SEARCH: digiVOX Insights


As part of the ongoing education process of trying to truly understand SEARCH online BizRadio took this opportunity to ask other industry players their thoughts on the topic. We chatted to Terence Da Silva – Head 0f Search Digivox | @digiVOX_SA

Search Origins? Where did it all begin?

The idea of interlinking computers to share data was first conceptualized at CERN in 1980. The idea was taken back to America where it was further developed on. However, as people needed the actual link in order to access the data they were looking for; it was very basic and required bulletin boards in order for information to be found.

This later lead to the invention of “spiders”.  Very simply, spiders were programs that worked on the premise that each page must be linked to another page by default. These “spiders” would access all the links on a specific page, initially only taking page description data and storing it in a database that could be accessed and searched using “regular expressions” (a piece of code designed to match text).

These “spiders” were the very first instance of search indexers, although rudimentary by today’s standards.

Over time, various companies such as WebCrawler, Netscape (Netscape Navigator) AltaVista and Google developed these “spiders” to a point where page content was analyzed in comparison to the page titles and descriptions. Since then, these algorithms have been closely guarded secrets, as they could be compared to the Coca Cola formula for each company.

Google’s dominance

In many consumers’ minds, search is synonymous with Google – how did Google become so dominant?

Google was not always the most popular search engine. I fondly recall using Netscape Navigator, as I found it to give the best results in the simplest fashion. By word of mouth I learned of Google, and the idea of simply typing in what I was looking for, and clicking on either “Search”, or “I’m feeling lucky” seemed quite trendy. I also enjoyed the fact that that I was not bombarded by data I was not looking for, as Yahoo had been doing, and continues to do today. The sheer simplicity of finding what was relevant without any extraneous data to load in a time of low bandwidth was uber-cool!

Another thing that made me switch from sites such as AskJeeves was the fact that each time I used Google, the results tended to become more refined, accurate and relevant. I found what I was looking for without having to bombard the search field without too many search terms, or, if I needed extremely specific data, I could in turn increase the length of my search query, and find what I was looking for.

Since then, I have never used another search engine, as the advancements in search that Google has made have not been matched by any other search engine in my humble opinion.

Where was Microsoft during this period?

At this point, Microsoft was busy developing a web browser after acquiring Netscape Navigator. They paid more attention to creating a great web browser instead of focusing on search engine technology. As a result, people tended to use their web browser (Internet Explorer) to connect to Google Search. This became easier for web users after the creation and implementation of the Google toolbar.

Why has it been so difficult for challengers to compete?

Google is a dynamic company that employs the most talented and creative script developers from around the world. They also have an excellent infrastructure that returns results instantly. Their results are always more relevant than other search engines (cannot comment on Baidu, as I do not use it). Their interface is not cluttered and people are always searching for the easiest method when looking for information.

Google has always been about understanding the web users need.

Google follows the principle of Occam’s Razor. Its simplicity for the web-user cannot be beat. It provides a simple solution to a complex problem, having a computer provide search results most relevant to a human.

Search Components. PPC, SEO, Natural search – to the ordinary marketer, this can be quite confusing, can you explain what PPC and SEO are and how they differ?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, and is seen as the method of increasing ranking on natural search engine results. These results not paid for advertisements. This is what makes it SEO so appealing.Natural Search is the non-paid search results that are generated by Search Engines. For example, the results that do not fall under the “Sponsored Links” tab in Google.

Many people make the mistake of making SEO changes after their website has been created. This leads to the assumption that SEO is separate from Website Development. This could not be further from the truth. SEO is in fact a component of website development, as SEO is merely the way webmasters should tag pages. SEO is simply describing the content and intent of the web page, and should already be optimised before the site is sent to search engines for URL addition. This also ensures a better page rank from the outset. To use an analogy, it’s like building a house with no windows, with the expectation of a lovely view, only to have to hire another contractor to knock out the walls and put windows in at a later stage.

Google Page Rank has also developed past the point where inbound links are the measure of a page’s relevance. Therefore, the idea of link-building has become obsolete to a point. The only way to ensure a good SEO rank is to ensure that your web developer comes highly recommended and does an outstanding job on the site content and meta-tagging. It could also be argued that a good SEM (Search Engine Marketing) PPC (Pay Per Click) campaign to drive initial traffic could help with SEO.

PPC SEM refers to an online marketing model whereby advertisers pay every time their ad is clicked upon. This model often runs on an auction pricing model.
There are many different Search Engines that offer a Pay-Per-Click Model – However, Google holds such a large market share that it is often not worth the effort to advertise on any other platform.

Pay-Per-Click can offer guaranteed results with regards to web visibility, as one can alter adverts and keyword bids to achieve a first page position. SEO by itself cannot guarantee this result, and takes far longer to garner results. A campaign ad can be changed within seconds, allowing specific promotions to be online almost instantly, which cannot be achieved through SEO

We have heard rumors that SEO is dying, is this true?

I don’t think so. Most people who require websites are still very naïve when it comes to choosing the right web developers. They also assume that they can get websites built at dirt-cheap prices. They also don’t know how to check the page source, nor could they interpret the script even if they knew how to. SEO will exist for as long as there are lazy web developers.

As long as developers don’t include SEO strategy from the onset however, others will continue to reap the rewards of fixing this costly oversight.

What is the most expensive paid search term?

Insurance and all related keyword phrases relating to insurance. In my experience in the domestic market the term “car insurance” is the highest paid search term.

Common Misconceptions. What are some of the common misconceptions when it comes to search with marketers?

Search is not the best channel for building a brand, but continually proves favorable results as a direct sales channel.

This is because many of the Search-focused agencies in existence still cling to the belief that brand bidding (bidding solely on the client’s brand name) is the best and safest way to generate ROI while maintaining good metrics. Therefore, they do not bid on the actual service which is more competitive and requires a solid knowledge of the market in order to keep ROI feasible. The non-brand keywords are called “generics”, and many agencies are moving away from bidding on them, yet they are fundamental in brand building.

International search trends. How important is search within the marketers mix today?

If you don’t have a website, and marketing activities linking to it, then your competitors will devour any potential profit you could have made – Unless of course you have an already established brand with strong market credibility. It may not be enough however, as although there is a strong culture of brand loyalty in South Africa, people are often looking for new and competitive products and services to enjoy.

In short – Highly important.

What are some of the key trends globally?

With the recessions occurring in certain European countries, many online marketers have found themselves having to attain new clients from other regions. For example, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Australia and the Southeast Asian region have become hot property in the PPC market.

Also, there has been a rise in mobile phone usage to access Search Engines. This has lead to a new emerging market for SEM sales.

YouTube advertisement is also on the rise, and we are seeing many major corporate clients using this service.

According to the Google Zeitgeist report, the top 10 rising search terms for 2011 were as follows:

  1. Rebecca Black
  2. Google+
  3. Ryan Dunn
  4. Casey Anthony
  5. Battlefield 3
  6. iPhone 5
  7. Adele
  8. A Chinese term I cannot pronounce (東京 電力) – Connected to Fukushima nuclear reactors
  9. Steve Jobs
  10. iPad 2

What are you excited about in 2012? Can we expect any surprises?

I predict that Facebook marketing will become a lot more result-orientated instead of a branding exercise. Currently, many people don’t know that by choosing the most exact demographic settings, (which are more plentiful than in Google), a great Return-On-Investment can occur. This is not an easy task to achieve however. Facebook is the new frontier, and even though creating custom pages via the API for the sake of short-term promotions such as the recent Hunters Urban Oasis Tour do produce some result, they do not produce measurable return-on-investment in terms of sales. Such a promotion is more of a traditional marketing strategy.

I predict that more domestic retailers will make use of the Facebook platform in order to sell online in 2012.

Search predictions?

With regards to Search predictions, I expect Google to continue to dominate any opposition. With regards to search terms, I cannot say as we live in ever changing times. Who knows what viral singer or new product becomes the new buzzword. I will however hazard a guess and predict that the Blackberry Playbook will become a very competitive term, but other than that, it will be business as usual in the SEM industry.

Local Market – How big is search locally? Why is this significant?

South Africa is a market where search still has a long way to go in terms of revenue share. Whilst this is great news for us Search Managers as there is clearly great potential, it does unfortunately also result in many unscrupulous people taking advantage of clients who are not well educated with regards to search. This in turn may create a negative perception for companies such as digiVOX, who pride ourselves on results.

At the end of the day, it’s about the return on investment, and selecting the appropriate channel that fits the brand is crucial.

What advice would you give marketers today?

There are always 3 things you need to remember:

  1. Use what you know. Learn more each day. Wash, rinse, repeat.
  2. Don’t trust other agencies with sensitive information. Keep things on a need-to-know basis.
  3. Always, always, always have the client’s best interests at heart. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your job comes before the client. The client IS the job.

Looking Ahead. So what can we expect in the next 3 – 5 years? Will someone challenge Google?

Google can buy any company that comes up with an algorithm that challenges its own. It employs the best minds from across the Globe. Its infrastructure is super massive.

Sure, they can challenge Google, but I would bet on Google, unless everyone speaks Chinese Mandarin in the next 5 years.

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    eBizRadio is a live multi- platformed social media service providing an online forum to the business community for holding conversations on the key issues related to specific businesses as well as availing a space for cross-business collaboration in response to key issues affecting the world of business. The place to go if you want to know about business and lifestyle

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