State of Search Panel at #sesny [LIVE BLOG]


11:46am Q: How does mood fit into personalized search? Is it an emerging trend or a fad?

Tabke: Vertical search engines making a comeback. The technology is out there. Don’t overlook it.

Weitz: This is what we call faceted search. Take “Brad Pitt” and look at metadata (like Yahoo!) presents facets to look “around” Brad Pitt.

Cornett: Did something as an April Fool’s, we launched something as are you liberal or conservative – returned news related to bias. Faceted stuff has a certain limitation.

11:43am Q: Do you see search becoming more social?

Tabke: Google’s already doing this – ranking Tweeters by some method.

Murray: Social sites becoming more frequented, so that becomes important to the search engines.

Weitz: If you search, we’re pulling up the most talked about links within a topic. But we also have an algorithm that determines authority of a Tweeter. That trend will continue.

Q: Searches for answers. Search engines play role of directing users to the answers. If you’re a site built around engines, you rely on search traffic. But if search engines answer the question, do I ever get to that site? Are search engines becoming more than just indexing information but providing information? Are we shooting ourselves in the foot b/c we’re providing information but not sending traffic?

Cornett: It isn’t just one site that has a good answer. Users are frustrated. They have to click through all of it and check it out. You’re brining us that semantic information to provide the user. They see that you have value, but you may have to see it as a loss leader.

Weitz: For example, weather results come through provider partnership. But with recipe search, we leverage data from recipe sites – show kid-friendly or 4 star spicy. When people do click, it’s a much more qualified click. Either compensate through partnership or help user make a decision.

Murray: Still a large number of queries with no answer. People are going to click on links that really matter to them.

Tabke: We wanted to move to a model similar to what we do with YouTube – give them a taste or a sniff. But make them come to your page for the answer. Not advocating cloaking. Not necessarily a paywall.

Murray: It does come down to your content distribution strategy.

11:35am Now time for questions from the audience.

11:34am Q: (missed it – sorry!)

Tabke: Look at stats about ReTweets – almost all have URL. That’s a huge signal for search engines to use.

Cornett: Where is the attention right now? Where is the attention shifting throughout the day. Look at the FourSquares of the world – and the Twitters – that info isn’t being shared anywhere else.

11:33am Q: Real-time search

Cornett: We’ve signed deals with Facebook and Twitter to get access to that data. Twitter integration shows real-time Tweets on trending topics. Obviously a great way to augment something we already know. Try to balance freshness and relevance. Don’t just blast raw Tweets – too much spam.

Tabke: Your brand is not on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. It’s everywhere. Use trends to influence. Start thinking holistically.

Murray: If a single web page no longer reigns supreme, your brand is no longer in your hands. Envision a world where your site is a data aggregation site. Distribute your content everywhere. Funnel your YouTube channel into your website. Get people to create content for you. It could be that way in the not too distant future. Then, whatever comes in, you integrate it in.

Weitz: People confuse real-time with social a lot. When I think real-time I think of Twitter, but I also think of multimedia generated. The challenge for all engines is to really understand what those discreet chunks of data are directly and what’s surrounding them. Use as hints to make sense of real-time information.

11:26am Q from Murray: Are their privacy concerns in personalization?

Cornett: Over a year ago, people were less comfortable. But now with FB, Twitter, people sharing. Yahoo! is very transparent. People can turn personalization off. The search engines that will gain your trust will be transparent about it and give you control.

Weitz: If I don’t want people to know I’m searching Britney Spears a lot, I can clear that history.

11:24am Q: Personalized search: where do you see it going and how do you see it changing search?

Cornett: Starting to be more intelligent. Looking at history and starting to be much smarter.

Murray: As an advertiser, would you be willing to pay more for that?

Tabke: Ranking reports don’t mean what they used to be. From a user standpoint, personalized search is way ahead. But as marketers, makes it tougher.

Weitz: Accomplish a tremendous amount of personalization with very few variables. Where you are, what time of day can get you a ton of a way down the path. Some people miss the serendipity of what search can provide. So when you get to a certain level, you’re reinforcing what they already know. Some people search to explore.

11:20am Q: How does paid side keep up with algorithmic side?

Murray: You’re already seeing some of it. SIte links, comparison ad formats, etc. All of innovation being done on user side. Get best answer right away. Can apply that to paid side.

Weitz: Imagine getting down the path, new ad models will arise. Opportunity for targeting because someone has gone down an intent path.

11:17am Q: How could this object view apply to a paid model?

Cornett: Ad presentation could have a video. Reach people typically seen through display but through search.

11:16am Q: Give structure to your website to help engines see as an object.

Cornett: Open standards. Semantic tags. We know what’s a phone number, an image, etc. People who participate and show immediate value on the page – you’ll see better results.

Murray: Simplify messaging will help you stand out.

Tabke: Partner with engines. In the future, you could search taxes and a Turbo Tax feature could show and you’ll start doing your taxes right there. (Everyone on the panel is shaking their heads yes).

Weitz: Opportunities from a tagging perspective – but also become an expert in a vertical.

11:09am Q: What’s next?

Weitz: Understanding query intent, verticalization less noticeable, and getting things done faster

Cornett: Agrees on understanding intent. When we don’t know, that’s when we use blended search – giving options. Then look at clicks. If clicking on images, show more images.

Tabke: Answers – getting them as fast and as few clicks possible. Makes job of search marketers difficult.

Murray: What it’s going to force marketers to look at “What does my search shelf look like?” Videos, images, etc. Certain categories will lend themselves more to YouTube than others. Know your category – understand your assets. No longer about metatags, but “What’s my content strategy?” More holistic.

11:08am Panel time. Other panelists are Robert Murray, CEO iProspect and Brett Tabke, CEO Moderator is Graham Mudd, VP, Search and Media, comScore

11:07am Getting things done

Richer interactions on search results page. Search within neighborhoods. Doesn’t go to new page, brings in new map in search results.

Then share on Facebook, email, etc.

11:05am Explore what matters

95% of queries are about a thing

Is there a single page on the web that represents a thing? Is there a single page about an iPhone?

Create a different type of web that connects things to each other. Who are the different music artists? Who listens to them?

Search for a movie, see on the left side, surface different things. Search Avatar, see link for Sigourney Weaver on the left.

Same thing for a celebrity. A lot of people search Yahoo! for celebrities. Ex: search for “Tom Cruise” see Tweets, News, Photos, and on left rail – people connected to Tom Cruise (i.e. Katie Holmes) – plus related movies.

Clicking and exploring

Launched at CTIA this morning – Sketch and search. Draw along a map the area you’re interested in – and that’s the area searched.

11:02am Finding things faster – Search Assist moved to the front page (query suggestion feature). Jump right to athlete in Yahoo! Sports or a Stock Quote. That’s an answer directly in the Search Assist layer.

Faster query reformulation. Starting to see related concepts and entities. For “taxes” I’m not showing search completion anymore – I’m showing things like IRS or Turbo Tax. People making a cognitive decision right there on the page – either bail or don’t know what they’re looking for.

11:00am 3 areas of focus
1. Find things faster
2. Explore what matters
3. Getting things done.

Most of the time you search, it’s not for fun. You’re trying to get something done.

10:58am Search is evolving

Retrieval > ranking > diversity > answers

There are too many good answers on the web

Go beyond answers to use technology to inspire

We’re learning a lot about you. Can we give you information before you even know to ask.

10:56am Larry Cornett, VP Consumer Products, Yahoo! Search takes the mic. “I’m going to build off of what Stefan said because that’s what we do. Build on top of what Bing does.” Laughs from the room.

10:55am Knowledge = content, services, media real time + user experience

10:54am Our vision of search is to deliver knowledge. Detecting intent involves understanding who, where, others, semantic – and the use of elves.

10:52am 8 years of progress in the web and still 10 blue links. What other technology do you have that’s 8 years old that you still want to use?

10:49am The new services on the web, Gowalla, Rummble, Twitter, etc. Rich information captured. Engines are fairly blind to services such as OpenTable or Taxi Magic. Weitz has a need to find a place to play squash. Again, I think it’s European.

10:49am The web has grown so much, but we’re still optimizing for the old contextual way.

10:48am Stefan Weitz, Director of Bing, takes the mic. And yes, it’s Stefan not Steven. Very European or something.

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