I went to the SD Forum Search SIG over at the Microsoft Silicon Valley campus last night. The first session was a talk between John Battelle and his old editor at MacWorld, Dan Farber (now Editor in Chief at ZDNet). Then there was a panel discussion featuring the viewpoints of four companies that are building vertical search engines

I must say I like these smaller gatherings better. When John asked how many in the audience were working on their own search engine, almost 30% of the room of 150-odd folks raised their hands! With such a knowledgeable audience, the questions were good and the speakers could go deep into what interested them.

Some notes:

Battelle: the web 1.0 companies that survived were the ones that created platforms, not web sites.

What is the number one frustration users have with search engines? Bad results.
What is the number one frustration search engine companies have? Bad questions.

Search marketing is not advertising – it’s a sales channel. If done correctly, every dollar you put in should return more than what is invested in revenue. It’s measurable so budgets can be held accountable. This is why, to a certain extent, John Battelle feels that Google’s dependence upon advertising revenue is somewhat immune to any downturn in the traditionally cyclical advertising market. It’s not advertising, it’s sales. More on this on CrunchNotes.

Interesting note – while one of the keys to success is a platform which improves based on user interaction, none of the companies that were demoed yesterday had a real social aspect to them. To that end, they are more nodes for information than hubs of activity. Opportunity?