What Had Us Buzzing At The Search Insider Summit?

By Aaron Goldman, VP Marketing & Strategic Partnerships
Appeared In MediaPost’s Search Insider

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in another enjoyable Search Insider Summit. Ask anyone who's attended any of the past 3 Summits and they'll tell you that SIS has emerged as one of the best sources of intimate search conversation on the conference circuit. Just as SES has become the premier show for search education, SIS has become the leading destination for search speculation. Rather than spend time focusing on the tactical elements of search, the format and content of SIS is geared towards working together to ponder and shape the future of search.

This forward-looking focus is evident in the Buzz-o-Meter I tracked over the past 2 summits.

You've Come a Long Way, Baby

To provide a benchmark for analyzing last week's SIS Buzz-o-Meter, I suggest a quick review of the Top 10 buzzwords from the November '06 summit.

At the last show, a lot of attention was showered upon the role of search against delivering on branding metrics. Yahoo had just introduced the concept of assist-tracking, and marketers were laser-focused on ways to measure engagement with search placements and post-click activity. The other major theme was integration, with lots of discussion around best practices for managing search holistically across platforms like mobile, local, email, etc.


So what was on our collective mind in Bonita Springs? The early-morning sessions on day 1 set the tone for conversation centered around the guiding principles of search and the applications of search construct to other platforms. From there, the buzz shifted to how search is impacting and is being impacted by various macro conditions and sociological trends. These themes permeated much of the dialogue throughout the conference and are reflected in the Top 10 buzzwords from last week's SIS:

1. Transparency. This topic is guiding a good deal of M&A activity and innovation within the search space. Whether it's Yahoo's acquisition of Right Media or Google's buying DoubleClick (and its new ad exchange) a move towards transparency in the marketplace is at the heart of many of today's business models. The theme of transparency bubbled up to the surface at the outset of the Summit, when Jeremy Crane of Compete used it as a call-to-arms of sorts to his search marketing brethren.

2. User-centricity. It seems like user experience is at the root of every major announcement from the Big 4. As long as GooHooLivAsk keeps the end-user in mind throughout the business and product development processes, it will continue to create win-win opportunities for the engines, consumers, marketers, and publishers alike. User-centricity was also a recurring theme in the SEM Review Live, as Gord Hotchkiss (Enquiro) and Patrick Garret (Outrider) emphasized the need for marketers to create more user-focused web properties.

3. Content. Major brands are starting to realize the power of their content to do the work that had been primarily reserved for the Web site: attract and retain visitors and customers. What they're struggling with is the fact that unlocking your content to make it findable means losing a degree of control. Marketers need to accept the fact that the days of controlling the message are over. To use a clichéd phrase (isn't that what this column is about, anyway?) -- the medium is the message. And, since there's no way to control the medium, your best bet is to make sure you're included in it at multiple touchpoints.

4. Analytics. We're definitely getting smarter about this here search thing. But we're still looking for new ways to better measure the impact of search on other channels -- and vice versa.

5. Community, Connection (tie). See my blog post and Gord's last Search Insider column for the scoop here.

6. Integration. Seems like integration has now become a prerequisite for search marketing. The chatter has evolved from the importance of integration to the challenges in making it happen. From mobilizing multiple constituencies within a marketer's organization to ensuring multiple agencies are working together cohesively, the hurdles encountered when trying to integrate search into the mix remain a barrier to optimal performance.

7. Discovery, Personalization (tie).
Discovery -- a topic both David Berkowitz and I have taken up in previous columns -- becomes crucial when it comes to areas like video search, in which users don't necessarily know what they are looking for and/or just want to be entertained. This is where personalization comes in -- the next wave of search innovation is going to be focused on the one-to-one relationship between the user and the engine. For what it's worth, I have some concerns about the scalability of personalization and its potential for creating self-fulfilling profile prophecies -- but more on that in a future column.

8. Social, Mobile, Video (tie).
Emerging platforms are very much top-of-mind for marketers looking for ways to harness the power of search in different environments.

9. Funnel.
Still a lot of talk around the role search plays in guiding consumers through the purchase funnel, from awareness to consideration to engagement to action to re-engagement to retention.

10. Intent.
Content's better half speaks to the beauty of the query and its innate ability to tell us what someone is looking for. A search engine's ability to map intent to content is what sets it apart from all other platforms. What's needed now, as Esther Dyson preached, is an application that marries intent not just to content but to (inter)action.

The Quotable SIS

Last week I took my buzz monitoring one step further by compiling many of the top quotes from the summit. Stay tuned for my next column as I give out awards for best quotes in categories like Best Analogy, Most "Out There," and Scary Because It's True.

Until then, buzz off!!


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