Special Report: Search

Pioneer Bullish on Local, Video, Google

Q&A: Successful Marketers Track Down How Consumers Conduct a Search, Then Apply Lessons and Cutting-Edge Technology to Get Their Products Into the Mix

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Few have covered the search industry longer than Danny Sullivan, who wrote "A Webmaster's Guide to Search Engines" in 1996, founded Search Engine Watch a year later and most recently created SearchEngineLand.com. And while he's a veteran in the space, he's relatively new to Ad Age Digital, where he's been writing a monthly column for the past six months. Here, he chats with Ad Age Digital Editor Abbey Klaassen about search trends marketers should be tracking.
Danny Sullivan
Danny Sullivan

Advertising Age: You've been quite bullish on Google changing its search interface to its Universal Search system, which merges multiple types of search results -- news, local, image and video, for example -- into one results page. How does this change the search space from a marketer's point of view?

Danny Sullivan: Universal Search is accelerating past just "How is your website being listed?" and looking at things like "What does your local listing look like?" If you're a merchant that has 100 different local outlets, then Google Local Search has a real impact on how you'll be showing up on Google. You also have the possibility of having your listing show up on an actual map -- that's a new search-related behavior to take into account. And video is getting a heavy play in Universal Search. ... Now you have to more strongly consider whether YouTube is going to be a real marketing channel for you [because it's showing up in Universal Search results].

Ad Age: Everyone says local search is a hot area, but it feels like no one's quite nailed it, either from consumer or marketer standpoint. Your next conference focuses on local -- what kinds of marketers do you expect to benefit most from local search?

Mr. Sullivan: While some of those small local merchants might be ending up in local-search results accidentally [through consumer reviews], many of the big merchants have a big opportunity because they aren't there at all. Or they're getting there through Yellow Pages so they may be getting outranked by these smaller players.

Ad Age: You've also been talking a lot about the dramatic change that is Google Personalized Search -- this idea that Google uses an individual's search history to make results personally relevant. Why is it a big adjustment for marketers?

Mr. Sullivan: It's an adjustment in search-engine optimization -- it puts much more emphasis on whether you have a quality website. Quality sites will win in the long run because people will come to them, say "That was interesting" and click on them.

Ad Age: It appears marketers are bringing more search-engine optimization in-house. Is this a trend you see accelerating?

Mr. Sullivan: Marketers understand search is more important, and you need to have someone watching over it. ...You might have someone who trains the rest of the staff. The New York Times is a good example as it has Marshall Simmonds, whose job is to integrate awareness of [search-engine optimization] as part of long-standing procedures ... so it's naturally getting more traffic.

Ad Age: Is there growth left in search?

Mr. Sullivan: There's plenty of growth in it. Local search, video can be search -- any place where someone is going through and trying to find something, that's a search activity, and it's a unique thing for people to understand. Search marketers track down how people find stuff and what is the best way to make sure your product is being found in that.
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