SMX London Keynote Address – The State of Search Marketing

SMX London Keynote Address – The State of Search Marketing

16th May 2011

Good Morning folks! I’ll be starting us out with our first post of our live coverage from SMX Advanced London.

Up first is Chris Sherman talking to us about “The State of Search Marketing” and the big picture as well as changes to the market in general.

Recent Google Updates

-Google instant has come into play since the last conference and he also mentioned that the image search catalogue has increased widely and made reference to some of the opportunities this may create.

-Of course, the notorious Panda/Farmer update (a big shock that has caused a lot of fallout for a lot of people).

-Chris also made mention of the forthcoming Plus 1 buttons and made a joke about the fact that they are basically an identical copy of Facebook Likes. For what it’s worth, I do think these will be on every blog with a Twitter or Facebook share button though I am still somewhat sceptical of the impact they will have on search results as there is so much opportunity for abuse.

– Google makes 300-500 changes per year on an ongoing basis – be more careful than other and not inadvertantly do something that gets caught up here. Radical “Panda” like events are very uncommon, but we see loads of new changes.

Is Google Getting Spammier?

Chris mentioned that there have been 2.5 versions of the Panda update rollout in response to a lot of criticism on and offline about these results.

Google – Instant SEO?

Should people be optimising for Instant? As far as Chris is concerned, this is not a good idea. He suggests that marketers should stick to the basic SEO work that we are all familiar with, that there are potential dangers with optimising just for one update and even went so far as to say “quality content is king”.

Unless you have really relevant content for partial words, your content will likely just get swallowed up.

Chris also suggested that some people may begin to optimise for partial words. My person aside on this would be that Google Instant is not really showing results for partial words but rather auto-completing depending upon the words you’ve typed so I would argue this is not really relevant. Optimising for what Google suggests with those partial words on the other hand… might be of some value but hey, that’s just me!

Chris did also mention how this may have the impact of changing user behaviour insofar as query construction and speed, as well as how people scan Results. People think the result of Instant are showing eyetracking results show people jumping around a lot more with what they’re looking at. Chris mentioned that the potential effect could be that the top 2,3,4 results not that important anymore and this is an area to which we should pay attention.

In terms of specific advice about what could be done to help improve SEO with Chris mentioned the need to focus on page titles a lot more now as well as the fact that Snippets are likely to matter a lot more now.

He closed this topic with the fact that sites targeting the long tail may benefit, anecdotal. Changing user behaviour may show that people can type more words in these queries.

Thoughts on +1?

Chris thinks it will impact rankings and have an indication for SEO but suggested this will be overtime and be similar to personalisation impacts rather than direct. Google prefers internal algorithms to outside signals.


Chris highlighted the fact that Google made the following their aim with Personalisation:

-Is subtle

-Surfaces more long-tail content

-Personalisation is based on yoru data

However, he pointed to some independent research and the findings were quite the opposite:

-6 out of 10 results unique (not subtle)

-Personalised results surfaced much LESS long-tail

-Not personal- individaul behaviour PLUS aggregated statistical persona data

Google said they were completely uninterested in working with these folks to improve things.

However, it appears recency of search and web history seems to be influencing results – even if not logged in

Chris believes the Implication that should be drawn is that Google is now more focussed on helping searchers accomplish short-term tasks by linking multiple related queries.

Are Google trying to be a decision engine and is this a response to Bing? No public announcement on this, but Chris thinks that might be what’s going on.

Google and Social

All bonuses at Google have been tied to social and social aggregation are the newest addition to “universal search”.

Previously the social results only appeared at the botom of a result page or when you clicked the “social filter” which has since disappeard all together with results from social can now appear anywhere in a result rather than at the base of a page based upon the “strength” of social relationships could cause a serious ranking change. Unclear how you could respond  beyond the “same old” tactics.

My thought to this is that the clear implication is to get people more closely aligned to your brand and make sure they have a strong relationship with you – the only way to deal with this is exceptional customer service.

Chris also mentioned that up to 20% of results can now be social which is certainly a pretty hefty portion of the search real estate!

Is SEO Dead?

No. Next question. More important than ever and will continue to be – by focussing on the fundamentals.

Implications and how Governments are getting involved?

“Don’t be Evil” you say?

Chris shared this video from the US and thinks Google has gone from a company with a highly public set of ethical values and not wanting to be evil to a company with some serious privacy and tracking concerns, here was another video he shared.

The bottom line from Chris was that this is an area to which we should pay attention as the legal implcations are certainly ripe and we will an update tomorrow.

What about Bing?

What does it mean? The term universally meaningless brand that’s easy to remember and type (like Sony).

Unlike Google Microsoft work like a software company and get updated every 6 months rather than continuous. Each update comes every 6 months and focusses on different verticals.

Chris points out that Bing are really quite conservative and rolling things out slowly.

Do you want different content for Bing and Google?

Generally, no. Stick to the basics that apply to both.

However, there are some exceptions and Chris gave us one example, Bing categorises results, as a result he feels there opportunity to create customised landing pages differently to how Google does so.

Conculsions on SEO for the Next Year

More patience required, your best bet is to stick to the best practices.

Time to think globally – lots of opportunity in Baidu and Yandex as well as a number of other non-US engines.

Work with local partners for translations and localisation! Do not try to do it on your own.

Thoughts on Social

Love it or hate it it is huge.

Globally, 1 billion+ users spending 2 billion minutes a month on social media.

In fact, if you break down online use of time the market share looks accordingly as per Chris:

  • Facebook 16%
  • YouTube 9%
  • Google 5%

Twitter is a real search engine now

Google receives approximately 88 billion queires per month, but quite surprisingly the next biggest search engine (sort of) is Twitter with 19 billion per month (more than both Yahoo! and Bing). Chris did point out that most of these will come from the API though and are not true searches and at the moment and around 75% of users on Twitter comes through the API.


800 million global users that will continue to grow.

Still loads of opportunities – pages, apps, ads, targeting options, polls and great analytics available as well.

For the moment it is still REALLY really cheap compared to AdWords.

Mobile – Are We There Yet?

Chris thinks we’re finally there thanks to iPhone and Droid. People now truly searching from Mobile devices.

  • 30% of mobile users are on smart phones.
  • 25% of users browse Facebook on their mobiles.

Advice from Chris was, “Go mobile now” – More mobile internet devices sold in 2011 than PCs and accelerating fast.

Most mobile campaigns are ad-hoc and lack the focus of organic or paid search campaigns so there’s still very little competition he thinks this market is still in its infancy and similar to where the SEO and SEM markets were close to ten years ago.

Closing Thoughts:

Chris thinks that search marketing will continue to grow and that we haven’t yet begun the upslope “curve” of hockey stick growth in this industry. Fear not people, this is just the beginning of a long and fruitful industry.


Written By
Sam Crocker is SEO Associate Director at OMD UK. Sam focuses on increasing traffic and conversions for websites whilst always keeping his eye on a company’s bottom line.
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