SMX Sydney 2010: Keynote – Future Directions in Search

Welcome to Day 1 of the SMX Sydney Conference!

Barry Smyth opening the conference

I’ll be live blogging as many sessions as I can and writing up the others later. Today we kick off with the keynote from Chris Sherman, Executive Editor from Search Engine Land.

Chris starts his presentation with a YouTube video by Raymond Crowe using shadow puppets to mime “What a Wonderful World”. Like shadow puppets, search marketing looks impossible to do but we’re just out there doing it.

Chris says that the last few weeks have brought incredible change. Seismic change in the industry! We’ve come out of the global economic crisis. Online ad spend is picking up. WE’ll see $54B in global ad spend. Search is 47% of that spend, which is promising for our industry. B2B lead generation spend is still lower than before the economicdownturn, but that may be a lagging indicator.

Chris then showed a series of videos to describe online search marketing.

1) The Renaissance Site:

Video from 1969, taking a look at the *future* of electronic technology. Chris says that what they’re describing in that video is really the Google of today. Although they started laser-focused on search, now they offer “something of everything to everybody”.

Google Fast Flip

New product – combines Google News with a easy view layout.

Google News Timeline

Takes news and shows how stories are developing over a specific timeline.

Google Dashboard

Allows you to see what info Google is tracking about you. How you are represented as an entity on Google. Showed his own dashboard. The amount of data is extraordinary. The dashboard now gives you control over how much of this information is public and available. Demonstrates Google’s commitment to privacy.

Google Australia new products:

– Google Insights for Search – compare one search with another etc.

– Google map icons – allows you to claim a local business using Google Places on Google Maps.

– Google Sponsored Listings – within maps now.  An alternative to Google AdWords.

– YouTube promoted videos – You can now sponsor videos via YouTube so your videos come up the top – not officiallyavailable in Australia yet, except via AdWords AU.

– Google AdWords Webinars – new to GG Australia

– Google Speaks ‘Strayan! New feature to hep Aussies find local info, in local jargon. Cute!

This week, GG has hired a team of photographers to use cameras within the Streetview cars to focus in on more interesting visual data they come across (similar to what Bing are doing with virtual reality?).

Google Woes

– legal woes

– privacy issues

– China and censorship

Google: The new evil empire?

Chris has heard rumors of GG replacing Microsoft as the new evil empire.

– Photographers have sued over book deal.

– EU looking at antitrust

– Execs convicted of privacy violations in Italy

– Xerox and Quintura sue over patents

– Streetview lawsuits in multiple countries

– Launch of Google Buzz

– and the beating goes on…

Chris doesn’t think they will get into major legal difficulties. In terms of privacy though, they might have trouble. When they launched Buzz, they did it without permission and that was a major concern – especially if you use public shared computers.

In response, Matt Cutts went into great detail on the European Public Policy Blog about privacy and transparency. Mind you, he link dropped in a nuclear fashion in that post which amused Chris greatly.

Keep in mind, Facebook’s privacy is MUCH more relaxed and dangerous, in his opinion.

Dealing with the Great Firewall

– Google moved servers to Hong Kong last month

– But China is blocking access to the site from mainland computers

– Excellent analysis at

– Not just China: Google is censoring in other countries as well

– You can use proxies from within China to get past the censorship

– Chris has never personally experienced censorship when running SEM conferences in China

New as of Yesterday

The Google Govt Requests and Removal Tool – a new tool which is a maps overlay to allow people to request information to be removed or request more data. You can even see in real time what requests have been complied with or not. When you mouse over China, it says “Chinese government considers this information a State secret so data is not available”. Article at: “Google Responds to Privacy Concerns With…”

2) Emperor’s New Clothes

Showed video of a plane experiencing a very very dodgy landing. Chris says this represents Yahoo.

– Yahoo is the proud owner of the Emperor’s New Clothes

– Microhoo competition: Salvation or sellout? Microsoft does the heavy search lifting while Yahoo sells ads.

I was discussing this with Chris last night at the Tweetup. Chris thinks this is a clever move by Yahoo, but it really gives all the power to MS/Bing.

– Yahoo has divided the labor – “we’re more interested in what happens before and after search than search itself. In other words, we’re going back to our *browse* / portal mode.

3) Assimilator as Innovator

Showed a clip from Star Trek from The Borg. This represents Microsoft / Bing.  “You will be assimilated”. In other words, Chris says, MS is very clever at making people do what they want. Acquisition after acquisition.

Now part of the collective:







Fast Search & Transfer – AllThe Web



– Bing is arguably a better na,e than Live Search, but what does it mean? In Chinese it means “Very certain to answer”.

– Fun image licensing for their home page means rotation of photos – always different. Chris uses Bing as his home page because he loves their home page photos so much.

– Powerset does a semantic search rather than algorithmic. Different to other SE’s. Uses Freebase to gather data. If you drill down, it will give you options like Wikipedia on steroids – will go and semantic search ALL Wikipedia articles on a topic you search for – very powerful.

– Bing Maps – geolocation can be an issue (e.g. Thinks Chris is in Melbourne right now). But they do some things very well. Mapp Apps are very cool. What’s Nearby also good. Signs and Billboards etc.

– Bing has captured billions of data sources for travel sources and put them into searchable form. Based on historical data, can tell you things like when is the best time to buy a ticket to New York – when it’s cheaper etc. This is powerful stuff! Shows graphs and charts and heat maps to tell you costs of flights, accommodation etc. Unique to Bing.

Chris sees this as the way going forward. This type of travel data may get rolled out to retail, eg volume of sales etc.

Bing SearchRank – another new feature not yet available in Australia. Get an idea of what searches are popular right now, similar to Google Trends.

4) The Shiny New Disruptor

Wofram Alpha. It’s a new computational knowledge engine. Wolfram’s founder believes the complex world can be reduced to simple rules and those rules are computable.

– WA contains 10+ trillion pieces of data, 50K types of algorithms and models and linguistic data for 1000 languages.

– In WA, put in a mathematical problem and Google will shoot out an answer. But in WA, it will give you the ellipse, a visual definition of the calculation. Put in a chord search and it will come up with the scale visually, plus allow you to play it.

– Ask questions and WA will give you all the data you could ever wish for. People can type in things like “When will I die?” Scary answers. *10 peanut M&Ms* WA will respond with the dietary calories. *Who’s the fairest of them all”?* Snow White. They are obviously paying attention, as answer has changed since Chris first started asking it some months ago. *Am I drunk?* Will give you the alcohol percentages of common drinks.

Social Media

– love it or hate it, SM is huge.

– How big?

– Globally, 1 billion+ users wasting spending 2 billion minutes/month

– Share of global online time:

Facebook 16%

YouTube 9%

Google 5%

This is HUGE. If you’re SEOing for Google, you might want to rethink your priorities and start advertising on Facebook and YouTube.

Email’s not going away anytime soon, but stats show that Social Media is more popular with people. Email has flatlined in terms of time spent, while SM has gone to vertical curve.


– 75% of Twitter’s traffic comes from APIs

– Twitter has become a *real* search engine

– Twitter has just announced monetization – “promoted Tweets”. Chris finds this disengenous, although he concedes it will probably be successful.

– Based on KW bids, ads will be displayed at top of search results

– Resonance reuqired (think Quality Score), based on retweets, replies, hashtags, clicked links etc. Searchers need to engage with the ads for them to maintain position – this is a Google approach. Makes sense given key staff are ex FeedBurner / Google staff.

– Third party distribution

– Twitter palns to expand program to it’s partners and then it will become massive.

– other options – Tweetup – contextual sponsored tweets displayed on  publisher sites, using a CPM model now with cost-per-click and cost-per-new-follower.

– TweetUp – is a new tool -the brainchild of’s founder. It’s a network of the world’s best tweeters. Response has been sceptical, but hey, the response to GoTo’s idea of PPC caused the same reaction in people.


Chris says Facebook is here to stay. So many ways to reach people and the size of the audience is astonishing, he says. You can’t ignore Facebook. There are definitely ways to measure the impact of a Social Media campaign.

– If Facebook was a country, it would be the 3rd largest country in the world

– lots of fertile options for marketers

– pages, apps, ads, polls,

– And analytics via Facebook Insights

If you’re looking for ways to leverage Facebook, try:

One third of the people ON Facebook are interested in marketing on Facebook – encouraging. Chris says, if you’ve avoided SM until now? STOP and reconsider.

Real Time Search & SEO

– As real time search becomes more commonplace, it is displacing *traditional* search results

– Fundamental SEO is still important, but there are new opportunities to gain exposure thanks to real-time algos

– At it’s heart, Caffeine is an attempt to capture real time crawl. Larry Page is very impatient about this concept.

– Real time search impacts SEO in a huge, huge way. The algorithm has basically been re-written. Can’t do much right now except continue to use best-practice.


– This will amplify things

– Personalization affects search results

– For text results, can’t do much

– However, opportunities to gain real estate via universal search are still good

– Think *digital asset optimization*

Chris says, don’t despair, these changes offer oppportunities for you to use them to your advantage. Because most people won’t be – now’s your chance.

Mobile Search

Chris says “Are we there yet?” YES we are. Tipping point has hit this year – mobile advertising has become popular with the advent of smart phones.

-mobile advertising is the new Point of Sale

– 5.8 billion mobile subscribers worldwide by 2013; 30% will be smartphone users (Portio Research)

– Mobile ad spend 2015

New Data from Morgan Stanley:

– Sometime between 2013 and 2014, there will be more mobile Internet uers than desktop PC users

– Growth of the iPhone happened at 11x the growth of Desktop Internet!

– These stats will impact Facebook users too obviously

– If you’re not already doing so – GO MOBILE NOW

– Little competition right now

– Go multi-mobile – see Cindy Krum’s article on Search Engine Land

– Consider optimizing your site for mobile search

– Use GPS based mobile apps to leverage your business e.g. 4Square, Gowalla, Placecast (GPS based advertising)

Video Marketing

– YouTube is second largest search engine right now

– Syndicate your videos widely

– Use video because your competitors probably aren’t

– Embed meta data, relevant titles & filenames

– Use appropriate on-page SEO

– Descriptive text

– Include your URLs in the video to encourage viral linking and viewing

A Huge Trend: Targeting

– Types of targeting include device / geographic / demographic / behavioral

Device Targeting

– GG, MS Yahoo

– Device platofrm tgt allows you to target your ads to PCs and iphones and others

Goegraphic Targeting

– GG, MS, Yahoo

– Language targeting occurs at country level or radius

– Also beningn, used to reach specific groups and exclude others

Demographic Targeting

– MS (full), YH (partial), Google (exploring options)

– Targeting ads based on age, gender, income etc.

– similar to direct mail, but uses data from volunteered information

– Can be problematic, especially on shared computers

Behavioural Targeting

– MS, YH, Google content only. Not search or Gmail

– Ads targeted based on online behavior (visits, pruchases, queries etc).

– Benefit = ads match interest closely

– Concern = privacy? What privacy?

Merging Online and Offline Data

– Exelate & Aperture pull data from Neilsen and other co’s to combine data with search behaviror

Opting out of Targeted Ads

– Google makes it kind of fun but not clear and hard to find

– MS uses legalese and it’s boring

– YH also makes it unclear and difficult to find

– You can opt out of 200 Ad networks by going to NAI (inc big ones)


– Web search has consolidated to few major players

– Good news – competition among majors has also increased, good for SEM and searchers

– Counterintuitive: Advertising may DECREASE as search engines continue to refine targeting options

Spread the joy!