The Future of Search

Tonight I am on a plane to Stockholm to talk at SMX. One of my two talks is on “The Future of SEM/SEO”. I feel honored to have been asked to talk on this topic, albeit for just 10 minutes, because my co-presenter is Bill Hunt of Global Strategies, who is also the author of “Search Engine Marketing Inc.” which he co-authored with Mike Moran.

I’ve talked on the Future of Search before, but the world really does change quickly and to me, what has been really burning on my brain recently is just what happens when marketers are able to tap into aggregated personalized data. You may or may not have stopped to think about why Facebook is free… but here’s a three minute video which will probably put those thoughts in context. But the video is only the start of the long term vision…

The video maker makes an odd conclusion at the end, which I don’t agree with, but in any event, this is the tip of the iceburg really. What happens when the Facebook data is overlaid with data from (say) ping.fm or another service that links all your logins together, and then this data is linked with data continually transmitted back to base from (say) your web browser and overlaid again with the profiles of people going to sites tracked using and analytics system that reports back to the mother ship?

What will happen is the complete opposite of the video makers end piece. We as marketers will be able to target right down to the individual, influencing them at regular intervals through the day. You could very realistically deliver adverts to ONLY leaders of specific organisations, planting doubts in their core belief systems. Darren Brown would have a field day. Don’t believe me? Then imagine this level of influence in Derren’s hands and see how marketers of the future (if not the present) will be able to using this. This should just about convince you:

So the non-scalable part of Derren’s trick here is the amount of effort he went to in the above video to be able to do that trick. But an aggregated media database able to target you right down to your choice of passwords gives a scalable way to completely change a person’s view on almost anything.

So I do not see an explosion of consumption as the first video suggests, I see the change for this system to change advertising from charging a few pennies per thousand ad impressions, to charging a few thousand just to be able to control the messaging seen by almost a single individual.

I do not know how you can possibly regulate such an industry. Who would be able to say what was advertising and what was coersion? One is a clever profession, whilst the other is illegal in many countries. Definiing an ethical standard as an advertiser is really important here. This can be used for good – persuading Amy Winehouse to go to rehab of her own accord, or targeting would be criminals to help them change their ways. But it could also be a force for evil – getting people to gamble when they are most desprate for money – or turing an honest man into a religious fanatic or terrorist.

Or what if you used it to overthrow a government legitimately? Imagine if you could convince people that Obama was a muslim? or that the Earth was only 6,000 years old. In the face of every fibre of your being knowing these things can’t be true, I wonder how many people you could get believing such fantasies?

Google erodes corporate privacy rights

Google have just changed the terms of use for Google analytics. More about the change below. But first my rant…

Isn’t it about time small companies started getting similar rights online to those of individuals? I don’t use Google Analytics much – because I worry about giving my sales data to the very company that changes the cost of my traffic based on a variety of undefined metrics. The same company who’s directors have a moral obligation to maximize the revenue for their shareholders. Not mine.

I do use Google Analytics on Dixonjones.com though. Let’s face it, until a few weeks ago it was the best free analytics tool in the market. So I looked at my mediocre stats just now (well… I haven’t actually LOOKED yet…) I saw the following “stick em up” message as I logged in:
Google Analytics Data Sharing Settings
In order to improve your experience with Google products, Google Analytics is updating its data sharing policy. You now have the ability to share your Analytics data with other Google services. This will improve integration, enable additional features in Google’s advertising services (including Google Analytics, AdWords and AdSense) and improve your experience with these products.
Press “Accept” to enable data sharing between Google Analytics and other Google services or for additional options, choose “More data sharing options”.
BIG ACCEPT BUTTON
Remind me later | More data sharing options | Do not share data | Learn more
Now it looks to me like they have just made me accept allowing Google the RIGHT to charge me more for traffic based on what they know about my site if they should so desire.
Doesn’t it mean that to you?
So – I could of course – reject the notion, but Google has been built on offering you something you want, in exchange for giving up something you don’t worry about too much. But every time you give something up, we really can’t mentally recall the inter-relationships between all of the things we have agreed to. Like those Adwords terms of use? Those Google Docs terms of use? and more recently Google Health… where they are giving you access to YOUR OWN medical records. Now I don’t mean to sound like a paranoid android here but… OK. I do mean to sound like a paranoid android. This is getting absurd. Viacom needs to spend millions defending their business model, and individuals have the protection of governments at least in theory in the UK but smaller companies really don’t have anywhere to turn, nor do they have the will to even try.
Ironically, Google feels justified to demand privacy laws of the US government for individuals at the very same time that it erodes the rights of businesses on the web.
In the UK we assume that the monopoly laws that protect us apply in other parts of the world. They don’t. In the US, the “right” way to do business is to be seen to entirely demolish your competition until you are the last man standing. Every other website on the planet apart from Google is going to eventually have to decide… are you with Google or against Google? It’s going to be hard to stand against something that large. It will be worse than not paying taxes.