The conference kicked off bright and early at the Santa Clara Exhibition Center on Tuesday morning. Even for a Brit abroad the location was easy to find. Unlike some venues where parking is either impossible or hugely expensive at Santa Clara Exhibition Center it was a breeze and even free of charge! Next a great selection of food was served up for breakfast and by the time the first keynote of the conference was given by Danny Sullivan everyone was raring to go.
Search Landscape & market share
Danny showed the packed crowd the average share of searches based on a range of data he had gathered from Comscore, netcompete and others. The data that was primarily focused on the US market showed Google had moved from 60% to a 70% market share. Yahoo’ share had dropped a few points from the 20% range and Microsoft Live were around the 10% mark.
Danny reminded everyone ‘Google becomes a habit’. Also there’s a good reason it becomes a habit, because it’s a good product and Google as a company loves search. Google’s own business strategy is to work in the user’s interest and so by and large if Google does what’s best for the user, the user will like Google. There is now a situation where there is no reason to switch from Google…and this is a major problem for competitors.
Yet whilst huge market share might seem to have huge advantages there is a downside for Google. People (including those in power) are now watching the corporation like hawks and as there are increasing accusations of Google now having too much power as a result of their continual growth, the company is under growing political scrutiny. As Danny pointed out Google doesn’t really want a 90% market share – it would probably much prefer 68 –70% share. That’s good for the long run, so people aren’t yelling ‘ You rule the world’. A slightly smaller share would keep pressure off their back.
MSN – LIVE
Danny asked the audience who would like to see Microsoft succeed, do better and be a strong competitor with Google. Nearly every hand in the audience went up! Search is different for Microsoft because in some areas they work in they are dominant – people don’t want them to succeed – but in the world of search people are rooting for them.
Danny argued that for Microsoft to gain bigger market share “Live is not the brand that’s going to get there…” He argued it wasn’t clear that Microsoft cared enough about search and willed Microsoft to make search a priority so it would be the 3 S’s. Software, Services and Search!
Everyone seemed to be rooting for MSN/Live to take bigger market share. Jokingly he referred to the fact even Google won’t mind!
The Next Google Killer? Forget it…
Danny suggested the idea of a Google Killer coming along and overnight taking on Google is a bit of a fallacy and we were now at a stage where people may want to start forgetting about the idea of Google killer. Start-ups are very unlikely to beat Google and certainly no one would be a likely competitor for at least a 3-year timeline.
Ironically the company that has come nearest is YouTube – and Google acquired it!
Danny wrapped up his keynote with some of his personal faves for useful applications and websites. These included UrbanSpoon for iPhone – which randomly selects restaurants for you. Eventful.com was tipped as another good app for music, community and events info.
And in the US, YELP has useful local reviews and has a store rating system that can be informative.
Search 4.0 is now the next stage of search
This will involve taking into account what you personally do or visit. It will tailor based on geographic factors, use data from previous queries, web history and so forth.
As a result for search marketers, results will continue to be more tailored to individuals.
Ranking reports are dead – results are going to vary from individual to individual and good content is what consistently continues to be rewarded
Danny then went on the address the reputation of SEO and the re-occurring accusation by a minority that SEO is a modern version of snake oil
“90% of the SEO market is made up of snake oil salesman”
– Jason Calacanis, 2007
Danny suggested that perhaps it was time for an SEO name change. In 2005 the buzz was content SEO, then a couple of years later it was Technical SEO. But there seems to be no consensus at the moment.
Black Hat, White Hat – Crap Hat
Danny suggested its time to forget black/white hat debate and focus on ‘crap hat. Which can loosely be described as all the spammy things in SEO that people shouldn’t really do. This can all fit under the umbrella of crap. Examples might be off-topic link drops., automated links, meaningless landing pages, comment spamming and so on.
“Even if it works, even if everyone else is doing it, even if Google lets people ‘get away’ with worse… its still crap. Just say no to crap!”
Danny then went on to clear up some confusion about the definition of SEM. Definition: Search engine marketing or search marketing = the combination of both tactics (paid and organic). [Andy's note: I totally agree!]
On the financial crisis and search Danny suggested that it’s still hard to say how hard it will hit. Conflicting reports are emerging of spend pull-backs but also continued support. Though one suggestion was that if things get tighter – analytics become more important.