SMX Sydney: Danny Sullivan Keynote

Well here I am live blogging at SMX Sydney and we’re about to hear Danny Sullivan’s keynote address: Search 3.0, 4.0 and Beyond.

Danny kicks off by saying in 2007, a huge revolution occurred but not many people noticed: Search made a generational leap. We’ve now had 3 phases of search:

Search 1.0:

  • First generation web search
  • Location and frequency of search terms on the page influences which pages rank first.
  • 1st generation spamming = keyword stuffing, etc. Search engines hated that. So webmasters thought, how about hiding the keywords then? Doorway pages etc. Nope, the search engines didn’t want that either so then we had a generational jump: off the page factors that webmasters can’t manipulate so easily.
  • Clickthrough – let’s look at how people are clicking on the page and make that influence rank.
  • Let’s look at links, “the democratic nature of the web” AKA PageRank. Context is important here – anchor text, the actual words in or near the links.

Search 2.0:

  • Second generation issues – people began overtly manipulating links – thinking about votes, campaigning for votes and even buying votes e.g. the Miserable Failure experiment which later became known as the Googlebomb. Google had to deal with such things.

Search 3.0:

  • 3rd generation search. Where do we go from here? Two key advances that Danny expects to happen in this 3rd phase. The first is Search 3.0, incorporating blended results. The second is Search 4.0, incorporating personalized & social search.

Danny’s prediction of “invisible tabs” back in 2003 has come true in the form of Universal Search in 2007. Blended search is now often used as a generic term to mean vertical results get blended. Search 3.0 is Danny’s term to wake marketers up that 3rd generation search HAS arrived. Forget PageRank, vertical search is crucial. Danny then explained the concept of vertical search: You take a horizontal spectrum of many interests and feed those interests via vertical content channels. Relevancy of each vertical’s results is measured against others, Google says.

Danny then showed the example of a Google search for Santa Clara hotels displaying blended search results from local results, paid results, GG maps etc. Unbelievably, the organic search results are below the fold!!

YouTube videos, news results etc. are all blended into regular search results now. Ask 3D and Morph were added to in June 07. Ask also introduced a three pane design. On a sidenote, it seems that Danny has nothing left but scorn for Ask and I’d love to know why! The 3rd pane of Ask uses the Morph algorithm which is quite exciting. In September 07, Microsoft Live Search began blending in Live Scopes, which is their version of Universal Search. If you’re a marketer, you should learn where these results are coming from – what verticals are providing the blended results? How do you get your business listed in as many verticals as possible e.g. Yahoo Shopping, Yahoo news?

The upcoming Yahoo Search Monkey (which they announced at a recent conference) means you can take control of your own site listing. You can supply additional information for publishers to blend information into their own SERP listing.

Search 3.0 overview:

  • Verticals are new and more prominent doorways into top results
  • Web search not going away, but it will become more the backup
  • Exact metaphors and presentations still being developed
  • Vertical has less competition and itself tends to be more “old school” Search 1.0 ranking factors.

Search 4.0 – Personalized and Social Search

  • Reshaping results based on: what you personally do or visit, what others you know do or visit, what people in aggregate do or visit
  • Among the majors, Google is alone in doing this, so we’re not fully in Search 4.0 yet. Let’s see…

Google Personalized Search = results are reordered based on what’s deemed to be you own personal preferences. Pages move up down in or out of top 10.

Personalization Factors:

  • iGoogle Personalized Home Page content
  • Google bookmarks
  • Search History (Clicks)
  • Web History

Social Search

  • Eurekster experimented with friend clicks reshaping results in 2004
  • Yahoo My Web promised to let us tag and use a network to reshape results… Robert Scoble thought Facebook was revolutionary but really, it had been going on a long time.
  • Social Search Reality – The promise of reality of mixing the Social Graph with Search Engines (Danny’s rant with the f word). Social search isn’t the solution.
  • Eurekster says “swickies” are much better
  • Yahoo dropped those features quietly

So what about Facebook and the Social Graph? The Social graph / social network data is potentially useful because you can:

  • Watch what others are searching on
  • Monitor clicks in a more “trusted” environment
  • reshape results based on what your friends seem to like
  • but who are your friends?

Fake Friends & Privacy:

  • Do you have to filter to “true” friends?
  • Do you then still need to consider what you’ll share?
  • Do Facebook or others instead work on aggregate level?

What to Do?

  • Google says use buttons and great content
  • Others say watch & see. Get to know social sites, from social news (Digg) to networking (Facebook).
  • I don’t wanna be a social media marketer say some of the industry veterans. Damn kids! It’s not SEO. If you’ve been doing SEO for years, social media marketing may not come naturally. But wake up, neither was link building! Gonna skip that? Learn social media or else work with someone who does. (Editor note: I totally agree – use social media or die!)
  • Danny sees SMM + SEO as the Wonder Twins – they reinforce each other
  • build links.
  • leverages authority sites, useful for reputation purposes or to get out faster than a “regular” site can.
  • may influence the results on Yahoo because it displays the number of people of bookmarking the link underneath the SERP. How can that be ignored?

Humans Editors: Search 5.0?

  • Human refinement!
  • sometimes feels cluttered but nice to see the attempt.
  • Search Wikia remains to be seen as a similar service.

Danny says, if I had another keynote, I’d talk about:


No one knows what will happen or what each company should do. The scale argument hasn’t convinced him. Doesn’t believe MS attitude that they need to partner with Yahoo to stop Google. The employees argument (that they need to hire all the Yahoo staff) hasn’t convinced him either. Traffic seems to be the most compelling reason for the bid. The number 3 car decides to buy the number 2 car immediately to try to catch up with number 1. The purchase of Yahoo might be the best way for MS to move ahead.

Video to Ally With Search? Video Killed the Search Star?

  • search is boring hard work, pennies on the dollar; money expected in cool video
  • but pushing video ads ain’t necessarily search!
  • AdSense isn’t search, nor is it with video, but video for AdWords is search related and perhaps it will bring new money into paid search campaigns, giving them an easier to understand the coolness factor.

Recession in the US to Hurt Search

  • Search thrived during the last downturn
  • Buying may dip, but it’s not going to stop
  • Search may be more essential than other types of advertising.
  • On Danny’s Wish List is for Google and others to break out income figures of actual search from other types of ad channels.

Search stocks and Is Search Recession Proof?

Danny is keen for Google to breakout the income from all contextual vs search advertising income. Thinks that will happen eventually.

Yahoo and Mahalo getting together?

Mainstream Media Advice

  • The rant about SEO not being good for small business by Gene Marks from BusinessWeek made people mad (Editor note: sure did, earned him my Dumbass of the Week award)
  • Jeremy Schoemaker bagged SEOs in Jan 2008 which resulted in some harsh feedback.
  • AMEX also hate SEOs, apparently.

Can the SEO Reputation Improve?

  • In the past, we’ve been called as bad or worse
  • Each time, some see reputation issues as a “crisis” or problem that must be solved.
  • Yet SEO continues to grow and be in demand
  • It sucks, it isn’t fair, but maybe some standards can help ease the emotional burden.
  • SEO has a reputation like a prostitute but don’t worry, Richard Gere will come to carry you off soon.
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