Evening Forum with Danny Sullivan

October 5, 2010
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

OMG, I’m exhausted! I need to go lie down. Oh….wait…you’re still here. Just kidding! Look how peppy and alert I am! Isn’t it amazing.   You totally can’t tell I’ve been blogging for 27 hours today.   Woo!

Truthfully, these evening forums with Danny are some of my favorite sessions. Mostly because Danny is a nut job. And I mean that affectionately. He’s just really good with the clever banter.  Let’s see what he has in store for us this evening.

Danny says he’s here to answer questions on whatever people want.  Even better if the questions are related to search. Hee.  Danny’s been covering search for almost 15 years, even before Google. It makes him feel old, but it’s always surprisingly new. Fifteen years ago I was in middle school. That makes me feel 100.  Eek.  Danny calls me out and makes me turn as red as my shirt. He does this every year and I blush every year. It’s a little game we play.  Remind me to cough on Danny when I see him out later.  He also told me earlier I didn’t look well. I mean, isn’t that what every girl wants to hear?

Anyway! Questions start.  The first question is something about jQuery. I don’t even know what that is so I couldn’t follow. Sorry! Blogger brain!

Now Danny’s ranting about Google. I’ll try to jump in and capture what he’s whining about this time…

Google has this split, they do a lot of rewarding of really old sites and really fresh content. If youre in between, you can feel a little screwed. If you’re a site that’s out there and you have 6-8 years of things they can see, you’re golden. If you come into the space later, it can a little harder.  He mentions the Google Freshness section from yesterday and how Query Deserve Freshness comes into action.

You had an interesting discussion on SEOmoz about the LDA – do you have any conclusion about it?

[I tried to quickly find the exact SEOmoz thread, but couldn’t. If you know where it is, drop it as a link. Thanks]

SEOmoz tries to apply a science to SEO.  The problem he has with any kind of scientific test on SEO is that almost universally he sees exceptions to anything someone says. He see sites rank with no links, he sees sites rank built entirely in Flash, etc. There are so many different factors.    He got to sit with Eric Schmidt and Danny asked if he could list the 200 factors Google uses – Eric said no. And that they’d have to kill him. It’s hard to apply a science to things when everything can change on a per-query basis.  He liked SEOmoz’s previous research that found it’s the anchor text on the first time you link to a page that counts.  However, he wasn’t buying SEOmoz’s research on LDA. He didn’t think it was the remarkable change that SEOmoz was making it out to be. He didn’t want people to chase “the perfect page” and have it lead to nothing.  He just didn’t think it was productive.

With regards to link building, there’s a stigma that if you build spammy links you may be penalized. If that’s the case, why aren’t people using that to sabotage the links that are ranking?

Because Google is too smart to allow that to happen. That question has been asked 7-8 years. If you shouldn’t link to bad neighborhoods, how can I sabotage you? By and large, we just haven’t seen that happen. Google has ways to try and detect stuff that doesn’t make sense.  He starts talking about Google bowling.

Most people don’t like SEOs. We’re slightly above prostitutes when it comes to our reputations.

What about Google Instant?

It’s awesomesauce. No, really, he said that.  He must be as delirious as I am. Though he “looks better”. Yeah, I’m still bitter about that.  He’s still getting his head around Google Instant.  He thinks it is a big deal but he’s still grappling with it.  He thinks it makes sense.  You almost wonder why they didn’t do that to begin with.   Google Instant is really just automatic Google Suggest. If there was going to be any change from Google Suggest, it would have already happened. It feels more dramatic because you see the results.  They did 2 panels on Google Instant during this show. He doesn’t think it’s been that dramatic of a change.

Danny asks me if I covered the Google Instant paid session. I didn’t. He concludes it wasn’t a very good session then because, according to Danny, I’m the barometer of what makes a good session. If he’s speaking and I’m not in the room, he feels like sloppy seconds because there must be a better session going on somewhere else. Aw, it’s okay, Danny. Outspoken Media just hasn’t cloned me yet. Hopefully they will. Then I can start attending sessions like a normal person and not have to blog them like a robot.

They keep talking about Google Instant. Something about how if you were typing [travel] now [travelocity] comes up even if that’s not what you were going for.

Are negative keywords popping up?

Your ad won’t show up for anything you didn’t actually buy.  When it does the grayed out version, the results are for the word that’s showing up.

Do you see Q&A sites like Quora taking share away from search engines?  Do you see any search engines like Duck Duck Go going anywhere?

No. Not til it gets a better name.  That’s a stupid name. Bing is a better name because people say they “bing” it.  He calls Google the Marcia Brady of search because it’s all Google, Google, Google. It’s all people could talk about.  It transformed Google into a verb. If you had told him anyone would use any other search engine’s name as a verb he would have been surprised.   There are people saying “binging it”. Microsoft spent a lot of money to get them to say it on Gossip Girl, but people are really saying it. That’s an accomplishment.   Will Duck Duck Go ever become a challenger to Google and Bing? No. Microsoft is having a hard enough time being a challenger to Google.  They had to buy Yahoo (Yahoo just doesn’t realize the other half as been sold yet).

He does think that vertical search engines have a place. That was touched on the Yelp keynote today. People search using apps.  Urban Spoon is a restaurant search engine – but it’s an app.

Danny then sheepishly asks the audience member if he’s from Duck Duck Go.  Hee. Thankfully he’s not.

When someone’s starting a new venture, the business rule is to find a pain point and fix it. When someone comes up with a new search engine, what’s the pain point?

Finding product reviews. That’s a pain point for him.

Mary Bowling yells out local business information is a pain point for her. He talks about how he tried to call the Newport, CA police department and got the jail instead. If Google can make things appear instantly, they should be able to get the police numbers right.

He would invent content that doesn’t exist and then create a search engine for it.  The first cause of this happening was YouTube. The second is Twitter.

And we are OUT OF HERE! If you stayed with us all day, you’re a rock star.  I’ll see you tomorrow to finish this thing up.

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