Evening Forum with Danny Sullivan

Apr 13, 2007 - 1:27 am 4 by

This session is a question and answer with Danny Sullivan.

Question: Where is search going to be in three to five years? Danny: I wouldn't be surprised if search is very similar to the way it is now with a box and results. If you type in New York Hotels, instead of getting 10 links, you will get a big map and listings will come out of a local guide with a thing that says "Or do you want to search the entire web?" For "Madonna videos," you'll see a list of videos. Search engines will get smarter to present the vertical results rather than jumping through hoops. You'll still see Google as king of the heap, and Yahoo will be there. I think that Microsoft will be there but they might be splitting up a share with Ask - Ask.com is just hanging in there. I tend to think that we'll see more human intervention in the search results. In the future, it may be possible for people to vote on the results and influence the rankings. Maybe there will be new exciting new verticals. Google and Yahoo will likely acquire a lot of these verticals.

Question: What technologies are you excited about in that 3-5 year timeframe? Danny: So far, I haven't seen anything that has made me jump up and down. I was pleased with Hakia and its internal language search. "Madonna nude" doesn't need a lot of natural language interpretation. What I thought was interesting about what they were doing was tapping into other data sources and building out nice content pages to answer this information. I don't know if that will revolutionize things. I do look at social media sites like Digg and find it fascinating but don't know if it will translate into improved search results. These sites are so undemocratic though - maybe we can be the top Googlers from this. I don't see a lot. A lot of new properties are overhyped and overpromising and will be gobbled up by the major search engines.

Question: When will the "incentivizing" of search engine spamming through AdSense break? Danny: Didn't it break already? Google tried to make it very expensive. On the other hand, it doesn't cost a lot of money to put a scraper site on blogspot. It is still an issue if you get bad conversions. I think they will get a handle on it but they will have to drag their feet to do it. I think the web search people hate it. Danny then asks: Why does Wordpress have so little spam compared to blogspot? It seemed to be because Wordpress is running their Akismet trackback spam checkers. Blogspot doesn't have such a spam checker, however. There is more that they can do.

Question: We are serving products to baby boomers. They are grandparents and are not computer savvy. How do we target them? Danny: That's not a search thing. There are sites that are designed for people who are older. Crusty? (Someone says "Cranky." Danny says "Oh.")

Question: I currently use WebPositionPro for visibility reports. I run monthly reports and a colleague told me that I could be banned. Is that true? Danny: You are running analytics, right? That's more important than reranking reports. Secondly, the issue with web position and ranking tool is that they put a burden on Google. If Google sees a specific IP doing this, it will ban it. If you are on a shared IP address, it will affect hundreds of sites. I'd relax if you do it once a month or so, but if you do it all the time, be careful.

Question: Can we get your $0.02 on the impact of personalized search on SEO? Danny: When you go to personalized search, person A might see my ranking, but someone else might not and the incentive to rank will be a lot less. It will be harder for me to blatantly spam. It doesn't make SEO go away, though. If I still have the key ranking criteria, I have a best shot. He then provides an overview of personalized search and explains how people need to just be signed into Google to get personalized results. For the SEO side, the results are definitely different. The results are not that dramatically different, however. One or two things change.

Question: Couldn't, as a resolution to the personalized issue, Google implement a toggle button? Danny: Yes, but they don't want you to do it.

Question: Does Google want more personalized data to charge the advertiser? Danny: Microsoft is the only major service that does heavy demographic targeting.

Question: As long as we are talking about Google and how you are using your influence to change things, I hope I'm not the only one who has problems with parked domains that have Google ads. Danny: You can. When these people opt out of the content network, they opt out of any links on those sites that are hard coded. Those links that are hardcoded are part of the content network. Someone at that site did a search at that site and they got your result (which you are paying for) from the search network. You can't opt out of the search network. Lobby your Google representatives.

Question: Who is going to win the local space? Danny: Who knows? Does anyone from the local search space want to self-declare that you've won? I went out to lunch with someone and noted that local search had too many features and I don't know what features I need. This guy told me "we are the best local search!!!" (He's kidding.) The difficulty I have is that I live in a small town in England and I know what people do. Local search doesn't help me. I suspect that the winner will be one of the major players. The major search engines are often the major search utility companies. If you are a smaller search, you tend to go to the major utility company.

Question: How will do you use Craigslist for local search? Danny: Craigslist has great listings. Anyone who has local service will get that data in there. Google is crawling this data but not in a structured way. Google Base is taking listings and making structured data. I don't think that Craigslist is going into the Google Base system. I think it's just a regular web search. Someone says, however, that Craigslist is going into Google Base.

Question: How many people here are from small to medium sized manufacturers who want to promote their own search? Danny: You realize that this audience doesn't answer, right?

Question: Can you tell us stories about your SES experience? What were your biggest disasters? Danny: In San Jose, I lost a bet about the World Cup so I had to wear Thomas Bindl lederhosen. At the end, they ran out of food at the Google dance. Tim Myer from Yahoo is there with Paul Garney, head of Ask with a Google web guy. They were mocking each other jokingly and Paul got onto the chair and said "Look at me, I'm Yahoo! I'm the tallest of them all." At one conference, a guy ran off the stage and said "I can't do this" (he returned the next day). Back at a conference, Sergey once spoke and it was hard to get Yahoo to attend. Back then, Yahoo controlled the web. I was afraid that they were going to get attacked -- physically attacked -- after they started asking questions. However, someone came up and said "I want to thank you for coming out for us today." There were tears and hugs and it was a really sweet moment.

Question: I want to go back to personalized search. Can you find out who searches? Will people stop searching? Danny: There was an incident with AOL search when they released user data and the NY Times found a woman. But people were still using the search engines. Question followup: But the search engines will now target my habits. Danny: Why would it register to you that they are targeting you? You're going to Google and getting specific results based on what you are searching for. People might be more concerned about it in the future and lawmakers might make it an issue in the future, but it doesn't seem to be problematic now. Right now, we can't operate without search engines. Even if you turn off personalized search, potentially, your IP address can get traced back to you.

Question: I'm with an SEO agency and we have small businesses. Is the supplemental index going to make it difficult for small businesses to get better rankings? Danny: Supplemental results means that "your page is not important enough for our really important index." It doesn't mean that it won't rank. Google just decided not to revisit it again. It's rare that I see them ranking. I'd be a little concerned but I wouldn't freak out about it.

Question: I have an audience poll. I don't know how many of you went to the mobile search session. I went to it and came out of it and didn't think I learned much. Does anyone else feel the same way? (I actually read up a lot on it.) Danny: There were 2 mobile search sessions actually. Question followup: I didn't go to the other one. Danny: Oh. I see. It's really difficult to cover in a general conference a topic like that in depth. That's why there are vertical conferences. We could run an entire track on it but then we'd get in trouble for not focusing on video search or other types of search. [The lights dim. Danny asks, "Do I have to go?"] I understand. I'm sorry. The other problem with mobile search is that - do you know how hard it is to do mobile search? Question followup: They're doing it in Asia. Danny: How many people here market in Asia on mobile phones? (Laughter.)

Note: Sorry for the typos, especially with regards to names of people.


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