!

Search marketing is awesome.

Susan Esparza is former managing editor at Bruce Clay Inc., and has written extensively for clients and internal publications. Along with Bruce Clay, she is co-author of the first edition of Search Engine Optimization All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies.

See Susan's author page for links to connect on social media.

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