One of the benefits of living and working in Park City is its close proximity to Salt Lake City and the benefits of a metropolitan area – like professional organizations. A great new(er) organization in Salt Lake City is SLC|SEM, a group dedicated to search marketing – a fairly geeky specialty but one which is increasingly important as travel planning shifts more and more online. I’ve meant to get to one of their monthly meetings but between work and family commitments I’ve been unable until this past Wednesday, which happily was an event which featured a talk by Danny Sullivan, the head of Search Engine Land, and evidently an ardent snowboarder who has discovered that Utah does indeed have the “Greatest Snow on Earth.”

Danny opened with a nice rundown of how search engines have evolved over the years, which he highlighted via the Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors:

SEO Table The Periodic Table Of SEO Ranking Factors

This is definitely a useful visual summary of the various ranking factors that go into search engine rankings and one that is continually evolving.

From here the talk moved to current state of search – obviously Google dominates, but social search is evolving (although frustratingly fragmented with Google on its own, Twitter off to another side and Facebook in with Bing) and mobile is another fast-moving area with apps providing a very interesting space for search to evolve further as well. He mentioned using Foursquare as a discovery tool, or shaking the Urban Spoon app as ways that search has moved from the “Search Box”.

He also provided some insights in how people are using search on their desktops vs mobile including this great comparison by time of day from Google Inside Search (scroll the video to the below noted times):

Scroll to 5:16 to see desktop search graph by time of day

Scroll to 6:12 to see mobile search graph by time of day

He also offered up several more examples such as showing the bump in Valentine’s Day restaurant reservation searches on mobile vs desktop in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day – certainly something one might expect, but it was interesting to see hard supporting data.

I also found the way Danny dissected personalized, in particular with geo-location to be interesting in that he noted the flaw in trying to offer local search results to a searcher when they are looking for results that are out of area. If he was looking for “snow report” while he was in California still, would he want any California area resorts’ snow reports? Probably not, but how does a search engine gather enough signal to serve up the correct results – tough issue and one that they’re doing incredibly well at, at least not yet.

There was also an Inside the Actor’s Studio-style questioning in which Danny described his least favorite thing about search, which was “Inbound Marketing”, but only in the way that people throw the phrase around without delving into (or maybe really understanding) the various online marketing strategies which form it.

I’d highly recommend attended an SLC|SEM event in the future, particularly if they continue to put up speakers of the calibre and interest of Danny.

Update 3/5 – here’s the deck from the presentation: