Barry Diller on Search

Barry Diller was the keynote speaker at the recent Search Engine Strategies (SES) Conference in New York City. In his session interview with Danny Sullivan, he discussed the exciting new changes happening at, formerly Ask Jeeves.

Even though Diller joked that if he pushed a button on a computer, the room might explode, he imparted some wonderful words of wisdom to attendees. I’d like all search engine marketers, optimizers, online marketers, and Web site owners to benefit from Diller’s statements.

No Quick Fixes

“None of this stuff will happen overnight,” said Diller. “Search evolves. If the idea is good, people [will] allow it to come into the DNA of the world.

“I don’t expect great earnings to come from Ask for some time,” he continued. “With any idea, you need to be somewhat patient.”

Wow! A person who’s relatively new to the search and information-retrieval arena (at least compared to me) made these insightful statements. A media mogul who doesn’t have the “I want it yesterday” mentality that seems to dominate the SEM (define)/SEO (define) industry.

Here is what I took away from Diller’s interview. Let’s start with search engine advertising.

Search Engine Advertising

A major benefit search engine advertising has over SEO as an online marketing tool is quick turnaround time.

If the ad is well written and encourages a click; the ad landing page delivers what searchers expect to see after the click; and the ad and landing page deliver ROI (define), then hey! Power to search engine advertising. I’ve seen high-quality ads and landing pages delivered in less than 24 hours.

We search marketers who specialize in search engine advertising understand how quick turnaround time can be. However, we also understand ROI isn’t as instantaneous as Web site owners would like it to be.

Are site owners and search marketers selecting the best keyword combinations? Is a popular keyword combination generating clicks to the landing page, but few searchers are taking the desired call to action? (Eye tracking can often be a useful tool on search results pages.) Is a less-popular keyword phrase generating outstanding follow-through but isn’t frequent enough to deliver ROI? People with an “I want it yesterday” attitude must recognize ROI calculation, keyword testing, ad placement, and landing page testing don’t happen overnight. In all likelihood, search marketers begin by casting a wide net, then refining their advertising strategy as more data arrive.

To repeat Diller’s applicable statement, “With any idea, you need to be somewhat patient.”

Amen to that. Lather, rinse, and repeat.


Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of touting SEO as an online marketing strategy is its lack of quick turnaround. Then again, fast turnaround is relative. People with an “I want it yesterday” attitude might believe the SEO process is too slow. Others might find SEO implementation within one month to be very fast.

In all honesty, if a Web site design isn’t naturally search-engine friendly, some modifications are more easily implemented than others. I encounter quick fix situations all the time. Sometimes, the robots exclusion file is the problem. That’s a two-minute solution if everything else about the site is kosher. Sometimes, the HTML title-tag content isn’t keyword focused. Rewriting a series of 40-60-character title tags isn’t too difficult or time-consuming for a professional copywriter who knows how to write search-engine-friendly content. Even the addition of a high-quality site map can solve a search-engine spidering problem.

Other SEO fixes, unfortunately, aren’t so quick and easy, particularly if a Web site’s site architecture and page layout are off. Any usability professional or information architect can tell you it can take weeks or months to come up with a site architecture that’s both search- and search-engine-friendly.

Additionally, many content management systems (CMSs) won’t allow unique title-tag content for each site page. Or, the CMS may generate URLs the Web search engines won’t crawl. Companies often spend thousands or millions of dollars on a CMS. Purchasing and implementing a new CMS is certainly no quick, easy process.

Perhaps the “I want it yesterday” mentality that bothers me most is link development. In a real-world situation, link development takes time. A person discovers a site’s content, finds it valuable, and links to it. Another person reads the same content, finds it valuable, and links to it. And so on.

Whenever I see high-quality link development in Web analytics software, I also see a steady upward curve. It’s never a spike. A spike in traffic is due to either an impatient Web site owner who purchases low-quality, free-for-all links to point to the site (a form of search engine spam) or a newsworthy item about the company.

High-quality link development takes time. Remember what Diller said, “None of this stuff will happen overnight. Search evolves. If the idea is good, people [will] allow it to come into the DNA of the world.”


I really enjoyed Diller’s session with Danny. It was informative and entertaining. If you ever get a chance to attend an SES conference, listen to the keynote speakers (especially if the speaker is Google’s Craig Silverstein — he’s funny). Inside the promotion-speak are some important words of wisdom.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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