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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sullivan Pubcon Keynote, Part 2

Part 1 was published in Las Vegas airport Friday.

Not to take anything away from the wit of the search intelligentsia, but sometimes, search engine jokes tell themselves. Danny related the story of how the previous day he had helped Google's Vanessa Fox by lending her some of his decongestant, but there was still some question about the proper dose. One quick trip to Google Search, and the problem was solved: except that the first result gave the proper dose for elephants!

Search engine marketers, Sullivan reassured us, have great job security. With everything changing so fast, only the true pro has reliable information. For example, not so long ago, MSN didn't even have its own search advertising platform. And Yahoo's platform is going to be completely revamped. No punchline here, fortunately. Search marketers have job security. Phew.

Privacy issues for users are at the forefront of Sullivan's concerns about how search companies affect the larger community. Despite search engines' sometimes excessive use of our personal data or other companies' copyright material, Sullivan saw the lawsuits by Belgian newspapers as extreme. By "getting their way" and getting Google to remove their headlines and snippets from Google News, these newspapers also succeeded in making themselves completely invisible, as Google soon found a way to make sure none of their content appeared in Google Search, either.

Sullivan quipped: "Some companies pay good money to get banned like that." (Meaning: some companies pay firms to employ deceptive tactics to increase search engine visibility, before ultimately getting banned.)

Sullivan underscored the difference between caching and indexing. Surely indexing and publishing snippets of information with the purpose of sending users to the originating website would be allowable under most law. This is in sharp contrast to storing all the content on Google's servers. Caching, Sullivan argues, should be completely opt-in.

Sullivan then talked about his own future. His plans to phase out his involvement with Search Engine Strategies remain unchanged, and the departure from Search Engine Watch, the website, is imminent. I haven't spoken to anyone who expects much of Search Engine Watch going forward, and don't expect I soon will. Will the site soon die, or fizzle into a kind of archive for a ten-year history of Sullivan's work? Will it be sold, possibly even to Danny or a group involving Danny, so the content can be archived on his new site? Time will tell.

The fate of the Search Engine Strategies conferences seems less bleak, especially given the longer ramp-down period Danny has promised (involved in one form or another through 2007). Much is cloudy and up in the air about the future of the conference circuit post-2007; let's leave it at that.

Danny has announced the name of his new website, in any case: SearchEngineLand.com. Joining him to create daily news blogging, longer original content, and other daily activity, will be Chris Sherman and Barry Schwartz.

Possibly the most interesting topic Danny has covered in several recent keynotes, including this one, is the notion of search engines working towards common standards for the good of the business community. In that vein, during the conference, Yahoo and Microsoft announced that they would honor the SiteMaps protocol spearheaded by Google. That's an unprecedented level of cooperation and should save site owners some headaches in getting properly indexed.

To wind up on another meta note: the "session's over, let's get out of here" din during the Q&A was so loud, it was tough to hear anything. Which just goes to show, a great keynote speaker can bring in the crowds, but the post-session Q&A can't compete with a coffee break on Day 3 of a really cool party. Pubcon: not a place for stuffed shirts.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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