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Lee Odden

Gord Hotchkiss Search Insider Summit Interview

By Lee Odden     Marketing PR Conferences, Online Marketing, Spotlight on Search

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Spotlight on Search Interview with Gord Hotchkiss of Enquiro, SEMPO

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It’s been too long since we’ve done a Spotlight on Search interview and I’m happy to say we’ve been able to catch up with world traveler and search marketing ninja master Gord Hotchkiss. He’s probably never been characterized quite that way, but there’s a first for everything. Gord is CEO of search marketing agency, Enquiro out of BC Canada and is a very busy/active speaker with a variety of industry conferences.

This isn’t Gord’s first appearance at Online Marketing Blog though, he was good enough to talk about Enquiro’s most recent analysis and eye tracking report of the major 3 search engines last year. I would highly recommend checking out this very insightful review of Google, Yahoo and MSN search results – at least until personalized search takes over. :)

While Gord is involved in many other endeavors, the one I’d like to point out is his involvement as chairperson of SEMPO, which has made amazing progress as an industry association for search marketing. SEMPO has made great progress in creating resources for in-house search marketers and also the SEMPO Institute.

He also contributes to MediaPost’s Search Insider and his own blog, Out of my Gord.

Next week Gord is the Emcee of MediaPost’s Search Insider Summit at the Hyatt Coconut Point Resort and Spa in Bonita Springs, Florida. Despite Gord being in New York this week at a SEMPO strategic planning meeting after which he’ll fly to Florida, he was very generous to take time out to answer a few questions about the Summit event, about personalized search and what’s in store for the future of search marketing.

What’s different about Search Insider Summit compared to other conferences? Besides the 2pm tee times :)

Good question, and unfortunately, not one I’m that well equipped to answer. This is my first Summit. Here, based on what I’ve learned, sets the Summit apart.

I think it tries to take a broader, more strategic focus that would appeal more to the executive decision maker. It tries to place Search in the big picture, showing how it integrates with other channels. And with the strong networking components, it’s really a more intimate opportunity to meet other decision makers who are also determining their search strategies.

As the Summit Emcee, your commentary will set the tone of the event. What’s on your mind right now regarding upcoming search marketing trends that you’ll talk about? Personalized search, the future of SEO, social media, click fraud?

To me, there are a number of factors that are dramatically shifting the landscape of search, including personalization. I think the factors that will change search dramatically are:

  • Personalization – the end of the monolithic results set and the beginning of a much more personalized relationship with search functionality
  • Integration – moving search from a stand alone activity and integrating it into the evolving functionality of Web 2.0. Think of search as an engine, rather than as an activity
  • Ubiquity – Search will be everywhere, and will underlie the majority of our interactions with online content, in whatever form it takes. This reaches into social, video, mobile, everywhere!

You’ve been writing a lot about personalized search and your interviews with Matt Cutts, Sep Kamvar and Marissa Meyer from Google have been excellent reading. Between personalized search, web history and possibly Google categories, how long do you give search engine optimization as we know it on Google? And is that a good thing?

SEO as we know it has never really been “as we know it”. It’s always in flux. That said, the pace of flux is going to pick up dramatically. Google is signaling that they’re moving into a personalized experience across all their properties aggressively. And that, together with the other factors I mentioned above, is going to dramatically alter the game for SEO’s.

Is it a good thing? Well, if we can get rid of low quality, low relevance results, then it’s a good thing for users. But personally, that hasn’t been as much of a factor for me in the last year. Let’s face it, personalization makes organic visibility more complicated, not less so. The key for SEO’s will be to understand online user behavior, not try to control various factors that impact the search engine’s algorithms. And I think that’s a healthy move. Less controllable, but healthy.

What are some fundamental changes search marketers should make with core SEO principles in light of personalized search? Will this finally force SEOs to focus on optimizing for users?

Yes, as I mentioned above. And that’s why it’s healthy. There’s still a world of value SEO’s can add by optimizing for users, and helping marketers understand how online viral linking can happen and, when it does, make sure that it’s happening in a way conducive to being recognized by search engines. This makes SEO more complex, not less so, and as Danny Sullivan has said on a number of occasions, complexity is great job security. If you went to 100 sites at random, I would say 99 of them are not doing SEO right, or at least, not getting full value from it. And that includes a number of companies with in-house SEO staff. This is no knock on in-house SEO, it just means we all have to up our game, both in-house and external agencies.

Let’s say Google does “close the loop” as you say and offers advertisers the kinds of behavioral targeting you’ve written about, how long before consumers revolt? Or will they even notice?

The first time they notice, they’ll be creeped out. But this is the new reality of marketing, so we’ll get used to it. The networks have to make sure they’re adding enough value to the user experience to make sure the privacy trade off is worth it. This is the path Google is treading very carefully now.

Enough about personalized search. What are a few trends for 2007 search marketers should have high on their priority list?

  • Social Media Optimization – Get to know it.
  • Local Search – It’s time is almost here.
  • Vertical Search – With personalization comes greater opportunity for richer vertical experiences. Expect users to be spending more time searching vertically.

I wish I could say Mobile, but 2007 is too soon..maybe 2008, but more likely 2009.

Thanks Gord and I’ll see you in Florida next week!


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