Lee Odden

The Future of Search Engine Innovation

Ravi Raj Ron Belanger
From the conference session handbook: The Future of Search Engine Innovation – As search engines evolve, so must the methods of the marketers. We’re seeing the emergence of smart mashups, of visual search engines and personalized search. What does the future hold for search marketers and advertisers as they struggle to match speed of improvement being set by the engines themselves?

This session was moderated by David Berkowitz of 360i and included: Ron Belanger of Yahoo!, Paul Martino of Aggregate Knowledge, Chase Norlin of Pixsy filling in for Dr. Barney Pell of Powerset, and Ravi Raj from Kosmix.

First up is Ron Belanger who basically sums up three areas of focus for Yahoo in terms of search engine innovation. They include:
1. Getting search to mobile

2. Social search – revealing a whole new set of search results.

3. Better understanding user intent – Yahoo Mindset is a beta test of understanding user intent. The tool includes a slider for research mode or shopping mode and skews the search results accordingly.

Rather than deliver billions and billions of pages, Yahoo is working to deliver the one to three pages users are really looking for.

Next up is Ravi Raj of Kosmix. What’s interesting and different about Kosmix is that they’ve built indexes according to vertical markets which currently include: Health, Video Games, Finance, Travel, Politics and Autos. Kosmix will also mashup content from several sources in the search results.

Now we have Paul Martino of Aggregate Knowledge, which is a discovery or recommendation based search service. Paul asks,”What is discovery?” In the real world, it’s observing behaviors of other people. Discovery can be bigger than search. Search requires you to know what you’re looking for.

Discovery is navigation without keywords. Connections are provided by knowing about other people’s behaviors (user generated editorial) and/or you own preferences. It can be personalization, collaborative filtering, people who bought this bought that – any of those things. Discovery presents other things of interest.

Rounding things up is Chase Norlin with an introduction of his company, Pixsy which is a service that aggregates thumbnails of images and videos along with their meta data. The Pixsy search service along with thumbnails are syndicated by a variety of publishers. Image search is the fastest growing type of consmer search vertical.

Now for moderator questions:

David Berkowitz: Is this all about taking market share from Google?

Paul Martino: You can compete with Google on something in their backyard or fight the battle on something Google doesn’t do very well. Example, if you wanted to unseat Microsoft in the past, you didn’t create another OS, you beat them through search.

Chase Norlin – The only way to beat Google is to go around them. Technology has become a commodity and it’s business model innovation that provides companies the opportunity to compete.

Ron Belanger: Companies are pursuing more and more of a variety of solutions. Yahoo is focused on delivering best user experience and second, how can they monetize that traffic.

David Berkowitz: The biggest Yahoo innovation has been Panama, is there anything else coming regarding search?

Ron Belanger: Social search and Yahoo answers influencing or integrated with search results pages.

David Berkowitz: What has wowed you regarding search?

Ravi Raj – The web has been text and is becoming more visual. For example, AOL search has full view showing text, media and social media.

Ron Belanger: Trying to make mobile search better.

Paul Martino: Snap is an example. How can we make the interface more natural? Flickr is is a search and a discovery engine.

David Berkowitz: Innovation has been the role of technology to do some of the work of searching. In the case of Flickr, there’s a lot of work the user does to make Flickr a useful search tool.

Paul Martino: Learned that people are motivated to be the star on social networking.

Audience Questions:

Audience: Mindset changes natural results, do paid ads change?
Ron Belanger: It’s in beta, so no.

Lee Odden: Where is there more opportunity for innovation in search engines, with natural results or with ads?

Paul Martino – As creative becomes the content, the work SEO or marketing agencies are about creating content.

Ravi Raj: There is no dichotomy as indicated in the question. The job is to deliver the best results whether it’s content or advertising.

Gord Hotchkiss: The active users, those that want recognition. Is that scalabe with social search?

Ron Belanger: Cites a study where 40% of the internet the population will express their opinion. Not all social inquiries are equal. Use technologies that enable mass reach but include filters to reduce irrelevant information.

Paul Martino: Cites a Microsoft application, Netscan. Note: It looks like MS killed this as of March 31, 2007.

Ravi Raj: There are givers and takers with the social web with 1% are contributing, 99% are consuming.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Avatar Ed Kohler says

    Great recap, Lee. When I read this, I hear, “create great content and you’ll be fine.” The mobile content is one exception, since that’s more of a platform upgrade to make the great content you’re already creating mobile friendly, so basically an indexing issue.

  2. Good written articles. Creating good quality content is the way to go.


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