Search: Where to Next?
Session description: A peek into the next generation of digital marketing and predict what search might look like in the following five to 10 years. What should be on your search radar for 2010 and beyond?
Moderator: Anne F. Kennedy, SES Advisory Board, International Search Strategist, Beyond Ink USA
Eli Goodman, Search Evangelist, comScore, Inc.
Rob Garner, Vice President Strategy, iCrossing
Josh McCoy, Lead Strategist, Vizion Interactive
Duane Forrester, Senior Program Manager SEO, Microsoft (i.e. “the Bing guy”)
Quote marks indicate direct quotes. If there aren’t quote marks, it’s paraphrased.
Want to draw all eyes on a panel? Wear red, like Duane.
Want people to notice your name? Crease your name card and put it in front of the speaker water bottles, like Eli.
Want to prevent people from sitting in your row? Sit on the end, put your foot on the chair in front of you, pull out your 17″ MacBook and plop your 25-liters-by-volume new backpack in the aisle, like me.
Now, about where search is going next.
What they said
There’s no formal presentation for this session, says moderator Anne. And it’s being videotaped for you to watch later. Sigh. Why am I here, then? To tell you to skip past the 5-minute introduction, of course.
Search vs. social
Anne: “Right now, we have Facebook, Google, YouTube. Is it fair to suggest that Likes are replacing links? Discuss.”
Eli: “Likes are relatively limited. You can’t Like anything across the ‘Net.” I haven’t seen an incredible revolution in social search yet. Five to 10 years? Maybe. But a lot of things I find helpful with search are the things you didn’t expect to find.
Rob: “No. But… the social graph is taking away from the link graph. … Some may become more popular, but they’re not going to eat each other.”
Josh: “I don’t think (social) is going to be dominant over link building.” But in the last couple months we have seen Google clean house. I think Likes are going to be more beneficial to search engines.
Duane: “Social is a great signal … They help us get to the root of intent.” But there are limitations of social: your friends and their interest and needs may not help everyone. Is it relevant to 14 million people when they perform a search?
Anne: “Can we discuss personalization?”
Eli: “Too much personalization could be a bad thing. Because the person you are today isn’t the person you could be in five or 10 years.” Can the systems see the evolution of (your) growth?
Duane: “I see personal growing more out of apps. The mobile experience is hugely important in this.” Where is personalization going to hit? “It’s going to be in your pocket, on your mobile device.”
Josh: Bring personalization to your site. When people go to your site, does/will it tell them how much content has been added since they last visited your site?
Rob: Do you want tailored, subjective results to your exact experience and history? Or would you rather have what the objective search engine thinks is the best? Right now there’s no good toggle for that. Another impediment to search engine personalization: “the creepy factor.” We’re not quite ready for that. It could be generation—10 years or farther out.
Eli: Again, we come back to intent. Imagine 10 years from now if search is able to understand your inflection when you speak for things. Let’s say I’m angry about the Chicago Bears, and I want to find anti-Bears blogs. My inflection could inform intent down the line.
Anne: “So, carrying along the personalization theme. Is it possible or impossible or in between to think about how we could monetize this?”
Eli: Two things. Maybe you like Prada and you tell your friends, and they buy a purse, and you get a kickback. I also think we will see millions of millions of dollars on brand-to-brand marketing online.
Rob: These are real people giving you a window into a complex decision making process. As we get more data… those brand dollars will begin to move over. Also, search engines have lots of data about patterns of groups of users. That gets into privacy.
Duane: More dollars are going to come to online, and there are avenues that no one has even looked at yet. “The reality is, 10 years out may even be three and a half years out. I expect to see the changes coming faster than we expect.”
Anne: Let’s say you can click and buy from your recliner. “Are we doomed to become more and more couch potatoes?”
Josh: Now we have visual search. Now we have voice search. We don’t even want to type anymore. It’s where I think we’re heading.
Duane: “You’re still going to have to get up off your sofa to go to the mailbox.” I don’t see this making us more sedentary. The change of pace in life is accelerating. We can use our time more efficiently. The process of finding what you’re looking for will get faster.
Rob: “We’ll still be having this conversation in five to 10 years.” I have been monitoring touch interface design… they’re at the beginning of all this. They’re mapping digital touch points for everything. Think about the possibility of adding touch-plus to the physical world … search is going to be a core aspect mapped into these aspects.
Eli: In video games, everything is interactive. Everything is going to be interactive in real life. It will be too cool to sit on the couch. You can interact with everything (well, not the trash—everything you want to interact).
Anne: “You’re suggesting behavior is going to change. Have you tried to use the Yellow Pages lately? Search has rendered me incapable of using the Yellow Pages. What is the term if I want a manicure? So I went to Google.”
Anne: If we go overseas, there are changes brewing in the European Union. There are stricter laws. Is that going to make things more difficult?
Rob: “There going be some risk of losing the passing of data that’s not enabled by the user. As far as the personalization onsite, you could still be extremely robust. The potential is still there.”
Josh: Web made the world small. Social media made the world smaller. If you’re going to do things globally, I think social media is where to go.
Q: “What is more important, location-based search, or social search?”
Duane: Be careful where you put your time. What we’re after is good content. Where that’s local or anywhere else, you have to give us that good content. Local and social: those are signals we’re using. It’s never going to be as simple as saying local is more important. It’s not one or the other, it’s all of the above.
Josh: You can go local/social. If you’re doing well with location-based search, go with that.
Rob: “Both. And it depends.” What’s your vertical?
Eli: “I feel like the maturation of local search will happen faster than it will for social search. … Next five years, call it local, five to 10, social.”
Q: What are your thoughts on automated linkbait versus quality content?
Duane: “What’s your domain again?” [Audience laughter.] We like links, we like organic links. If you have quality content that links to other quality content, we like that. We like links inside content, embedded. If someone takes that time to make embedded links, then we assume it’s valuable content. “It is always about quality content. It is the very foundation. It is the basis of everything.”
Rob Engage your core user. It’s going to travel. Content is about to explode. If it hasn’t already done so, it’s about to get a lot tougher. Low quality, SEO pages were an easy get five to 10 years ago. It’s not going to be an easy get in the next couple of years. If you engage people, the rest will follow.
Duane “Think less in terms of SEO and more in terms of CO. Start thinking about managing your website in terms of Content Optimization… whether that’s video, audio, written word… the content is what we’re after.” CO is critical. Start thinking about search in terms of “find and complete.” Those kinds of thoughts can help you understand how to optimize your website.
Anne: “You’re after the content because the users are after the content.”
Anne: “What are three things people can take away to do on Monday?”
Duane 1. Quality content. 2. 5+ years: Rich snippets. 3. Start thinking about getting people from “doing” to “done.” Help them complete their tasks. Think of your content in terms of the person whose is going to use it for their need.
Josh Content… engaging content. Have unique data that’s purposeful. Moving forward: pay more attention to video and rich media. I feel that video and image speak louder than words. Put a lot of time and effort into it.
Rob Content is exploding. Have the content that matches the query… getting detailed into building out long-term SEO. Build out quality content you’re willing to keep on your site for 5, 10, 20 years. Understand how that content is disseminated. Advanced SEO is taking the basics and doing them over and over again. You’re not looking for the next magic bullet. It’s long-term.
Eli: From a technique perspective, you have to look at what your competition is doing. “The future? Somebody else is already there.”
Anne: Sounds like you’re saying: 1. Content 2. Customers 3. Competition.