TopRank Marketing Editor

SES SJ: Charlene Li Keynote – Preparing For The Future Of Search

TopRank Marketing Editor     Search Engine Strategies, Social Media

Charlene Li is co-author of the business best-seller, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies and gave the keynote on day 3 of SES San Jose.  She spoke on the intersection of search and social and discussed how to prepare for the future of search.  Read on for the highlights of her presentation:

How far have we come since 2001?  In just 8 years, we’ve gone from simple text links in search results to pictures, video and a rich user experience.

Imagine what will happen going forward into the future.  The engines are only going to keep innovating – and one of the trends is the integration of social and real-time into search results.

Social is out there and it’s being picked up by engines like Google, meaning you need to rethink the way you look at search.  People need to be at the center of your search strategy, not keywords.

An easy way to think about this is that relevancy is the goal, which sits between content meaning and user intent.

It is hard for search engines to make sense of social sites because the information is full of hyperlinks and also behind a paywall.  The engines need to discover a new type of relevance – engagement

This will become more important as social networks in the future will be “like air” (in other words, invisible).  We will look back at the idea of Twitter and Facebook and think it was “quaint” that we had to log in to share content and interact with our social graph.  We’re moving to a world where our social graphs are seamlessly integrated with our physical world presence.

In the future, our networks will be with us all the time:  when we’re shopping, when we’re traveling and when we are searching.  Reviews will be put through the filter of people you know and your search results will become more and more social.

For marketers, this means new ways of targeting:

  • Demographic
  • Geographic
  • Psychological
  • Behavioral
  • Social-graphic

In the future agencies will be tapping more and more into user data to create hyper-targeted profiles.  Social-graphic targeting will only become more integrated and seamless.

How will social CRM work with search?

Search results > Facebook Community, blog page, etc. > Engagement (A/B testing) > Search ads tailored to customers > going full circle back to search results

How to succeed?

  • Focus on people, not keywords – build relationships
  • Focus on those relationships – not technologies themselves

1)  Learn from your audience and from your customers

They will be the most truthful with you and tell you what they want.  By learning from them you will learn how to engage with them in a way that will resonate.

2)  Develop a dialog

Start at the bottom of the “engagement pyramid.  Focus on the lower level:  the watchers and sharers before the higher-ups on the pyramid (commenters, producers, or curators).  Watchers and sharers are actually the most important, without them, commenters/producers/curators will not rally behind you.

3)  Help them and support them

Support people through the buying cycle and build relationships with them.  Help them out and nurture the process to not lose leads.  Act as a guide.

4)  Innovate

Integrate social into your site by tapping networks that already exist.  Partner with existing networks to leverage people’s social graph instantly.


  • Social networks will be like air
  • People must be at the center of your search strategy
  • Deepen relationships with social technologies
  • Be ready to give up control

Learn more search and social media strategies from 2009 SES SJ coverage by TopRank Online Marketing

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  1. Avatar frank burns says

    I have rated this with a 5 star because there are many good valid points raised within. If you can gain the trust of consumers and they allow you to build a personal graph based upon their shopping habits, perhaps using Android you can offer them a range of products based on their needs from a diverse directory of suppliers & merchants they would not otherwise have access to. If you can set up the framework now rather than later you will be projecting the advent of higher sales and a higher ROI for your own company.

  2. I am a huge can of Charlene Li (and of course, Josh Bernoff!), and am totally absorbed with the detailed look into how to tap into the Groundswell – by understanding your audience and knowing not only the value they expect to receive, but HOW they are using social media. I love the outline of this post, and how it is broken down into manageable chunks. I think that developing a dialog at the lowest level is tough for many, but if they just try and get in on this level, then when social networks are like “air” as Charlene says they will be, they’ll be ahead of the game!