As the search engine space grows and companies proliferate, bloggers within the engines are becoming an important human voice and point of contact for the public, competitors, and SEOs. At the Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose this morning, Danny Sullivan hosted a panel with Matt Cutts from Google, Jeremy Zawodny from Yahoo!, Niall Kennedy from MSN, and Gary Price from Ask. Here are some of the views they shared on ‘Speaking unofficially as search engine bloggers’:
On keeping perspective:
Gary says he tries to walk the middle ground, blogging about MSN, Yahoo, and Google more than Ask—and the company encourages him to do so. All four say don’t let the PR department hinder them, though they sometimes give PR a heads-up. Also, though they write with independent voices, letting the company know a critical post is coming out will sometimes solicit more candid company updates. Gary says he tries to make Resource Shelf all things to all people—for the search companies, the SES crowd and library/reference professionals.
When company bloggers are the news:
Danny Sullivan asks if they avoid press coverage. Cutts says he just tries to be so monumentally boring and technical that the media won’t cover it, and says he’s been largely successful (though this editor disagrees that engagement quality is the cause). Zawodny says he keeps a news alert on his name, so he can sigh deeply every time a reporter attributes his comments in a Yahoo exposé. Kennedy says his blog has become one more end-point in a 72 million person company—helping people with specific needs connect with the company.
Are they PR guys?
Matt and Gary say no—Matt uses non-Google products (wordpress not blogger, etc) and Gary’s post up today is a positive piece on Google. While Matt says Zawodny is ballsy for listing out failures of Yahoo Finance, Jeremy follows up that indeed in some sense he is a PR guy. Once he let it slip that he hadn’t gone through media training, within a week that’s where he found himself.
“My exercise in figuring out where the line was repeatedly crossing it and then be told that I crossed it. Lawyers have come into my office three times.”— Zawodny.
Price says weekly emails are still crucial to distributing blog content, aside from an RSS feed—which is rising but still not familiar to the larger audience. Zawodny likes to schedule postings – rattling-off a few and letting posts distribute automatically.
Gary, self-described as not the biggest fan of RSS syndication, says Ask is now playing with displaying the last three updated posts from a related feed above the organic results. Zawodny says he likes the feature and has been using it.
“You can write for 45 min. and say what does and doesn’t work. Or you can talk for five minutes and if you’re lucky someone will transcribe it for you,” says Cutts on the advantage of video (in reference to his recent foray with vlogging). He says there have been 80,000 downloads of Cutts’ random SES video Matt did on a weekend while the wife was away, but he’ll primarily stick with his blog.
Gary says Jim Lazone and he are going to start a podcast. Perhaps one aimed at the SES crowd, and another at the K-12 crowd who need so much help in familiarizing wtih search.