Saturday, June 23, 2007

SEM Rountable at Norwest Venture Partners

On Thursday we gave a 2 hour seminar to Norwest Venture Partners' portfolio companies on the shift to search engine marketing and how to win with SEO and PPC. We were pleasantly surprised by the level of interest. We had to have 2 sessions with execs looking to use the medium to build traffic, leads and sales in a results oriented manner. We are now talking to a number of folks who want additional information.

I'm going to take this to other of my VC friends as there's a lot that VC companies can do to get attention in new, emerging or even mature markets using SEM. Traditional notions of brand have changed dramatically to attributes. The web is truly a democratizing place. With the change coming with Google Universal Search, there is much that companies can do to win. Same with PPC - it's changing all the time. We're actually beta testing new optimization techniques with the majors.

We'll be posting many of the slides and the audio from the presentation. Look out for them!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Microsoft Agrees to Change Vista to Accomodate Google

Today Microsoft agreed to change MS Vista to accomodate other desktop search engine's like Google's Desktop Search. Microsoft's version will remain but will allow the user to have another search engine there. They will also publish info on how to improve performance.

It's interesting how Google is exerting it's power to influence the DOJ to move so quickly to force this change. At a $160 bil market cap and through smart lobbying, Google has emerged in Washington as a force to be reckoned with.

If only they spent their effort improving the rudimentery Desktop Search. Try using it. It does not have the features of the search engine like concept based search or even spelling correction. You have to have an exact match for it to turn up any results. If you move a file in Outlook, the Index is not updated. It is cool that it looks at web based Gmail in addition to your desktop, but it still does not designate if a file is attached to a result - a major way of differentiating hundreds of similar sounding files. There are no filtering mechanisms. If you are using the tool for email search, you are better off carbon copying all your mail to Gmail and then using it exclusively.

While I have not tried Vista based search, I'm hopeful that Microsoft has taken advantage of this. The technology to do this well is over 10 years old. We at AltaVista did a better desktop search than Google has today. The problem is that we did not promote it like we could have with a pay the supplier sort of model.

In any case, this is definitely a way that Microsoft could slow and maybe turnaround its decline in search market share. I'm sure that Google will not sit back forever and wait.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Semel Resigns

In a breaking NY Times article, Semel resigns as Yahoo's CEO and is replaced by Jerry Yang, a Yahoo co-founder. This is not surprising as Yahoo was having a difficult time with revenue growth and cultural issues (see Brad Garlinghouse's Peanut Butter memo).

As a search marketing agency, seeing Yahoo adrift is not something to celebrate. The populace is better served when there is real competition in the marketplace. Having Google dominate is not good for the user, media or for Google itself as the desire to innovate dimishes with growing share. This happens regardless of who is in charge.

There are many reasons behind this, but there's an exodus mentality in the once highflying company. People feel strangled by a culture that has stifled innovation and is living the blame game. From my experience in a company that strayed from its core strength, AltaVista, I can tell you that search needs to be managed differently than a content site. You can't let the business guys run a search site. Super smart, passionate engineers are more important. It is an area with incredible investment, where developmental impacts are difficult to quantify and assess. Yet, each small improvement cumulatively improves the experience.

Doing competitive rack-ups is a waste of time as well, because features don't really matter. 95% of searches are web searches so you need to really understand what users are looking for and have measurement tools that analyze activity in detail from inputs like the toolbar. Then you need a process whereby that analysis informs the engineer about improvement they can make to this n-level product development beast.

You need to think super long term. Quarter to quarter revenues are not really of any value. For example, it is more important for an ad to lend value to the natural search results on the page than for the company to pump short term per page revenues. You need to pump money in for a long period before you see an impact.

This is what Google has successfully done - focus on the engineering and invest for the long terms. Because Yahoo's management was more media-oriented, it has had a difficult time. Hopefully, this change will allow Yahoo to regain its footing.