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The Beautiful People On Search

David A. Utter
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-02-28

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Noted online pundits Matt Cutts from Google, Robert Scoble from Microsoft, and Jeremy Zawodny from Yahoo took part in the Pundits On Search panel during day two of SES 2006 New York.

Those in the know think vertical search and social search offer the next frontier in marketing opportunities. What do you think? WebProWorld. We want to hear from you.

"The Google Story" author David Vise and JupiterResearch VP and Research Director Zia Daniell Wigder joined the trio on the panel, which was moderated by search pundit Danny Sullivan. Mike McDonald of WebProNews provided notes on the session for our readers.

This was primarily a question and answer session, with the participants handling those queries. Sullivan started off with a comment on the upcoming Internet Explorer 7 browser from Microsoft and its impact on search. Despite the built-in search handled by MSN Search, Google and Yahoo have both done much better in gaining search market share.

A question on vertical search found little belief of its potential impact on the established search engines. "I think vertical search engines are for specialized searches and I think they will continue to serve as such. I don't agree that vertical search engines will take away share from the general search engines," Zawodny said.

Vise compared the vertical search engines to TV. "If you think about the general search engines as network television, I think of vertical search as cable television," he said.

Getting a vertical search off the ground isn't as difficult today. "I think it's much easier to start a company," said Cutts. "It doesn't take a lot of money to start a company anymore, so you can have a 2 or 3 person office and succeed in a niche."

Scoble echoed that sentiment and observed, "Small companies can take on the big boys if they can carve out a niche for themselves."

Social media became part of the conversation when one person asked if anyone on the panel used Delicious (now owned by Yahoo) as a search engine. Zawodny addressed this question:

"The reality is, even today, all the techniques that search engines use to see what's popular is determined by how easy it is for people to put content online. Services like Delicious lower the entry barrier. I suspect one of the next major leaps that's going to happen in search is learning how to blend traditional result with those results based on personal preferences."

"Do I think something like Delicious is ready for the mainstream? No, but it's incredibly useful."

"There's a ton of opportunity there, the question is how ready is it for the mainstream? I'm not sure which way it will play out. Is it ready for primetime non-techie audiences? I don't think so but it has a lot of potential," Cutts said of services like Delicious.

In projecting the next six to twelve months of search and potential hot marketing areas, Wigder said social search would be a big area for it. Cutts voted for blogs, quality ones from businesses.

Sullivan believes in vertical search as the next important area for marketers. There's something beyond being listed on Google web search, and the local search will eventually be the default, he said.

He also thinks eventually the web results will be the backfill rather than the main. The local searches will supplant the web results seen today. Sullivan cited Google maps as an example of one service that is starting to fundamentally change how people search. To him, the definition of the "number one" result has already started to change and will further evolve.

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About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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