Steve Ballmer must recognize the importance of search engine optimization. Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan finally convinced Microsoft's CEO into keynoting the SMX West conference in Santa Clara, Calif. in March.
It appears this will become the first time Ballmer has addressed the SEO community in a public forum outside a Microsoft event.
Sullivan says Ballmer has a lot to talk about. Since Bing was launched in mid-2009, site relevance has risen. Sullivan points to the mapping tool, scrolling images and an overall better product than what Microsoft has delivered in the past.
Some in the SEO community say Ballmer wants to connect with webmasters. Ballmer's message could be "...trust us, buy ads," according to one source. "Give webmasters information and they feel more at home with you, and buy more services," he adds.
Others remain more skeptical. One SEO expert in a forum pointed to Microsoft's continued focus on change to become a more formidable competitor to Google. Microsoft's platform is getting "less stupid," he says. When I join the forum to ask someone to define "less stupid," Thomas Fjordside, an SEO and webmaster in Demark, jumps in the conversation to tell me it means not having to hit "the same page 15 times in two second" to get something accomplished.
Sullivan recently visited Bing headquarters. I ask him if anything surprised him about the visit, and he tells me about how all the employees are in one 26-story building. "It's a huge, giant skyscraper and it symbolized to me just how many people are involved with Bing, and it's no small task," he says. "Google has many more people, but they're spread out. You don't tend to question how many people Google has involved. You know they have many people involved. Microsoft fills the entire building. It's called the Bingplex."
Among the questions Sullivan plans to ask Ballmer are how Microsoft plans to compete against Google, what progress he sees Bing has made since the launch, what Microsoft will do if Google exits China, and if Microsoft will ever power search on Apple's iPhone.
Ballmer agreed to keynote the upcoming SMX West conference long before Sullivan wrote a critique of Bill Gates' new blog, Gates Notes. Sullivan's post also provides tons of free SEO advice. Evidently that's one thing you can give the richest man in the world that he didn't have before.
And as an example of one-on-one conversations through social media, Sullivan sent Gates a Twitter message in which he responds: "@dannysullivan, thanks for the advice -- the people who work on the site are on this now, should see improvements tonight."