Danny Sullivan’s Search Engine
Strategies rolled into San Jose this week, bringing an unprecedented
four days of search engine marketing advice (SEM) and news to more
than 1700 attendees. If you still had reservations about the
legitimacy of search engine marketing, one look at the impressive
roster of exhibitors, sponsors and attendees would quickly dispel any
More than 48 companies, including
Google and Yahoo, decided to exhibit at the event (the highest number
of exhibitors ever for SES) and speakers included representatives from
all of the main search engines as well as the top SEM companies.
At the immensely busy registration
desk, a buzz was developing with attendees enthused about recent
developments in the search engine industry. With Overture, Google and
Lycos, just a few of the search engines expected to make some big
announcements during the proceedings, the conference was expected to
provide a lot more than just "how-to" information.
Day One of the conference had been
designated as a "pre-conference" day with the sessions
taking on two distinct tracts. Danny had decided to move all the
beginners SEM sessions to this day and additionally take the
opportunity to provide an annual update on the economics of the search
As part of this exclusive insight to
the world’s largest SEO conference, I decided to take a seat in many
of the search engine economic sessions. A notable exception being my
own presentation on "Search Term Research" (which I provided
as part of the beginners itinerary).
One of the most interesting sessions of
the day was unquestionably the Search Monetization Strategies.
While none of the panelists could agree on what "monetization"
meant, they all had some interesting information to share.
Sheryl Sandberg, VP of Global Online
Sales & Operations for Google was the first to speak on the topic.
Discussing the growth of Google, she shared with us that Google is not
only the largest search engine property, but is also the fastest
growing. Focusing on the "how do we make money" side of
Google’s operations, she offered that with more than one hundred
thousand advertisers, eight-eight different interfaces and products in
11 languages, Google had taken great steps to secure its position.
Sandberg also shared with the audience
the great success they had seen with their Google Search Appliance
product, allowing any business to purchase an easy and effective
search tool for their own website. With companies on board that
include Boeing, Cisco and Xerox she confirmed that this is a growing
market for Google.
She also took the time to showcase the
recently launched AdSense service, which allows the average website to
display Google’s AdWords campaigns and receive commission on the
click-thrus. The success of AdSense is in part due to the fact that
Google is able to spider the website of the proposed partner and use
an algorithm to determine which ads would be most relevant to the page
being displayed. This format was far more accurate than simply asking
the website owner which terms they thought were relevant to the page.
Finishing, Sandberg offered answers to
audience questions which confirmed the following:
- Google has no plans to introduce a
"paid inclusion" or trusted feed service at anytime in
- While Google’s AdWords campaign
does track the click-thru rates of an ad, they do not track how
long a visitor remains on the advertiser’s website.
- Commenting on eBay’s request to
remove any ads that infringe on their copyright, Sandberg
confirmed that these requests can be made by any company concerned
about trademark or copyright infringement.
While Google is still the darling of
the search engine industry, Yahoo has caused quite a stir with their
recent acquisitions. Tim Cadogan, VP of Search for Yahoo explained
some of the initiatives Yahoo had taken to improve their search
One of the most interesting Yahoo
developments has to be their new Product search. While still in
beta-testing, this service strikes an uncanny resemblance to
Google’s new Froogle service. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the
new service from Yahoo will also include sponsored listings from
Cadogan also describe some other steps
Yahoo has taken to improve user access to search. These included:
- Showing Yahoo Yellow Pages listings
in search results for products or services that also include a zip
code. E.g. Pizza delivery 95110
- Search for Weather or Maps for a
location will bring up relevant information not just search
- Including a search box in Yahoo Mail
accounts so that a user receiving an email on a product or service
can search without leaving their mailbox.
With the addition of Tony Mamone of
LookSmart and Jim Diaz from Ask Jeeves, a lot of information was
shared. Look for more details in a future round-up of the session.
Another session of interest was the Advertiser
Roundtable. This was an opportunity for respected experts in the
search engine marketing industry to discuss future developments of the
search engine technology, in particular PPC and Paid Inclusion.
Most of the panelists agreed that there
needed to be a lot of improvements made to PPC or paid inclusion if
the search engines wish to see marketers continue to use these
mediums. Dana Todd of SiteLab International made a valid point when
she complained that with all PPC solutions an advertiser must pay the
same click-thru rate whether their ad was shown on one of the top
search engine partners or on some lowly unknown search engine. She
suggested that a model would need to be developed which would provide
for different costs per click depending on the quality of traffic.
Kevin Lee of Did-It.com offered that
there are two types of company that place high bids for search terms.
Those that are very smart and those that are incredibly dumb. The
smart bidders are the ones that track traffic and understand the value
of their visitors, while the dumb ones simply keep increasing their
bids without knowing if the high bid brings a ROI.
Asked whether PPC and paid inclusion
would overtake Organic SEM, Frederick Markini of iProspect suggested
that there will always be a need for a balance in online marketing.
With PPC there is always a risk that a company will run out of money
or no longer be able to keep up with escalating bids, he argued that
organic SEM did not suffer from these factors.
The Industry Analyst Roundtable
session brought together some of the industry’s best know analysts.
Danny Sullivan and Chris Sherman of Search Engine Watch were joined by
Brett Tabke of WebmasterWorld.com and Greg Notess of Search Engine
This open forum took on a simple format
with audience members interacting with the panelists. Some topics
discussed, of which I will bring further details of after the
- Anecdotal evidence that simple paid
inclusions did offer some assistance with obtaining better search
engine ranking despite claims to the contrary by the search
- The limitations of PPC; advertisers
are limited to only being displayed for search requests that they
have identified and bid on. Many search terms have no PPC bids on
- The constant evolution of search
engines. Google replaced AltaVista, will Nutch replace Google?
- Should XML Trusted feeds be labeled
as such, clearly identifying their placement in search results?
Day Two of the conference will revert
to the normal format expected from SES and with three distinct tracts
being offered, there should be lots of varied information to report
back. In the meantime, please excuse me while I prepare for
tonight’s "Google Dance" a soiree taken place at the
Googleplex where I hope to track down a Google employee and find out
exactly what is happening with their PageRank these days.
Andy Beal is Vice President of Search Marketing
global leaders in professional search engine marketing. Highly respected as a
source of search engine marketing advice, Andy has had articles published
around the world and is a repeat speaker at Danny Sullivan's Search Engine
Strategies conferences. Clients include Alaska Air, Peopleclick, Jos. A. Bank
and NBC. You can reach Andy at firstname.lastname@example.org
and view his daily SEO blog at http://searchlowdown.blogspot.com.