The Buzz At The Search Insider Summit

By Aaron Goldman, VP Marketing & Strategic Operations
Appeared in MediaPosts’s Search Insider

JORDAN ROHAN'S OPENING KEYNOTE AT the recent Search Insider Summit set the stage for three days of stirring debate, keen insight, and dropping buzzwords like they were going out of style (which, as the word "buzz" suggests, they will--eventually). Aside from offering stock picks--and gloating over the successful tip he gave at the last Summit--Rohan pointed to Google's forays in print, radio, and video as evidence that the key to the future of search marketing is integration.

As fans of a certain Buzz Index know, there's nothing like buzz monitoring to really get the pulse of today's search world. So, for the duration of the Summit, I kept a running tally of search buzzword usage.

Below are cumulative figures representing the number of times each of the following terms was uttered by Summit speakers, along with some context and my ruminations:

1. Branding -- 27 drops

Yes, folks, this buzzword was dropped--as if it were hot--more than any other word at the Summit. It seemed like a single panel did not pass without someone offering up a new way to harness the power of search for driving brand awareness, preference, or purchase intent. This reminded me of Ad:Tech circa 2000, when everyone was focused on proving the value of general Web marketing for branding initiatives to break out of the direct response mold.

It seems that 42% of the online advertising pie is not enough for search execs, so branding is being brandished to conquer the rest of the marketing budget. I say, "less talk, more action, people." Where are all the case studies proving that search can move the needle on branding metrics? We all have anecdotal and intuitive evidence, but it's going to take one of the big three engines throwing down some serious coin on research--and maybe allowing panel recruitment off search results pages--for search to catch up to the years and years of data that shows the branding impact TV ads have on consumers.

2. Integration -- 24 drops

I should point out that this number is inflated due to Outrider's Chris Copeland repeating the word eight times during the last panel, after he found out I was keeping score. Even at 16 mentions, though, "integration" still earns the No. 2 spot on this list. Speakers and attendees alike were in agreement that search cannot live in a silo, and the most effective marketing programs incorporate and are informed by search.

3. Engagement -- 13 drops

Nope, there were no marriage proposals (that I know of--anything could have happened after Summit attendees closed down the bar at the resort the last night of the conference). With the focus on search as a branding tool, engagement emerged as the key metric for measuring the impact of search on purchase intent.

4. Assists -- 9 drops

This is the term Yahoo has introduced to speak to the ability of certain keywords to contribute to--or assist --a conversion event. It seems that this term has quickly become the Kleenex of the category and is being used to describe conversion contribution across the board. I hope this concept continues to gain traction -- anything that puts hard data against softer search metrics will help us fight the branding battle.

5. Mobile, Local (tie) -- 8 drops each

Fittingly, these two terms tied for fifth on this list. It was rare that one was mentioned without the other. More and more, as people look to the future of local search, mobile is emerging as the killer app. Certainly, the engines are all improving their local capabilities and enhancing the user experience with smart features and maps. However, it's the wireless carriers that hold the power as mobile content improves and WAP-supported handsets and Web sites proliferate. As I discussed in my last Search Insider column, "Is Google Celling Out?", it will be interesting to see how well the engines and carriers can get along. I don't think it's being overly dramatic to say that the future of local search depends on it.

6. Long Tail -- 4 drops

Still a lot of people wagging this buzzword around. Interesting to see the different uses, though. From describing keyword selection to content availability, the Long Tail has become the analogy du jour of media and marketing insiders.

7. E-mail -- 2 drops

E-mail is back, baby! Say what? And what does it have to do with search? That's what we all thought, too, until Craig Swerdloff from Return Path described how basic e-mail strategies can be used to improve search performance and vice versa. The gist of his POV can be found in a recent column he penned for MediaPost - "Leverage Search To Optimize E-mail List Rental." As an aside, I did look e-mail up in the Webster online dictionary--and apparently it is still hyphenated. Who knew?

8. Click Fraud -- 1 drop (tie)

Amazingly, it wasn't until the very last panel that anyone brought up click fraud. And it was in response to the question, "What topics are you surprised that we haven't covered yet at the Summit?" Could it be that click fraud has been relegated to mere fodder for the mainstream press looking for chinks in Google's armor? Or have we "insiders" just gotten tired of talking about it? I suspect it's a combination of both. It seems click fraud has become something of a non-issue, as most search agencies and internal marketing teams already have strategies in place for monitoring and acting on it--just like any other variable that contributes to poor campaign performance. And, clearly, the engines are working tirelessly on stopping it. At the end of the day, my guess is that click fraud went unmentioned because no one wanted to drain the positive energy in the room as panelist after panelist poured that great tasting search Kool-Aid.

9. Truthiness -- 1 drop (tie)

Stephen Colbert fans will applaud Chris Heuer from Social Media Club for using this term as he recommended best practices for leveraging social media. Take heed, floggers!

10. Relevance -- 1 drop (tie)

Somehow, despite the fact that relevance is the reason search marketing works so well, this term only got dropped once. I suspect that it's become second nature now to those in the search world. Let's hope that it's not being taken for granted, though, as search converges with the broader marketing world. Collectively, we need to find a way to make all advertising as relevant as search. Then we can flip the script and move from talking about how search can be used for branding, to how all media can be used for searching.

There you have it, folks--the topics that topped the charts at the Search Insider Summit. Until the next Summit--rumored to be in Vegas, New Orleans or Maui--buzz off!


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