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SES Chicago – Search: Where to Next?

Posted on Dec 7th, 2009
Written by Lee Odden
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    SES Chicago Future of Search

    Moderated by Simon Heseltine, Senior Marketing Manager for AOL with panelists including: Eli Goodman from comScore, Justin Merickel of Efficient Frontier and Doug McMillen from Microsoft Advertising.

    First up is Justin Merickel from Efficient Frontier, which runs about $180m in PPC through their platform. Justin talked about two main trends:

    The changing SERP. Data comes front and center to the results page
    Justin shows a SERP page for “bottled water” where the top PPC ads display images of bottled water. Not sure of it’s impact. However, if you’re not leveraging Google features (like images in PPC or local listings) you’re missing out on significant visibility.

    Advertisers need to think about how to get their products and services into the new multimedia search results page.

    Information is coming in the search results page in different formats. For example, “mortgage” displays comparison information between lenders right into the search results page. It’s therefore, critical for companies to gain coverage in Google on these new types if data inclusion.

    How? What kinds of structured data do companies have to use for inclusion? What kinds of assets do they have? (Can I hear a DAO?)

    Location, product extension, comparison
    Benefits: Long tail automation, specific creative, prices and offers, automates a significant manual effort, compliments SEO
    The end result is greater coverage in search results.

    Great example: “Asics running shoes” for Zappos. #2 in Paid search results, top 3 image PPC ads top right and 2 of the 5 image search results.

    Efficient Frontier has a platform that allows you to provide product feeds.

    Creative management means developing feeds, mapping feeds to a creative template, generating ad variations from templates, push data to search engines via API and updating creative based on a feed update such as price changes & out of stock.

    The second point Merickel covered:  The auction moves beyond search

    Is display now search like? There are two big trends driving display towards search-like performace, each with optimization implications: Rapid expansion of auction-based access to inventory. Also access to targeting data decoupled from media.

    When exposed to both paid search and display ads, consumers were found to be nearly twice as likely to make an online purchase on a retailer’s web site.

    How to get to search-like intent? Retargeting and using third party data.

    Next up is Eli Goodman, Search Evangelist at comScore, who tracks about a million people online worldwide. Eli’s presentation was focused on three topics for the future of search.

    Branding: Online advertising leaves branding dollars on the table. Big dollars will be put into online branding vs direct response.

    All three major search engines are delivering richer search results (Universal Search Results) and other enhancements. Example: Special K ad turns into a video. Richer paid search ad presentations will help advertisers capture search brand dollars. But scale is a challenge.

    The solution might be to encourage advertisers to think of search as the traffic driver to the brand mechanism, not just the brand. Think not just about obvious terms but terms that represent related concepts and terms, behaviors related to the purchase.

    Who could do better? GE’s ecomagination doesn’t rank organically or in PPC ads for “clean energy”. Both search terms and content need to reflect the needs and interests of the customer, not the advertiser message.

    The next topic Eli covered was In-text search, which are search results that showg up as you mouse over content. Vibrant Media and Kontera are 2 of the only companies that provide this kind of service for publishers.

    As you scroll over text links, informative, useful or entertaining pop ups might display that factors where you are in during the content consumption experience to deliver helpful info. Basically, it analyzes the content where you are and presents additional, useful information.

    Example: Hellman’s Receipes. Delivers useful recipe ideas and ingredient lists on related food terms wihtin relevant web content. The most useful content increases user engagement.

    The last point from comScore involved social search. Alternative search engines show strong year over year search growth from Sept 2008 except for MySpace. YouTube had over 11 billion searches last month.

    While social search is the next frontier, the search results need to be more relevant. That means there are opportunities for marketers to optimize content with social media web sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc.

    [This is a key point of intersection with search optimization and social media. Optimizing content within social networks, not just public content available at]

    With the high volume of search queries on YouTube, there are significant opportunities for content creation and optimization to achieve visibility on broad and specific terms.

    Last up is Doug McMillen from Bing, who talked mostly about Mobile search.

    Bing’s upcoming mobile search will be similar to the online search user experience. Designed from the ground up as a mobile specific product, not a web search product brought to mobile.

    Industry Reseach: US mobile broadband ramp up is simplar to that of the the PC. As broadband adoption with PCs became prevelant, there was a corresponding jump in search queries. That same parallel is happening with broadband adoption in the mobile industy and mobile search.

    With mobile search, think about how users search using a mobile device vs computer based search. “One hand using a thumb while driving”. [Isn’t that illegal?]

    It’s time to think about a mobile search strategy: Us Mobile search users: 2008 5.2 million and jumping to 56.2 million by 2013.

    With mobile, now is the time to start testing and learning. The mobile marketplace is wide open right now. Bing is offering click to call services on a CPS basis. Microsoft Mobile Marketplaces is another product that helps drive mobile traffic to your web site.

    There are huge growth rates with mobile search. Mobile search is seeing 2-3x higher CTR’s and CPS as low as .05.

    This was a good panel offering a mix of paid search and display, mobile and richer search experiences. What do you think the next big thing in search is going to be?