Guestpost Erica Schmidt: Learning from the past

Tue 26 January 2010 11:00, Bas van den Beld

Guestpost Erica Schmidt: Learning from the past

If you visit conferences world wide you are bound to be seeing one of Erica Schmidt's presentations. As an international expert of iProspect she can be found on many panels. And she always has something to say which will make you think.

In this post she will make you think again. She looks at the past to predict the future and with that comes to some very interesting conclusions. The one she ends with, the innovation to come from other regions, might very well be the biggest change we'll see the coming years.

Learning from the past and looking to the bright future of global search in 2010

Whenever I think about the future I always am reminded of the aphorism- those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. In order to prepare for this post I found it necessary to traverse down the search industry memory lane. We’ve come very far yet the potential remains huge for us all globally. However, interestingly, so much of the technological developments do not result from great consumer insight, instead they are dictated by the search engines themselves or advertisers. There’s great potential in the coming years for further customization of offerings on the basis of what resonates with the consumer.

One of the many benefits of this Search Cowboys series is that you can glean some themes which all of the guest posts have written about. There’s so much to think about (mobile, social, real time search, privacy to name a few) and even to project, but from my perspective, here are some of the big themes to ponder.

Mobile

Yes, I know, practically every prediction in search for the past few years has included a few lines about mobile. Mobile is nothing new, but the historical events of last year and this year to date really demonstrate that mobile & search is coming to maturity and convergence is only just around the corner- in a few short years, we won’t be separating mobile as a separate facet of search.

The first week of 2010 has already demonstrated to be dynamic and interesting. We’ve been hit with so much information in the first few days of this year and there already seems to be a huge theme of mobile. For some time now everyone, not just us search geeks, had been anticipating the launch of the Google device with bated breath. On the 5th of January Google revealed its “superphone” the Nexus One. Perhaps the reveal was less exciting than the astonishing buzz that preceded it. Based on initial reviews, the product which Google introduced may not be a game changer in and of itself, however the paradigm has shifted considerably as Google are now a retailer, and Apple’s acquisition of Quattro Wireless (which was grossly overshadowed by NexusOne) potentially puts them in the role of a media company. The Apple acquisition is an interesting one indeed, especially because Google acquired AdMob late last year. Let’s not forget that Google historically has been very good with integrating their acquisitions into their overall offering (think Keynote into Google Earth or YouTube). The foray of Google offering mobile devices and the Android platform is something I have given a considerable amount of thought to lately. In 2008, 97% of Google revenues were from advertising- what are they playing at in this space? Is it a way to get serious about mobile advertising? Is it the same play as Apple is making with Quattro Wireless? It’s no secret that Google and Apple are swiftly becoming competitors on core businesses. My projection is that within the year, marketers, not just search marketers, will have powerful offerings from both Google and Apple to target consumers in one of the most intimate of spaces, their mobile devices. This will have a ripple effect for all of us as it provides us with a very compelling and robust platform to target consumers from a demographic, behavioural and location based perspective. For us as consumers we will be reached with a much more relevant advertisement. Mobile search has a particularly integral role in a lot of Asia and African markets, where users have limited or no access to desktop computers. We’re already seeing huge success rates in mobile search targeting in Asia and Africa and we can take cues from these learnings. This year really is going to be the year for mobile as we will have improved platforms and robust offerings from suppliers.

Paid Search Display Ads

I’m fortunate enough to have a search role that requires me to trot around the globe and visit with our various operations. During those visits I have the benefit of receiving information from our local experts on the nuances and intricacies of their search marketplace. Google has long benefitted from considerable market share around the globe, but they still are endeavouring to dominate in China, Russia and South Korea. Engines like Baidu and Yandex have different display offerings for advertisers which are quite compelling.

I personally believe Google is long overdue to incorporate new ad formats in the search results beyond just text. Our iProspect Sweden office conducted eyetracking research last year that demonstrated that users exposed to Universal search results that include imagery spend more time viewing the images than text. I’ve wondered for a long time why Google has not offered different options for advertisers on their result pages beyond text. Of course Google has always been focused on relevancy in the search results and are more than capable with coming up with a model that doesn’t compromise that objective. Maybe Bing will beat them to the punch? Our Greater China team recently told me that the Baidu brand zone offering for branded keyword display ads has increased the CTR rates for their clients. Perhaps this isn’t so much of a prediction but of a wish.

Google gets more “evil”

Over the holiday season, despite my best efforts to not think too deeply about work or anything else for that matter, I found myself soap boxing about the search industry. My family were asking about Google Wave. A caveat firstly: I am an avid user and fan of most of Google’s products. And quite frankly, I am not looking to bite the hand that literally feeds me and most of my search colleagues. But, let’s not forget that there are tons of “free” Google products out there, including those with wide swaths of user bases- GMail, Google Maps, YouTube, Chrome, Google SMS (in the US). However, the important point here, which I described to my family members who were still listening, is that despite the perceived at no cost model, all of these products do in fact come with a price tag- your privacy and data. Every keystroke, voice command and thing we do on a Google property becomes data that they now own, can manipulate and either use for our own benefit, or quite frankly, use it to be evil. I’m not trying to scaremonger here, but let’s be honest with ourselves- Google, one of the largest web properties in the world, has more data about the behaviour patterns of the human race than any other global ( or for that matter, local) entity. To me, that’s just plain frightening. Even less reassuring was Larry Page’s comment at the UK Google Zeitgeist last year about the EU potentially limiting Google’s data retention timelines: “There's so much value in having this data," he said. "The less of these logs we retain, the more likely we all are to die.” Seriously? Yes, information is quite powerful if used appropriately, but one has to worry about the negative ramifications of Google owning so much data. This year I project that privacy advocates and consumers will become even more fearful of how much one corporation knows about our behaviours.

Innovation to come from other regions

For as long as I can remember, any product or offering from the search engines has launched from the US and there is a proof of concept, the product gets rolled out to other markets (with a few exceptions of course). As the three major engines have there headquarters based in the US this should come as no surprise. However, with China usurping the US in terms of internet users last year, and with the potential for growth of use coming from other parts of the world, my prediction is that search product innovation will start coming from other geographic locations, or they will at least start having a greater influence.

Whether the aforementioned predictions come to fruition or not remains to be seen, but as noted above, if the first full week of the year is any indication of what is ahead in 2010, I can’t wait to see what happens.

Guestpost_Erica_schmidt_small
About Erica Schmidt:

"Erica is primarily responsible for helping the many Isobar search agencies across the globe increase their revenues from search engine marketing in a variety of ways. As Global Search Director, Erica is responsible for assisting Isobar agencies in launching iProspect branded search engine marketing practices. Also, Erica further ensures that each agency is delivering their services according to the best practices developed at iProspect in the U.S. The GSD schedules, organizes and then teaches “iProspect University” in markets across the globe, and then administers certification tests and awards certification to staff who pass this test."

Erica can be found:

On Twitter
On her website
On Google


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