An Evening with Danny Sullivan

A favorite session for many at Search Engine Strategies is the evening forum with Danny Sullivan, a lively give-and-take between the conference chair and show attendees.

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies conference, February 27 – March 2, 2006, New York, NY.

The evening forum was an informal but informative and lively discussion. To the relief of many, Danny did not make good on his threat to sing, but instead opted to engage the audience by staying on the floor with the audience, rather than on stage. He came across as approachable and knowledgeable throughout.

The format was a simple question and answer style, with the difference being there was no “theme” other than questions people wanted to ask one of the giants of the search industry and the host of the conference.

The first question from the audience was whether or not Danny saw SEO agencies dying out in favor of in-house SEO’s. Danny answered that the SEO was not dead yet, and would not be anytime soon. In-house SEO was moving towards taking over the management of SEO, then outsourcing some of the specific functions.

The next question of note was about Macromedia Flash, and specifically on when the search engines were planning on indexing it. Danny responded by saying that nothing was likely to be fixed, and that it should be used sparingly. His response to a jesting suggestion in the audience to “cloak it” was to point them to the Search Engine Watch Forum, where there is a lot of information on how to deal with Flash without needing to go that far.

Asked to gaze into his crystal ball, Danny suggested that the future of search would see some consolidation, as there were 5 major players (Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask, and AOL) and at the very least it was unlikely a 6th would be added. He also noted that prices for PPC continued to rise, local/vertical search was currently undervalued, and that the search engine to watch was Ask. He also mentioned that MSN should not be discounted and that Google seemed to be losing some focus, so the future was likely to be interesting.

One audience member asked about the possibility that the search engines would go too far regarding paid listings and advertising. Danny pointed out that Ask had already gone too far, and had retreated from the number of ads. He also pointed out that in the long run, search engines that go too far with ads will lose their users, and thus revenue.

Finally, he discussed the “World Tour” of Search Engine Strategies, pointing out the growing number of venues for SES. Most have a significant number of local speakers. He also highlighted that there was a special show in Miami, SES Latino (not SES Miami) focusing on US Hispanic and Latin America search.

All in all, it was a fun and interesting time, and the audience was very appreciative of the openness and candor Danny displayed. I overhead someone saying that it was the best “session” she had gone to that day. The next time you attend an SES event that includes the evening discussion, I strongly recommend checking it out.

Want to listen to the entire evening forum with Danny Sullivan? Click to play this MP3 recording of the session.

Ian McAnerin is founder of McAnerin Networks and moderator of the Search & Legal Issues discussion in the Search Engine Watch Forums.

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