SMX London 2012 Interview with Danny Sullivan

With SMX London coming up in May, we were lucky enough to get a chance to ask Danny Sullivan some questions ahead of the conference.

Danny Sullivan SMX London

Image credit: Flickr

Firstly, great news that you’re coming over to SMX London in May. I noticed that SMX London has dropped the Advanced tag this year, how do you see the event changing from previous years in terms of content and audience? We haven’t dropped SMX Advanced but rather incorporated it into the broader show of SMX London. SMX Advanced runs in one track each day, while the other track will cover aspects of search marketing accessible to people of all skill levels. So all the great advanced content is still there. But we know there’s a broader base out there that’s been wanting to come to our London show, and so the expansion helps serve them, too. We also added a new SMX Boot Camp as one of the pre-conference workshops to help those new to search marketing get a start.There’s been a huge amount of changes in the world of search during the last 12-months, what do you consider to have had the biggest impact so far and is likely to be the key talking points at SMX London 2012? Mobile and social are both key developments. We’re searching all the time now, away from our desktops, on our phones and tablets. It’s crucial that marketers understand that conversions and radically drop when people encounter a mobile-unfriendly site. Our Mobile Trends session will be looking at this. As for social, Google have moved its ads further down the page to make room for the Google+ “People and Pages” box. That should tell search marketers all they need to know about how serious Google is about making Google+ be a success. It’s factored into the new Search Plus Your World ranking, so it’s a major new signal that marketers need to consider. Meanwhile, Bing taps into Facebook and Twitter. The world of social meets search keeps getting reshaped literally each month, but the main point is clear: if you want to succeed in search, you need to be considering social. We’ll have plenty of sessions about this.Looking ahead – do you think Google+ is likely to be the biggest game-changer in search this year? And what do you think should be the key takeaways attendees should look to learn about this? I think Google+ already is one of the biggest game changers. The takeaway is that you should be doing it. But the conference takeaways will be specific tips on how to best build your followers and tap into Google+ enhancements for your listings.With Google’s updates and rollouts of Google+/authorship/personalisation/Google Venice/local etc – do you think this is their reaction to the social media threat of personal recommendations? For example, a query for “can you recommend a good yoga class in London for under £20?” is likely to get a better (or at least more personal) response on Twitter than a Google query could provide. Or, as many believe, do they just want your data?! There are a combination of things. People do “search” by asking their friends questions through social networks. Google needs to find a way to integrate that type of activity. Google+ is one way of doing this, such as through the “Need some input from friends? Ask on Google+” links that appear on now. It would be better if Google could also help us sort through our Facebook and Twitter data, but until there’s some détente on deals, that’s in the distance. Of course, Google does also want more data about us, both because it allows them to create better products for us and also to target us better with ads. But Google+ is about far more than that.I’ve also noticed you’ve been writing about Google’s anti-competitive behaviour recently (e.g. “Google plus your world” favouring Google’s own social network over others and their hypocrisy over “privacy” issues) – do you think Google are potentially running the risk of becoming too monopolistic? I think Google’s given more solid ammunition than ever before to those who make an anti-trust argument. However, that ammunition doesn’t help those who’ve been leading this fight directly, the vertical search engines that claim they’re hard-done-by. It’s difficult to argue that you’re being harmed by Google when at the same time, you argue that 75% of your traffic comes from Google, as some do. The bottom line is that the vast majority of web sites continue to get huge amounts of traffic for free from Google.And finally, you lived in England for several years so I wondered how you find the UK industry and development of search strategies when compared with the US and other key international territories? The UK has always been fairly advanced in search marketing, even compared to the US. In some cases, it can even be ahead. The main challenge is that the UK is in an interesting middle ground of often having products and sites aimed toward the UK, Europe and the US. That means grappling with two different English languages (UK English vs US English), as well as the multitude of European languages, along with issues of running country-specific sites in the mix. That’s one reason why it’s great to have the International Search Summit running as one of the pre-conference events.

If you haven’t signed up for the event yet, make sure you use the SMX London discount code: SEOPTIMISE012 for 15% off the ticket price – see you there!

Kevin Gibbons is Founder/Director of Strategy at SEOptimise. Kevin is well known within the search industry as a blogger for sites such as Search Engine Land, Econsultancy and Search Engine Watch. Kevin is also a frequent SEO speaker at a number of conferences including Search Marketing Expo (SMX), Search Engine Strategies (SES), a4uexpo, SAScon and BrightonSEO.

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