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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Preparing for the Future of Search: Charlene Li Keynote at SES

Posted by @ 8:37 pm
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charlene-liMy second Future Casting post from this year’s Search Engine Strategies conference focuses on Charlene Li’s keynote presentation.

Charlene Li is the co-author of Groundswell and founder of Altimeter Group, a digital strategies consultancy with a focus on social and emerging technologies. So it’s no surprise that vision she presented had a distinctly social flavour.

Charlene started out by highlighting how much search has evolved by presenting a Google search results page. Universal search results highlight how search is changing, with news, blogs, and local all featuring in the web search main results page.

But the changes afoot go much deeper than just what’s included in search results. Her key message of the keynote presentation was:

“People must be at the center of your search strategy, not keywords.”

Charlene used the United Airways case to highlight this shift. A musician who was not reimbursed by the airlines for damage to his good (based on a silly technicality) created a music video to protest his treatment which has attracted almost 5 million views in just over a month..

That video is now the 4th result when you search for “United”. As Charlene put it, United Airways no longer own that keyword anymore, in a way that they’d want to.

Broader understanding of User Intent is also changing the future of Search. Where intent was once measured solely by keywords, now is has far more parameters guiding its definition.

social-media-and-business

Social networks and other emerging tools (phone apps, vertical searches etc) provide users with unparalleled ways to express their intent. Marketers need to listen and learn to these broader definitions of intent, to ensure their messages are being shared in the right context to elicit the greatest response.

So how Does Your Business Prepare for the Changes that Are Happening?

The three key areas that Charlene’s recommends focusing on are:

1. Focus on People not Keywords
Interactions with your audience should be governed by the desire to build long term relationships with clients.

Not every engagement is about making the sale. The first step is listening to your customers. From your learning’s, be open to expanding your engagement strategies to include education, research, testing, customer service, etc.

It’s now about conversation, not conversions. Conversions will happen if people like your conversation skills.

2. Get Your Backend Data in Order
The evolution of the web and other emerging technologies is creating unprecedented levels of user driven information. You need to ensure your systems are ready to harness the potential of this data, and contribute to the conversations.

Think Facebook Connect, Google, Linkedin. Integrating these types of social networks will allow customers to become your brand messengers and enable you to leverage the valuable user intent information these networks offer.

3. Be Ready to Give up Control
In the emerging online world, you’re not in control. Once you make this realization and resign yourself to the fact you’re just a part of a much bigger conversation – you’re more likely to succeed!

The presentation doesn’t really detail anything significantly new. It just builds on a conversion and school of thought that’s been developing for the last few years.

Her keynote is of more significance now because the future she speaks of is now the present – and businesses really need to be changing tactics if they haven’t already.

Charlene uses some great examples and case studies to highlight the key areas she presented in her keynote. I’ve included a copy of the podcast below so you can enjoy the entire presentation – it’s definitely worth the listen.



Rene LeMerle Rene is the marketing manager of ineedhits.com - a global search engine marketing company. He also leads the marketing for Gooruze.com - a web 2.0 style community for online and digital marketers. Rene has been in the industry since 1997 with much of that time spent helping businesses embrace the best of the internet and digital world.

View Rene LeMerle's profile






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