SES Report: Day 1

So I’ve finished my first day at Search Engine Strategies (SES) San Jose 2006. Got here late, because of flight delays from the East Coast. But, it was still a good day. Because of the late start, I attended only two sessions: (1) The Google Social Search session, and: (2) the Wikipedia / tagging session. As I said in my first post about the show, its remarkable how the industry is evolving.

Chris Sherman, the Executive Editor at Search Engine Watch, noted that search really began as a group of Yahoo editors reviewing the web. Cool idea, but not very scalable. Then the almighty algorithm (i.e. Google) got really pretty good, and was able to provide quality results on a much larger scale. But eventually, the algorithm his limits too. Yet these limits are addressable by human editing.

So human editing is back. Yes, people rule. The purpose of this stuff is to meet our needs (and no one else’s!). The algorithm will continue to play a big role in search, but humans can help make it better. And the number of methods by which they can do so today is a bit mind boggling.

Let me count the ways: Technorati, Del.icio.us, Flickr, StumbleUpon, Digg, Slashdot, Reddit, Newswire, Shadows, Squidoo, Ma.gnolia, Netscape … these are just the ones that were identified as important. There are new ones cropping up every day. These all offer one method or another of voting for quality content.

And then there is Google Co-Op. Announced by Google a few months back, it seemed to have gone quiet for a while. But it’s back with a vengeance. This is Google’s move into social search. Basically, site owners can define their sites in “subscribed links” files that users can subscribe too. The site owner promotes it on their own site. Once someone signs up for it, the results you present for a search term show up above the organic search results (but below the sponsored links).

If enough people sign up and use it, it gets promoted into the Google Co-Op directory. If it continues to do well, you can even be shown in a preferential fashion in Google’s search results. Sounds like fabulous potential riches to me.

Google Topics offers a way for subject matter experts to label content across the web in their area of expertise. So if you are an expert in travel to Australia, you might label (i.e. tag) all the quality related sites that you know of about this topic. As with subscribed links, users can subscribe to your Topics. You can learn more about Google Co-op by reading these two articles:

All of this stuff is going in the same direction. People matter. They have to like your stuff. You need to add value. What you contribute to the community defines your reputation. Mess with your reputation at your peril, because you can’t easily get it back. Establish a good reputation, and it’s gold.

We have seen this in action. Successful article postings in Digg can provide you with 25,000 or more visitors. They can even potentially add hundreds of links. These are high stakes. You don’t want your competitor succeeding in this playground while you are watching from the sidelines.

Of course, the audience can be fickle. It can be outrageous in is behavior. As an example of this, check out these reviews of Tuscan milk on Amazon.com. Hilarious to be sure, but it does not necessarily serve the best altruistic purposes of a democratic web.

So what does this mean for your business? It’s an opportunity. There are unique new techniques for publicizing your site and your message. Just be aware that you will be doing it in the bright white light of day. People in this audience are smart and impatient with marketing gimmicks.

And in case you were wondering, I learned about the Amazon Tuscan Milk Reviews because it was a very popular item on Reddit.

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