Keynote – What’s Next In Search

October 6, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

Good morning, friends! I hope you’ve had your coffee because we’re jumping straight into this one. Nothing says “I hope you didn’t drink too much last night” like a 9am round table discussion. Oh, and Sheryl Crow. Which is being blasted into the keynote area.  Not quite yesterday’s Tubthumpin, but I’ll take it.

Chris Sherman will be moderating the likes of Greg Boser, Andrew Goodman, Sara Holoubek, Jack Menzel, Kristine Segrist, and Julie Sun.  Let’s give these guys a round of applause for being up, alert and coherent at 9am.

Chris Sherman is up on the stage and says he’s Steve Jobs.  He’s kidding. Now he’s wearing a wig and introducing “the big wigs”. It’d be clever but it’s 9 in the morning. Nothing is that clever at 9 in the morning. Except coffee. Coffee is hilarious.

Chris jumps straight into questions.

Chris: Are we getting through this rough stretch of the economy? Is it leveling off?

Greg: Eh… [hand motion]

Kristine: It’s mixed. We’re seeing issues in certain sectors (Pharma). We are seeing budgets shrinking and we’re feeling the pain when you look at the overall media landscape.

Julie: From an entertainment side, there’s still a lot of interest in search and digital, though the budgets are tighter.

Sarah: She’s seeing companies take a more rigorous path to see how they’re spending money. Do offline media dollars translate to online media dollars or do they translate to something else?

Greg: It’s been an interesting year. The amount of time it takes to negotiate and close a deal is dramatically longer. Price has dropped in the industry but the time to get a large client to ink is dramatically different than it was two years ago. In the last tail end of ’09 we’re starting to see a little bounce back from that. It won’t be what it was in ’06, but it will pick up in 2010.

Jack: We’ve seen consistent growth. The audience is still there.

Andrew: Google has found way to grow and grow their CPC in ways other companies wouldn’t have. If you look at the other verticals,  those won’t bounce back in the same way. They’ll stick around where they are now. There’s going to be slow growth as far as spend goes but there will also be that shift toward performance.

You’ve mentioned a migration from traditional to online — is there traditional media anymore? Are the larger brands expressing interest? What are their needs?

Jule: I don’t think traditional media goes away. We love television and we love radio. The ad formats are antiquated constructs of the 20th century. There’s no rule that commercials need to be 60 seconds and every show has to have X commercials. Media means communication. The dollars might now be moving online dollar for dollar but companies, solely out of the need to survive, don’t have the print or TV spend. They can’t spend as much, so what do they do? They take those dollars online. The price is lower.

Kristine: 90 percent of the budgets are more heavily weighted towards traditional. Every dollar is more accountable, regardless of channel.  There’s less appetite for testing.  There’s an idea of content delivery being more agnostic — people aren’t married to how content is delivered.

Julie: Traditional marketing definitely isn’t going away. They’ve done research with Google where they’ve only done digital and where they’ve done digital + traditional.  They see exponential effectiveness and engagement when they compliment them. One can’t exist without the other. From a budget standpoint, they know they have to do digital but traditional isn’t going away either. They’re lucky that t hey have access to a TV screen (MTV).

Greg: He agrees that traditional isn’t going away, but it’s becoming a vehicle to promote online content. He flips through sports channel and every other commercial is telling him to follow the company on Twitter. There’s a whole middle tier of companies that do spend on traditional media. People are retaining customers beyond the spend of a TV commercial.  Companies are getting smarter about how to take traditional media and drive online success.

Let’s talk about social media. Facebook and Twitter have become huge areas of concern. He’s also heard that Twitter is like CB Radio. Any thoughts?

Kristine: Search and social media inform each other. You can create a close loop of insights. You can find out what’s being discussed about your brand on the social Web. Search is a direct link to what people are saying about your brand and your product. In turn, the insights you glean from your social monitoring can be activated quickly in search. You don’t have long production or lead times. If you know there’s an issue, you can leverage search from an ORM perspective – that’s very hard to do in other media forms.

Andrew: He feels sorry for small and mid-sized businesses today.  To survive they need a reputation, they have to manage it, they need to be savvy with twitter, etc. There’s going to be a shake out where the people who spam you with twitter or who don’t create a reputation — will be plowed over. As far as how that plays into search, it’s an exciting trend. We have better ways of voting and seeing what’s really exciting to people. That’s a fertile new ground.

Jack: It’s just created more information and connections.

Sara: Media has always been social. This is nothing new, we’re just freaked out by the technology that allows us to see what’s happening. The beautiful thing about social media is that it’s completely malleable. Search and social can be used for direct response, for awareness, as listening devices, etc.  No social site was built with a commercial intent in mind. It was created for people and communication.

Greg: He doesn’t think Twitter is a flash in the pan. He’s a champion for the little guy.  Twitter has changed the landscape because local restaurants can do happy house specials. It’s like RSS and email marketing on steroids.  There are so many ways to use it on a micro-level. You don’t need thousands of followers.  He’s gotten to the point where he only does business with companies that have representation on Twitter.  It’s customer service on a whole new level.

We’re starting to see some backlash. There was a study that said 66 percent of people say tailored ads were not okay. There’s always been some legislative rumblings. How do you see this going forward? Will be able to target people effectively?

Andrew: It will only escalate. Governments and legislators will be cracking down on privacy. Targeting is something people want. Whether they said it’s intrusive, I don’t think they often mean it. If you look at Gmail and those ads…everyone says they’re creepy but those ads perform better than any of Google’s other contextual channels.

Kristine: Most people are worried more about display advertising.  Google, specifically, is under massive scrutiny on Capitol Hill. What’s interesting is how we’ll be able to target search behavior.

Jack: In search we’re laser focused on getting you relevant information so it feels less creepy when you get exactly what you asked for.  We need to give searchers absolute control over what they’re handing over and how we’re using it.  It’s about transparency.

Greg:  He lives in Santa Clarita, CA. When he’s not logged in he gets local results for Beverly Hills, CA. That’s nowhere near him. The only way to change that is to log in and tell them he’s from Santa Clarita. He think transparency at Google is BS. They do everything they can to make you log in and give them information. They don’t give you an effective way to say, “don’t show me local”. They’re making a broad assumption as to where he’s at based on inaccurate data.  He doesn’t want to be a logged in user.  Google’s general approach is that they’re smarter than you and they know better than you. It’s almost offensive. He just wants you to answer his query. Don’t assume he’s looking for a local result.  That should be opt-in, not opt-out. His results are worse because he doesn’t agree with you tracking everything he does on the Web.

Jack: Google gives you their best guess for what you want. People are looking for locations.

[Greg: You’re showing them now for broad phrases.]

Andrew: Search is the least of our problems. The whole industry mindset is that I want all attribution information for that sale.

Sara: Isn’t it interesting that of all the ways people can market to customers, that search is the most scrutinized.  She ordered fishing equipment for her brother 6 years ago and still gets the damn catalog. And we don’t question that. She doesn’t have a problem targeted advertising.  It’s when it’s not targeted/tailored that we have a problem.

Kristine: He doesn’t think Google’s targeting is better/worse than anyone else in the space. Ultimately, if we can tailor ads, it’s a better experience for customers.

Sara: Maybe the rise of Google is why we’re paying more attention to privacy. Previously, we didn’t know what we should have known. It’s a good to have people like Greg to raise the issue. We should be aware of the trail of data that we leave when we push a button or make a purchase. Who should enforce/regulate it?

Greg: He doesn’t believe enforcement is a governmental thing. As a user, he doesn’t mind that he’s being tracked. He doesn’t like the broad assumptions and his inability to opt-out. Even though he opted out of Web history, he still gets a 30 minute cookie put on his computer that changes his results.

Thoughts on Bing and the Microsoft/Yahoo deal? Who is it good for? Is it a big change?

Greg: He’s appalled that the DOJ is looking at Microsoft/Yahoo. Combined they’re going to have 28 percent market share and right now we only have ONE player. He’d prefer to have three players but anything that put’s a dent in Google’s hold is a good thing. Go Bing! :)

Kristine: She thinks it’s appropriate the DOJ looked at the deal. She is a fan of the merger, though. She thinks it makes a lot of sense and that Microsoft is far more well-suited to provide a technology back end than Panama will ever be.  It’s going to create a healthier marketplace.  It’s going to be a slow transition.

Julie: As budgets get tighter, it’s a good thing they’re together. It makes her job a little easier.  She hopes they keep all the good stuff on both ends.

Andrew: Does anyone think they’ll miss Yahoo/Panama?  No one raises their hand. Heh.  He thinks they’re still crying out for more game-changing search engine companies to come along. He likes Bing but he’d like to see something that turns the whole game on its head.  The common assumption is that you can’t beat Google.  He’s hoping something sneaks up on us.

Sara:  It really doesn’t matter what happens if consumers don’t follow.  You can have the best technology out there, if the consumers don’t follow, it doesn’t make that much of a difference. Someone’s going to come out and see where people are searching outside of Google. They’re searching Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. She’s a big fan of competitor and thinks the next “big thing” is going to come out of left field.

Jack: Search is far from solved. It’s unfortunate we have one less player.  [says the guy from Google…]

Greg: To hear Google whine to the DOJ….it’s just sad.  It’s like Google and their book deal. People need to care that the model is so flawed.

Sara: But the people DON’T care. Again, who’s the enforcer.

Greg: I just think people SHOULD care.  As an industry, we should be more supportive of new platforms because its better than ever. Don’t just write off Bing because it’s not Google.

If we come back in 5 years, what would we be talking about?

Andrew: He likes the idea of peer networks helping you decide on stuff.

Kristine:  The addressability of every channel. [yes, i know, “addressability” is not a word. Take it up with Kristine. I’ve typed like 3k words this morning.]

Julie: Privacy is still an issue.  Privacy is an issue because we’re old. The kids are using to being more lax with privacy. It may not matter as much to them as it does to us.  Online marketing will be a lot more like traditional search.

Sarah: She’s so excited for the keyboard to disappear. She’s waiting for voice recognition.  She’s all for getting rid of typing.

Jack: We’ll still be angsty that we can’t find what we want.  Everything will be faster, but you still won’t be able to answer that strange query that you want.

Greg: The biggest thing is the complete integration of data streams. The concept of Google Wave will be the future.  Hehas information overload.

Boser. Jack. Sara . Jule. Kristine. julie.

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