Afterthoughts on SES New York City
A full week of client kick-offs on the West Coast and back home to NYC for a week (actually three days) of Search Engine Strategies has rendered O&P without a post the past two weeks. With so much going on I wanted to first share some thoughts on what was one of the more enjoyable and eventful SES shows I’ve been to. I’ll get into some strategy in the coming days.
Tuesday SES kicked off for me with an impromptu and enjoyable coffee with Phil Stelter from Range Media. Range is an SEM that really understands the importance of landing page optimization so discussion with Phil on my favorite multivariate test arrays was a perfect tune-up for the day.
My Tuesday morning presentation was on the Ads in a Quality Score World panel. Unlike Chicago this session was SRO in the large ballroom.
Also unlike Chicago Danny Sullivan was not moderating. In fact I really felt the absence of Danny’s presence at this show, his SES swan song. The most interesting notes from the panel were from Nick Fox at Google (“quality score is not a block box”….um, what?) and Brian Boland of Microsoft who mentioned the Live Search version of Quality Score will coming soon. I’m rooting hard for Microsoft to make some headway in search but they have some serious issues to overcome, namely huge issues for SEMs with their reporting and huge issues for consumers with their branding. They do have some killer tools in AdCenter as I’ve mentioned before. Check out the very cool keyword mutator.
Tuesday night was a great time at the now regular Vintage Tub & Bath Party. I had some great conversation with Scott Miller, CEO of testing company Vertster. We had a good laugh at the expense of some in our field that have talked bad about Taguchi methodology for years and are now talking it up. I also met Brian Smith from SingleFeed and ComparisonEngines.com. His product is really great for retailers and he owns the blogosphere for information on the comparison shopping engines. We had a lively conversation about UGC and online shopping in relation and the recent buzz about PowerReviews and our shared admiration for the way the gang at Bazaarvoice is going about their business. As far as dinner I had the pleasure of enjoying some filet mignon with the ever knowledgeable Sara Holoubek and the always entertaining Massimo Burgio. I also had a chance to chat with Rory Brown who runs SES as Managing Director of Incisive Media. SES NYC was their largest show ever and with their continued growth into shows for vertical search, and the rapid growth of search outside the US, the demise of SES with the departure of Danny has been greatly exaggerated.
Wednesday I walked into SES to see that Josh Stylman, my co-presenter on Tuesday and one of the nicer guys in this business just sold his company Reprise Media to ad agency behemoth Interpublic Group. The gang at IPG are getting a great company, a real leader in the SEM space and I wish Josh and his partner Peter the best of luck with the move.
This was the beginning of one of my big observations for the week (book-ended by Google’s purchase of DoubleClick) that search finally has a seat at the marketing table. I would say this is completely because of the quantitative nature of our marketing. We know what consumers are thinking and doing by day of week, hour of day. We know the very day when consumer sentiment and goals change between and within seasons. We know what messages drive engagement and what creative drives action. Search, once the bastard child of marketing is big enough to have two conferences (SMX and SES) and a presence in every major agency conglomerate. I wonder if analytics, testing and optimization is far behind?
Wednesday afternoon Jamie Roche, esteemed CEO of OTTO Digital gave a great presentation on Campaign Optimization titled Click, Stick, Close. Between OTTO Digital’s three presentations at SES we covered a lot of ground, shared some great metrics, strategies and I hope really inspired people to test and optimize. James and I both shared ways to optimize and test without even spending money on tools and technology, and I’m not even talking about Google’s Website Optimizer. Speaking of Google after Jamie’s session I had the chance to meet and talk with Tom Leung, the Product Manager of Website Optimizer who also spoke on Jamie’s panel. Tom was really honest about his assessment of Google place in the optimization market. He understands the needs for enterprise customers to have tools like Offermatica to improve their ROI in PPC. His desire to grow the market and educate marketers is shared by Jamie and myself. I hope we’ll be working with Tom and the folks at Google to help spread the optimization gospel this year.
Thursday I presented on Ad Testing Research and Findings. I shared a deep dive into the branded keyword test we ran on PPC ads verses organic and some interesting results on element contribution for the ad titles, descriptions and urls from multivariate tests on ads.
I’ve really enjoyed sharing this panel the past two sessions with Gord Hotchkiss, one of the leading researchers on searcher behavior. It’s always interesting to see his latest findings on the impact the various displays and layouts of ads have across the engines on user behavior. Andrew Goodman who moderated the panel was nice enough to extend an invitation for me to speak at SES Toronto and I look forward to being there in June (though unfortunately the Blue Jays will be on the road).
I also had a chance Thursday to catch up with Barry Schwartz and congratulate him on all the great work he’s doing at Search Engine Land with Danny. The quality of the information and writing over there is just first class. I also had the pleasure of being interviewed by Webmasterradio.fm and by a film crew (though I forget exactly where they were from). Hopefully I said something interesting.
All in all what I really enjoy about SES is the chance to get together with the smartest folks in Search and share in the success that all our hard work has brought forth. Sadly I was not able to spend quality time with some of the folks I was looking forward to including Avinash Kaushik, Rand Fishkin, Lee Odden and Chris Zaharias. That’s probably enough name dropping for the next six months. Next stops on the SES train for me are Toronto and Miami. In the words of Buddy Holly, Rave On!