5 Questions For Danny Sullivan, Foundational Search Marketing Journalist

Posted in SEM

pic_dsullivanFor search marketing industry veterans, SearchEngineLand Editor-in-Chief Danny Sullivan needs no introduction. If you’re among the veritable legions of marketing professionals joining our ranks from traditional advertising trades, soon enough you’ll know his impeccable journalism and commitment to community.

Considered a founding “search engine guru,” Danny has been demystifying search engines for marketers, webmasters and users for well over a decade. His insight and expertise are regularly sought by mainstream media outlets including USA Today, The New Yorker, Forbes, The Wall St. Journal, The Los Angeles Times, ABC’s Nightline, Newsweek.

He’s Partner and Chief Content Officer for  Third Door Media, which also operates the highly regarded global  search marketing conference series SMX,  Search Marketing Now educational webcasts and  Sphinn.com, SEM mainstay social community.

Recently I had the opportunity to pose questions regarding  SMX Advanced, a brilliant 2 day SEM event he (and industry luminary Chris Sherman) sequence annually in Seattle.  ‘Advanced sold out in 2007, 2008 and is on track to do so again this year. Earlybird rates expire May 2 so register now to guarantee your attendance June 2 & 3, 2009.

We also discussed Danny’s passion for search, suggestions for Twitter, “tough love” for Microsoft Search and his recent move back to the United States after living in England.

Marty: Thanks for taking time to be with our readers Danny. You have been a search writer for a very long time — basically from the earliest days. What makes you so incredibly passionate about our industry?

Danny: I don’t know that there’s a single answer. Perhaps it’s because I have been involved in chronicling it from the beginning. It’s kind of like seeing your kid grow up, I suppose – you really care about how they’re developing. Not that search marketing is my kid, or that I’m its parent. Probably more like anyone who has watched a child grow up – you want to see it do well, regardless of your parental relationship.

While the industry has matured, there’s still so much growing for it to do. We constantly have a new stream of tactics and opportunities that arise which need to be explained. I love doing that type of writing, trying to explain and simplify things for people. And given that it is still so young, there’s also the opportunity to help influence and shape the industry.

The industry still retains a lot of community spirit, as well. Old timers help newcomers; newcomers have interesting ideas and takes on the space that help revitalize old timers.

Marty: You’ll be moderating a Twitter & Search session at SMX Advanced. Twitter conversations (Micro-blogging) move at a much different speed than GoogleBot. How will users’ ability, to search transient conversational waves, impact the world of search? In your wildest dreams, how would you like to see Twitter evolve?

Danny: I’d like to see paid search ads come to Twitter Search. I think there’s a place for people to place persistent messages in front of those seeking real time help. If your cable goes down, and lots of people are suffering the same outage, there’s a huge opportunity for alternative providers to step forward. Or there’s opportunity for the company having issues (ahem, looking at you, Time Warner) to say they’re aware of the problem and link over to status updates.

I suppose better tracking tools would be nice. The ability to have keyword-based tweets flow into your profile would be nice. I wish I could say I have a huge laundry list of other suggested improvements, but I think the service is still evolving. And where it lacks features, there’s a huge ecosystem around it adding enhancements.

Marty: How is the Search Marketing Expo conference series different from other marketing conferences? How “advanced” is the content at SMX Advanced?

Danny: I’ve been producing search marketing conferences literally since we first had search marketing conferences. So I guess SMX is different in that between Chris Sherman and myself, I don’t know of any other series with that much experience, with that many shows under their belts. I’d like to think experience makes for an outstanding event.

We’ve had years of figuring out what people want, things they want improved, how to help craft great sessions. That’s what we’re delivering with SMX – outstanding content, along with a great conference experience. Yes, we feed you well at the shows – but it’s both feeding your belly and your mind.

As for SMX Advanced, I think the content is pretty advanced. We’re really specific with those who speak – you’ve got to wow your peers. The same-old, same-old won’t work. You’ve got an audience that expects great content, and no one wants to disappoint.

The atmosphere also helps. The show is designed for vets. While we love welcoming in beginners, our SMX West and East shows have content more designed for them (as well as people of all skill levels). SMX Advanced is all advanced, all the time.

No one’s going to ask if you know what a meta tag is, what PageRank is or what nofollow means. We assume you’ve graduated from all that – and not having to slow down with the fundamentals means the conversations start at a high level

Marty: Microsoft’s President of Online Services, Qi Lu, is keynoting at SMX Advanced. Do you have any advice for him about Microsoft Live Search?

Danny: Well, my Tough Love For Microsoft Search piece had plenty of advice that I hope the folks there are considering. It really was meant with an emphasis on the love part, because I do want Microsoft to succeed. We’re better with healthy competition in search.

Probably the biggest advice is managing expectations. We’re expecting Microsoft to rollout a new brand and a new search interface this year – rumor is, in conjunction with SMX Advanced. That would be pretty cool. And you’ll want people pumped up about the new challenge to Google.

But you have to help ensure that people don’t expect the changes are going to leapfrog Microsoft ahead of Google or result in sudden massive gains. It’s yet another step in what’s a long process. That’s a difficult marketing balancing act to do. I know Microsoft understands that challenge. I don’t envy them having to walk it!

Marty: You’ve recently moved back to California from England. What’s the best part about being back in California? Do you miss anything about the UK?

Danny: The best part is just being back “home,” to a place that feels like home. England’s great in many ways, but it’s not where I was raised. Certainly the weather is welcome. Lots of sun, and I can get out and do an end-of-the-day rollerblade along the beach.