@SES: Winding Down

A successful SES New York is coming to a close. This was a significant event for many because it was the last SES show that Danny Sullivan will run.

Last night, Danny hosted his evening seminar, a bittersweet event that was essentially his swan song for SES. It ended in applause and a standing ovation for a smiling Sullivan. In true Danny Sullivan fashion, the event was very personal as he brought audience members he knows into the discussion, playfully “talking trash” and moving throughout the audience while passing the mic around.

The discussion was driven by audience questions but hit on many important areas including local. Google’s personalized search and a variety of SEO-related topics stood out. One audience member asked “who will win local?” to which Sullivan quickly responded half jokingly “no one.”

Expanding on this, he submitted that in his hometown in the U.K., local search is less relevant. There are no searches for “painters,” for example, because there is only one painter and everyone knows him (his name is Tony). This is an extreme example that points to some the varying relevance of local search in different population densities or local economies. To contrast this, however, the local search he engaged in while in Manhattan over the past few days proved disorienting because the competition in the local search space has driven dizzying array of providers and feature sets that have gotten ahead of themselves.

This gets to the fragmentation issue in local search that is somewhat proportionate to the fragmentation trend happening throughout the online media world. So with all the start-up local search destination sites, there will likely be a market shakeout at some point, in which the lucky ones will get acquired. It will be the major search players that will continue to dominate this space, and we’ll continue to see product development and investment, then consolidation. But no clear winner will emerge any time soon.

Also interesting was a walk down memory lane, prompted by an audience question about the most notable or embarrassing moments from past SES shows. Danny portrayed the first few shows (about 10 years ago) as him and a few others on stage with crickets in the audience. Google wasn’t invited back the second year because it wasn’t “relevant enough,” and Yahoo! PR wouldn’t give Sullivan the time of day. All those factors have clearly changed drastically, which is interesting to see. You can’t help but wonder, extrapolating forward, what degree of change is in store for us in the next 10 years of technology, online media and shifting markets.

Overall it was a great show, and the rapid-fire SES tour will continue. Danny meanwhile will go on to run Third Door Media and Search Engine Land. Congrats to Danny on a great run.

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