SES San Francisco – Searching for Successful Search Strategies

Technology Report will be featuring coverage of SES San Francisco, though we’re not sure yet if we’ll be there live or just virtually.

SES San Francisco (formerly “Search Engine Strategies”) is one of the world’s oldest and for many the top online marketing conference series.

Social media continues to shake up the search landscape as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other key large social media sites have become a key focus of online marketing campaigns.   A key focus, but not necessarily a

For more about the upcoming SES San Francisco visit the site and review the Conference Agenda Online.

Key conference keynotes:

  • Design Your Own Search Engine: Lessons from Tough Calls on Content at Google
    What would you do if you were charge of your own search engine? In an interactive panel, Google’s Patrick Thomas walks through some of the tough calls and difficult policy decisions you would need to think about as you try to organize trillions of web pages online.

    Keynote Speaker:    Patrick Thomas, Policy Specialist, Google

  • Running the Gauntlet: Driving Strategic Change in Your Business

    Jeffrey Hayzlett’s Running The Gauntlet is a rough-and-tumble guide for running and driving change through the business gauntlet. In this keynote, Hayzlett addresses what every marketing leader must face: Getting Ready, Getting Going, and Creating and Sustaining Momentum.

    Keynote Speaker:    Jeffrey W. Hayzlett, Best-selling Author, Business Change Agent & Marketing Expert, Hayzlett.com


    Creating Campaigns that Count: The Impact of Converged Media

Mike Grehan, Publisher, ClickZ & Search Engine Watch, Producer, SES Conference & Expo

Speakers:
Duane Forrester, Senior Program Manager, Bing
Daina Middleton, Global Chief Executive Officer, Performics
Adam Singer, Product Marketing Manager, Google Analytics
Conference first timers will want to note that SES San Francisco  is pretty fast and furious, a proverbial firehose of information.

Review the materials carefully before the show and pick a few topics and speakers you’ll want to hear and be sure to attend those talks.  Ask a question or introduce yourself to the speakers afterwards.    Some of the best search insights I’ve ever had were from talking to speakers at social gatherings or in the hall.

SES Parties:   As search industry has matured so have the participants, but you’ll want to keep your eyes open for party opportunities with the many exhibitors at the Conference.  Unfortunately the amazing “Google Dance”, held at the close of SES on the Google campus in Mountain View, is no longer the internet party highlight of the year.

Yahoo to buy Tumblr for a cool billion on Monday

Strong rumors are surfacing that Yahoo will be buying social media site Tumbler.com on Monday for about 1.1 billion dollars.   Unless Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg takes the advice of Silicon Valley mini mogol Jason Calcanis (and he won’t), it would seem this deal is probably going to go through.

Is this as great a move for Yahoo as Jason C seems to think?    I’d say sure if it shakes Yahoo into a more appropriate roll as a key player in the online social media space.   Despite massive amounts of activity and traffic, Yahoo’s been in Google’s shadow pretty much as along as Google’s been around to beat Yahoo like a rented mule – and beat them at pretty much everything they’ve both tried to do.   Flickr is an exception to this, and perhaps Mayer’s gameplan will be to aquire projects that can give Google a run for the big advertising money in various venues.    Could Mayer even have her eyes on search?    Yahoo threw in that towl long ago, but Microsoft’s Bing seems to bounce back into the behemoth’s  online strategy every few years.   Bing’s quality is comparable to Google’s, so look for something interesting to happen with a Yahoo Microsoft partnership (or aquisition of YHOO by MSFT, as should have happened years ago when Microsoft offered to buy YHOO for about $31 per share, far above Yahoo’s curent valuation).     New CEO Marissa Mayer was exactly what the Yahoo doctor ordered – somebody who will take calculated risks and has an intellectual and competitive incentive to succeed where so many others have conspicuously failed.

 

All Things D appears to be the site that broke this story:  http://allthingsd.com/20130517/yahoo-board-to-meet-sunday-to-consider-1-1-billion-all-cash-deal-to-acquire-tumblr/

Disclaimer:  I own YHOO stock

Yahoo / Bing Search Alliance Update

Below is a quick summary of the most recent update from Yahoo regarding the Bing (Microsoft Search) / Yahoo advertising alliance, an attempt by both companies to stem the tide of Google’s search dominance.   Yahoo’s history of bad search decisions makes me a bit worried that they may try to compromise Bing’s (pretty good) search quality in favor of paid listings, further eroding the credibility gap between Google and Yahoo/Bing search.

Ironically Google search is probably more vulnerable than ever to the advent of a new, great search engine  thanks to Google’s current tendency to   1.  Elevate old and well SEOd (Search Optimized) websites above newer, better ones   2. Avoid proper policing big players like Ebay / Amazon who often appear high in paid and sometimes even organic rankings despite no/thin content about the query.  3. Maintain unreasonably high per click charges on many terms, effectively favoring the big money / big box  advertisers over small businesses.   4.  Not use enough social media feedback to help rank sites (they use some and I’d guess are slowly integrating this, but nobody has made the breakthrough that will come from clever “crowdsourcing” about websites.        5. THROUGH 10.      LACK OF TRANSPARENCY!       Google remains very opaque when it comes to website rankings, and Yahoo in their infinite lack of cleverness 3 years back missed a golden opportunity to come to the rescue of advertisers, webmasters, and most importantly users by creating a more level field with a lot more information about how rankings work combined with public identification of site owners, webmasters, and spammers/ abusers.    Creating this type of transparency would solve many of the problems that currently plague the search game, most importantly the problems that come from webmasters trying to please Google rather than create new, innovative sites.    Best single example is the fiasco of Google’s insistence on “Nofollow” links, which have seriously distorted the entire search landscape to favor cleverly optimized / costly sites over new mom and pop operations.

You see this often  in the travel space where large, thin sites outrank rich, local sites that are newer and don’t have the link base of the older sites.     With Google as pretty much the only search in town, new links will flow mostly as a function of  the rank of the website, so we have a circular system where the “rich get richer”.     [for the record this aspect of the algorith benefits me in the case of some of my very old websites, so this is not a “sour grapes” rant as much as a critique of the approach].

However I’m not holding my breath on Bing Yahoo taking up much of Google’s market share.    As we’ve noted before Google remains an excellent tool, and it took hold of people’s search consciousness at the time they were developing their online habits, so even a superior search would have trouble hurting Google’s dominance, and to Google’s credit I think they continue to approach things more from a quality side than a revenue one.

From Yahoo:

Assuming our testing continues to yield high quality results, we anticipate that our organic search results will be powered by Bing beginning in the August/September [2010] timeframe.

This appears to be a good sign that they will not compromise organic quality in favor of elevating paid listings, a move that would probably lead to significant loss of their current (low) market share.

From Yahoo:

Compare your organic search rankings on Yahoo! Search and Bing for the keywords that drive your business, to help determine any potential impact to your traffic and sales.


Decide if you’d like to modify your paid search campaigns to compensate for any changes in organic referrals that you anticipate
Review the Bing webmaster tools and optimize your website for the Bing crawler, as Bing results will be displayed for approximately 30%* of overall search query market share after this change

This on the other hand seems a little more alarming, suggesting that people may want to pony up to maintain their ranks after the Bing transition.      Over the coming weeks there will be a lot of Bing quality testing by other SEO centric websites and we’ll try to summarize that in a later post.      We’ll also be blogging the upcoming SES San Francisco (Formerly SES San Jose) search conference – the most influential search gathering  in the world, and have more on the Bing Yahoo changes.

———–  Full Text of Yahoo’s Note ———-

Dear Advertiser,

As we continue to work closely with Microsoft to implement our search alliance, we wanted to provide you with an update on our progress, as well as call out some important, upcoming milestones to help ensure you are prepared for the changes to come.

Transition with Quality
Our goal remains providing a quality transition experience for advertisers in the U.S. and Canada in 2010, while protecting the holiday season. We’ve continued to make good progress against this goal, and we regularly evaluate our progress. However, please remember that, as we continue to go through our series of checkpoints, if we conclude that it would improve the overall experience, we may choose to defer the transition to 2011.

Organic Search Transition
To date, we’ve focused most of our communications to you on the paid search transition to adCenter. However, another key aspect of the Yahoo! and Microsoft Search Alliance is the transition of Yahoo! organic search results (those found on the main body of the page). Assuming our testing continues to yield high quality results, we anticipate that our organic search results will be powered by Bing beginning in the August/September timeframe.

If organic search results are an important source of referrals to your website, you’ll want to make sure that you’re prepared for this change:

Compare your organic search rankings on Yahoo! Search and Bing for the keywords that drive your business, to help determine any potential impact to your traffic and sales
Decide if you’d like to modify your paid search campaigns to compensate for any changes in organic referrals that you anticipate
Review the Bing webmaster tools and optimize your website for the Bing crawler, as Bing results will be displayed for approximately 30%* of overall search query market share after this change

For more specifics on the organic search transition, please refer to the Self-service Advertiser FAQs on the Yahoo! Transition Center.

Organic and Paid Search Testing
To help us deliver on our goal of transition with quality, we are conducting the necessary tests to ensure that all of the many complex, logistical pieces are in place. While there’s nothing you need to do to prepare for testing, please keep in mind the following:

Though much of our testing is already happening offline, this month we’ll also test the delivery of organic and paid search results provided by Microsoft on live Yahoo! traffic
Testing volumes will fluctuate during this period, with paid search volume in particular kept low enough to help minimize any potential impact to your account

Editorial Guidelines
Yahoo! and Microsoft have created joint editorial guidelines that will begin taking effect for both Yahoo! and Microsoft paid search advertisers in early August. We encourage you to review these now, so that you understand any potential impact to your ads or keywords. Notable changes include new guidelines for gambling and contests, and disallowed content. For a detailed overview of the editorial policy changes that will soon take effect, please read the New Editorial Guidelines article.

We are committed to making this transition as seamless and beneficial for you as possible. We appreciate your business, and look forward to bringing you the benefits of the Yahoo! and Microsoft Search Alliance.

Sincerely,
Your Partners at Yahoo!

Disclaimer:   Joe has Yahoo Stock.   Not that he’s happy about that fact.  Nope, not happy at all.

Google Social Circle

Google labs is testing a very interesting new feature within the Google search results which lists and ranks content from people that have connections to your own social networks, websites, blogs, etc.   It’s called Google Social Circle and I think this approach has a lot of potential.

Google labs writes:

We’ve taken steps to improve the relevance of our search results with personalization, but today’s launch takes that one step further. With Social Search, Google finds relevant public content from your friends and contacts and highlights it for you at the bottom of your search results. When I do a simple query for [new york], Google Social Search includes my friend’s blog on the results page …

Filtering the massive oceans of content is what Google has been doing so effectively for some time, but the social media explosion has created a new kind of relevance Google’s basic ranking system has not been taking into account.    The content of trusted friends and associates is often going to be more relevant to us than that of, say, internet marketeers in a foreign country.     If, for example, my pal has travelled to Morrocco I’m going to trust his stuff – and probably be more interested in it – than information from strangers.    Google Social Circle will incorporate that relevance into the search results, and I think by doing this they may succeed where Facebook and Twitter have pretty dramatically failed.    Facebook’s search system and layout – in my experience – makes it very hard to search for information.  It can even be difficult to find a person you know, let alone find content they have created that is relevant to your search.    Twitter lists are something of a step in the right direction of targeting for relevant information, but Twitter search is severely lacking and I don’t even know if they they are particularly interested in providing the kind of contextual content mapping Google is testing with Social Circle.

Another interesting – some would say sinister – aspect of this approach by Google is to create internet environments filled with “trusted online information sources” that have been endorsed by different networks of friends.    Clever use of the data flowing in will allow Google to better screen sites based on human input, which is much harder to spoof than manipulations commonly done as part of aggressive “Search Engine Optimization” tactics.

The Social Circle reminds me of an advanced version of “del.icio.us”, a tagging and bookmarking service aquired (and largely abandoned?) by Yahoo a few years ago.  Delicious allowed users to tag and label sites and content, creating link lists of things relevant to them and giving them the ability to share these links with others.    By automating that process and using their brilliant search algorithm to slice and dice individual information, Google has pushed us one step closer to the holy grail of search – a system that shows us exactly what we want/need to see even if we cannot clearly state exactly what we want or need.

CES 2010: Carol Bartz to Keynote at CES Las Vegas

Update:  Bartz will not be speaking at CES 2010:  http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2355792,00.asp

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz will be one of the keynotes at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  Bartz will speak at 11 AM Thursday, January 7th in the Las Vegas Hilton.

Bartz was Autodesk CEO from 1992 to 1996, and took the helm of a troubled Yahoo in January 2009, just months after Yahoo founder Jerry Yang resigned the post after months of controversy surrounding his decision to avoid a Microsoft takeover of Yahoo at upwards of $31 per share.

Bartz is known as a “no nonsense” tough executive and many assumed at the time her job was to groom the company for a Microsoft takeover. However that never materialized.  Instead, Yahoo and Microsoft recently announced a joint search deal where Yahoo will effectively be dropping Yahoo search and using Microsoft BING search technology instead.  Yahoo will continue to sell advertising across both networks giving the combined Microsoft Yahoo search empire a larger advertising footprint.   Most feel this deal is more beneficial to Microsoft than Yahoo since it expands BING’s reach at only a small cost to Microsoft.   Yahoo will retain most of the advertising revenues for the next several years in this deal.

Perhaps Bartz most quotable moments to date were about a month into her tenure when she said she would “kick ass” with the Yahoo brand and also inadvertently suggested that some Yahoo engineers were not “f**king doing anything.”

Other executives expected to give keynote addresses at CES 2010 include Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, Alan Mulally of Ford (see our CES 2009 Coverage of Mulally’s keynote) , Paul Otellini of Intel, and Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo of Nokia.

Yahoo CEO Terry Semel spoke at CES 2006, and Jerry Yang gave a very uninspired talk in 2008 CES, but Yahoo had little to say at CES 2009.

Gary Shapiro of the Consumer Electronics Association said after the announcement:

“Yahoo is a top global brand whose vision is to be the center of people’s online lives, and Carol Bartz is leading the development of Yahoo’s approach to delivering personally relevant, meaningful Internet experiences,”


Disclosure:  Joe owns YHOO stock

New CEO Bartz on Yahoo “Look for this company’s brand to kick ass again.”

Only in Silicon Valley could a CEO get away talking about their brand “kicking ass”, but Yahoo’s in Silicon Valley and Carol Bartz is their new tough talking CEO, who today wrote in Yahoo’s official blog “Yahoo Anecdotal” that Yahoo is “Getting our house in order“.  Among other thing Bartz says she is :

….rolling out a new management structure that I believe will make Yahoo! a lot faster on its feet. For us working at Yahoo!, it means everything gets simpler. We’ll be able to make speedier decisions, the notorious silos are gone, and we have a renewed focus on the customer. For you using Yahoo! every day, it will better enable us to deliver products that make you say, “Wow.”

When former Yahoo CEO and co-founder Jerry Yang (Yahoo was co-founded with David Filo) left the company a few months ago Carol Bartz stepped in aggressively, presumably tasked by Yahoo’s board to either turn the company around or prepare for a sale of Yahoo Search, or perhaps even the entire company, to Microsoft.

Given that turning Yahoo around is considered by most to be extremely challenging and long term,  I think we should assume Bartz is working the Microsoft sales angle even though much of the tough talk is more along today’s lines of restoring the second most recognizable internet brand to at least a shadow of Yahoo’s former glory.     Note though that even assuming a sale to MIcrosoft is in the goal, it’s probably in Yahoo shareholder’s best interests for Bartz to talk and work towards shoring up the brand, hoping to encourage Microsoft to offer more of a premium over the current share price than they might if they knew a deal was inevitable.

We can get some insight into what Carl Icahn – one of Yahoo’s largest shareholders and board members –  is looking for in this deal thanks to this excellent report on his stock holdings and pricing.   With an average share price is in the neighborhood of $20-25,  I would argue that Icahn wants Microsoft to come in somewhere north of that for him to agree to a sale.     Microsoft offered $31 officially last year before the stock meltdown and most fell they would have paid about $34, but clearly that deal is long off the table. However given Microsoft’s lackluster online performance and the chance for a crack at Google’s dominance, look for Microsoft to make an offer soon.  Look for Yahoo to probably take it.

DISCLOSURE:   Technology Reporter Joe Hunkins is long on YHOO

Carol Bartz to become Yahoo’s new CEO

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Carol Bartz is about to accept Yahoo’s offer to be their new CEO, replacing Jerry Yang after his stint of about a year where Yahoo saw their share price collapse after a rejection of offers from Microsoft that many feel were as much an ego play by Yang than a reasoned business decision.

Bartz has been CEO of Autodesk and it remains somewhat unclear why Yahoo’s board sees Bartz as the best person for the job at this challenging time in Yahoo’s corporate history. One idea bandied about on CNBC right now is that Yahoo’s plans are to sell off their search business to Microsoft and then reinvent themselves as a software company, although I’m skeptical even Yahoo would be so foolish as to think they can monetize software in the current online environment where most software is free.

Yahoo does have huge potential to leverage it’s brilliant Web 2.0 development to date (e.g. Flickr, Open Search APIs, etc), but only if they can find ways to make sure their huge internet footprint stays intact and users start to see and interact with Yahoo advertising. If Bartz can do this Yahoo’s prospects could improve significantly.

Disclosure: Long on YHOO

CES Attendance (unofficial) 114,000

Although I have not heard the number yet from CES which I think is holding a Press Conference right now, a major vendor gave me this number which is consistent with the many reports suggesting a significant scale back by many of the companies here at CES.    Although presumably the conference budgeting was already done long before the global economic meltdown it seems likely many have tried to scale back by sending fewer staff, sponsoring fewer parties etc.    That said I have not noticed a difference myself in terms of people or coverage – the press seems out in full force here at CES.

Although Alibaba is showing here I’m getting the distinct idea that web companies are very much out of CES – I’d guess for several years as the online economy shakes out, killing the weak while the strong struggle to survive amidst dramatically declining advertising revenues.

One conspicuously absent company is Yahoo which last year had a major display tent in the LVCC parking area and where Jerry Yang delivered a (very lackluster) introduction to what Yahoo was up to in 2009.    Not much was my conclusion after that talk.  In fact in my interview with Yahoo Co-Founder David Filo he almost insisted they did not want to be purchased my Microsoft and he certainly was being truthful (though probably not very wise), it was soon after CES that Microsoft offered Yahoo 31+ per share in a buyout offer many felt was a no-brainer at the time.    It now appears Microsoft will scoop up Yahoo Search and perhaps the whole show anyway, probably for far less than their original offers of 2008.

Disclosure:  Long on Yahoo

Jerry Yang Resignation Memo to Yahoo Employees

Jerry Yang will soon resign for the CEO post at Yahoo, continuing in that position until a successor is found.   Here is the memo he sent to Yahoo employees today:

To: all yahoos
Fr: Jerry
Subject: update

yahoos –

i wanted to address all of you on the news we’ve just announced. the board of directors and I have agreed to initiate a succession process for the ceo role of yahoo!. roy bostock, our chairman of the board, is leading the effort to identify and assess potential candidates for consideration by the full board. the board will be evaluating and considering both internal and external candidates and has retained heidrick and struggles to help in this effort.

i will be participating in the search for my successor, and i will continue as ceo until the board selects a new ceo. once a successor is named, i will return to my previous role as chief yahoo and continue to serve as a director on the board.

last june, i accepted the board’s request that i assume the ceo role to restructure and reposition the company as a whole in order to more effectively meet the fast-changing needs of both users and partners. since taking on the ceo role, i have had an ongoing dialogue with the board about succession timing. thanks in large measure to your tireless efforts, we have created a more open, competitive yahoo! and we believe the time is now right to transition to a new ceo who can take the company to the next level.

despite the external environment we face, the fact remains that yahoo! is now a significantly different company that is stronger in many ways than it was just 18 months ago. this only makes it all the more essential that we manage this opportunity to leverage the progress up to this point as effectively as possible. i strongly believe that having transformed our platform and better aligned costs and revenues, we have a unique window for the right ceo to take ownership over the next wave of mission-critical decisions facing the company.

all of you know that I have always, and will always bleed purple. i will always do what I think is right for this great company. while this step will be an adjustment for all of us, i know it’s the right one. i look forward to updating you on this process as soon as the board has developments to share, and will continue to do everything i can to make yahoo! fulfill its full potential.

thank you,
jerry

Mashup Camp 8 in Mountain View

by Joe Hunkins – Technology Report

The buzz here at Mashup Camp day one of three is mostly about solution providers”, most of which are making it easier to build very robust mashups using fairly simple tool sets.     The learning curve factor varies and I’m still digesting information, but the most impressive so far seems to be IBM’s Mashup Center which reminds me of the Google Gadget project which itself was basically launched at Mashup Camp 1 by Adam Sah and has become something of a world wide widget standard.

This morning twelve solution providers gave fast “speed geek” sessions to introduce their products and now we are reviewing some in more depth in longer sessions.     IMHO this is an excellent format even though it’s a little more structured than you’d have in a more interactive setup.