Search Engines: Friend or Foe?

Aug 8, 2006 • 8:05 pm | comments (1) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Search Engine Strategies 2006 San Jose

This is a very full panel today with 7 speakers. They are Peter Hershberg, David Jakubowski, Jakob Nielsen, Dana Todd, Todd Malicoat, Jennifer Slegg, and Scott Orth. Jeffery K. Rohrs is moderating this thread. It should be a good and probably entertaining thread where the panelists will be able to voice opinions. Hopefully there will be a little calamity and vivious agreements and disagreements about this subject.

It opens up talking about an article that Jakob Nielsen wrote called “Search Engine as Leeches on the Web”. He talks about how search engines extract too much of the web’s value, leaving too little for the websites that actually create the content. He shows an eye tracking study, where the user is creating for information about LaGuardia in which the airport was named after. His point is that the search engine is taking the content from the website and displaying it on the search results page. The search engine didn’t create this content or pay for it, and they are displaying the content. There are too many free services being created just to drive traffic to the search engines. He says that search engines are becoming answer engines.

They next define the term “leech” and point to an article that Danny Sullivan wrote about search engines being leeches and that people are becoming to dependent on search engines for answers. Jeff next directs a question to David from MSN about his thoughts on the article. David says it was an interesting article, but at the same time there isn’t a line from webmasters saying please don’t send me traffic. He says when you think of a search engine as a consumer vehicle that a search engine can free up content and let them access it. In the early days, portals were thought to open up the web to allow people to get information from the web. He asks, “what does the user want?” They want easy access to the information they want. So the industry that has evolved around the search engines is wonderful because they help deliver the information to the people.

Jeff goes into asking about robots.txt and which consultants on the panel that have clients excluding the search engines. Dana replies its on a selective basis or to prevent them from getting mirrored content. Peter says they have 0 clients excluding the search engines from spidering them. They do have a number of advertisers, that are considering possibly excluding vertical search engines. Syndicating their content out though is good. He says that developing tools to help users shift through the content is a great thing. Jakob starts talking about farmers, how using the resources correctly is smart. Basically the websites can’t afford to exclude the search engines. He says that the interaction and branding a website has on a website is lost when it’s content is being presented in the search engines. He says you need to build you customer loyalty. Dana asks that if search engines should start paying us to include our content in there engines. Scott points out that they want the lines of text in the search engine and they wish they could have more text in the search result pages.

Jeff asks Jennifer about the bandwidth issues and how a search engine disrupts the a business. She tells the story about how yahoo publisher network bot came in high bandwidth for 83,000 times sucking up 4gigs of bandwidth. She says she blogged about the issue. Yahoo figured out the issue and stopped it. Next Jakob talks about hidden costs. He mentions the Myspace and Fox deal and how this deal actually downgrades those sites possibilities to develop other services because everywhere you go on MySpace or Fox in the future you will be blasted with search boxes. This is driving people to those search boxes and not other features or services. David from MSN next talks about keeping the search engines skewed towards more the consumers. Jeff next talks about Google Analytics and how this can expose your data to Google. He asks if the panelists would recommend this to their clients. Jennifer says this would be giving to much data. You care already giving them your Adsense data, and then you could give them your conversion data, that is a bit too much. Todd makes the point that the engines know the seasonality of certain times periods and how CPC costs rise. Giving Google this data may not be a good idea because they could control the minimum CPC’s in those categories. Dana makes the point that the toolbar already knows your upstream and downstream data with all the Google Toolbars installed. Jennifer makes the disclaimer that Google says they don’t use the data for anything “evil”. Scott says the Google free analytics tool isn’t that great to begin with.

Jeff next talks about search engines as a black box. How are things done behind the scenes? Are there any burrs under the saddle that really make your upset? Dana says that the industry is created around technology. She says there is impediment to innovation if they don’t have all the information needed to create better solutions. Rather than see innovations to create efficacy to help us manage our time, the innovation are being created just to keep up with everything. She says she wants to see an audit trail, of all the tracks along the way, and maybe where the click came from. It sort of feels like a 2.3% conversion. Good point.

David from MSN talks about the search engine perspective. There are two types of groups, one that wants the in-depth informaiton and the other that wants it simple. He talks about sophisticated marketers that require that info, but then there are less sophisticated marketers that don’t need that much info. He says the status quo of the industry is not enough. Microsoft is committed to increased audience intelligence. He says the trick is that when you talk to the different groups. The simple marketers want the data simple and easier, while the sophisticated marketers want more information and empowerment. Jakob talks about the advertising and extracting too much value. He says in any auction system the value can be bid up to high so that there is not enough profit margin. So the search engines are making all the money and the companies are all competing for the very slim profit margin. He examines that anything you can do to maximize customer loyalty becomes more valuable as the cost of that advertising goes up. Email newsletters and things like the side bar in Windows Vista to communicate. Peter also mentions that search is an integrate point to get other things, such as immediately going to a search engine when you see something interesting to find more about it.

Jeff then asks about what things in the current market you would like to change? Dana says she says that landing page relevance should not determine my price and then holding us ransom to get our clicks back. Peter says this tries to align things for everyone and create a better standard and higher conversion. Dana says that some advertisers are told not to touch their campaigns and they listen. When did we get afraid of our advertising?!? If I do touch it then somehow I might end up in penalty land if we makes any changes! And then the customer service is so bad, it just sucks all around. Dana is saying we don’t want to control the algorithm. PPC has more control available. Todd makes the point that the relationship may be abusive but its better than nothing, its an opt-in thing.

Jeff he next talks about Eddie Haskell, was the fictional character from Leave It to Beaver, where he kiss Ms. Cleaver but then punches Beaver. Funny. He is basically asking about how search engines are bypassing SEM’s. The panelists say that there is benefit in working with agencies. David says he would get on the phone with the client and recommend working with agencies. Peter talks about getting data from the engines to make better decisions and that we can crunch the numbers. He also mentions how Google wants to charge for the API, something that was originally free and how that hurts the agencies and people. He says its hypocritical for a company who recommend its employees spend 20% of its free time on innovative projects. Scott talks about what benefit is for it the engine to lower your CPC to improve your conversion if they put you 5 or 8th position. Instead the only thing that happens is the CPC keeps going up from month to month.

Jeff next talks about the last part of Jakob articles about the other things you can do to diversify your online marketing. They are: brand building, retention marketing (email, direct mail), request marketing, discussion groups & communities, affiliate programs, newsfeeds, url promotion on physical products, where possible connect your service to proprietary hardware, investigate in mobile services, and traditional marketing. Dana talks about how search engines need to differentiate themselves from each other. She gives the example how the search engine results where all the same. Jakob agrees they are mediocre today. Users are not always being led to the sites that will help them. They are popular places but that helpful all the time. He says the search engines are better than searches on website or internal website. He recommend have a good internal search to keep them there. David talks about how technology has tremendously excelled in the last several years. Search is definitely a software problem. He says that people that shape the market share are the people at this conference.

Q: A member from audience asks about if a client has 48,000 real estate listings, would it be a good idea to give those listing to Google in the Co-op.

A: That is a tough question. It tough because that real estate section on co-op is not indexable and can’t be put on other engines. Todd recommended you will need to evaluate the benefit from it and if its worth it to try.

Q: Was Google and Yahoo invited here? MSN showed up. A: They were invited, but can’t say for one way or another if they declined or not. There were originally 9 people on this panel.

Jeff then mentions that search engines are “self interested” partners. Its not a black and white situation, there is self interest there. They need to make money. Dana talks about a publication from Bearns Sterns, called the Google Ecosystem. Things don’t stop here, there is good and bad. There is an ecosystem associated with the search engines. We all are here because of them, and can profit from them. We are all committed to making this happen, because it’s an exciting place and it gets more exciting all the time. We need to have some respect. We should incentive it for us, why should we stay around. She asks if Jakob put a no spider on his site. Take a stand she says. Go Dana Todd lead the revolution!

Dana then talks about how Google can object to a companies business model through their quality score system and evaluating the page. That is wrong. That is at the expense of the business. What if Google doesn’t like the YPN is on the landing page, they could inflate the CPC and cause them to use Adsense. Even though Google isn’t doing this, it would be pretty scary if they started. There are cases of false positives but some of the panelists agree there is some good things going on with it.

Previous story: Search Algorithm Research



08/09/2006 01:08 am

Search engines are being abused by the government, they track everyones search habits.

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