Search Insider Summit Buzz-o-Meter

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

Another successful Search Insider Summit is in the books. For a complete recap of SIS Captiva Island, check out the coverage in the MediaPost Raw blog. For those of you who just want to cut to the chase and put a finger on the pulse of the search world, allow me to present the first installment of my biannual SIS Buzz-o-Meter.

To see the evolution of the conversation, let’s first review the top buzzwords from the 3 previous summits. This should provide a good backdrop for the key themes in Captiva.

December 2007 - Park City

1. Consumers
2. Universal
3. Big Agencies
4. Query
5. Facebook
6. Analytics
7. Recession
8. Mobile
9. Widgets
10. Transparency

May 2007 - Bonita Springs

1. Transparency
2. User-centricity
3. Content
4. Analytics
5. Community, Connection (tie)
6. Integration
7. Discovery, Personalization (tie)
8. Social, Mobile, Video (tie)
9. Funnel
10. Intent

November 2006 - Palm Springs

1. Branding
2. Integration
3. Engagement
4. Assists
5. Mobile, Local (tie)
6. Long Tail
7. E-mail
8. Click Fraud
9. Truthiness
10. Relevance

Without further ado, here are the most-dropped buzzwords from SIS May 2008 - Captiva Island.

1. Google

It’s quite ironic that Google was the word thrown around more than any other at the summit despite not having a single representative onsite — unless you count the DoubleClick guys, who are still getting their Google sea legs under them.

I’d like to think it had something to do with the spotlight I shined on the little engine that could during my recent four-part rampage on not-so-natural-born Google killers, but that would be giving credit where it’s not due.

Just as Google has become the number 1 Internet destination in the U.S. without doing any consumer advertising, Google found a way to be top of mind at the summit without actually being there.

One of the most memorable quotes from SIS was “Search is God.” Knowing that most people use the words “search” and “Google” interchangeably, perhaps we should not be surprised by the omnipresent nature of Google — aka the Big G.

As for the context with which Google was mentioned throughout the summit — for the most part, it was attendees using Google generically for “search engine.” For example, “When optimizing your Web site, Google looks for a number of signals about your site’s relevance to the query.” One could have said, “Google, Yahoo, Live Search, and Ask look for…” but that’s a whole lot of syllables — especially when the point can be made with just one and still be 70% comprehensive.

2. Clicks

Gian Fulgoni set the tone for a lot of banter about clicks and non-clicks (note: I counted both variations when tallying the results for my buzz index) with his day-one keynote, “Whither the Click.” Gian preached that marketers are putting too much emphasis on the click. Given that 95% of all paid search impressions on Google (there we go again) do not result in a click, focusing only on the ones that do is missing the forest for the trees and leaving green on the table.

3. Social, Facebook (tie)

There was a lot of discussion about the impact of social networking on search. One point of view was that, as social nets improve their ability to present relevant content to consumers based on their interests and their peers’ interests, people will search less. Another thread was around search engines incorporating social connections into their algorithms as a means of personalization.

Just as Google was used as the default to refer to search engines, Facebook was used interchangeably with social networks, indicative of just how dominant it has become in share of mind — if not share of use.

4. Integration

A popular topic at each of the past four summits, integration is still being bandied about in aspirational tones. No one questions the importance of integrating search into the larger marketing mix — but no one claims to have figured out the right way to make it happen.

Through some of the breakout sessions, we were able to identify some key challenges and make headway toward practical solutions. First, we determined that cross-channel optimization starts with cross-channel monitoring. Then we settled on some solid baby steps toward integration and convergence.

5. Conversation

Speaking of the breakout sessions, this SIS, more than any of the prior ones — or any other conference on the circuit, for that matter — boasted excellent opportunities for meaningful conversation. Summit programmers Gord Hotchkiss and David Berkowitz made a concerted effort to create an agenda that would allow for both structured and unstructured dialogue. This manifested itself in an interesting way — people were actually having conversations about conversations. Accordingly, the word “conversation” made it to number 5 on my buzz-o-meter.

Here’s an example of how this would play out — “I was having a conversation with Mark from Autobytel about the importance of focused content for SEO, and…” Here’s another example — “At dinner I sat with Kristen, Jamie, and Melissa, er… Melinda from SMG Search and we were having a conversation about avoiding people on Facebook.” (Sorry, inside joke).

To Be Continued

Stay tuned in two weeks when I round out the buzz-o-meter with entries 6-10. I’ll also cover the buzzwords that weren’t — once-hot industry topics that have faded from memory and were barely mentioned during SIS. Finally, as Gord discussed in his recent column, I’ll add my perspective on what exactly it means that the buzz-o-meter did not feature any topics that were specific to search.

Until then, keep the buzz on ice and the conversation on blast.


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