All the Buzz That's Fit to Print

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

It’s time to reveal numbers 6 through 10 in the Search Insider Summit Buzz-o-Meter. To all those who think I should’ve built some suspense in my last column, rather than crowning the top five right off the bat, I say, “Buzz off!”

Here's a quick recap of the most dropped buzzwords at SIS Captiva Island.

1. Google

2. Clicks

3. Social, Facebook (tie)

4. Integration

5. Conversation

Now here's the rest of the buzz, cuz…

6. Branding

On the heels of Gian Fulgoni's call to arms over non-clicks, summit chatter quickly turned to how marketers can use search to achieve non-direct response goals. Collectively, we've been trying to crack the branding nut for some time but have little hard data to prove the impact search has on moving the needle.

The buzz around branding spilled over from Captiva, as Gord Hotchkiss addressed the topic in his past two Search Insider columns, asking, "How much would you pay for unclicked search ads?" before exploring Branding, the Mind, and Search.

Gord is skeptical that search alone can drive deep brand engagement and affinity. He argues that search ads don't need to capture people's attention because people volunteer it as they gather information about an upcoming purchase. Accordingly, Gord says search ads don't make their way into people's working memory and, thus, have little chance to make a lasting brand connection.

As always, Gord's arguments are compelling — especially when backed with neurological research — but I firmly believe you can brand with search as people don't just search when they're looking for something to buy. By targeting queries indicative of a desired audience profile, marketers can demonstrate their relevance even when people aren't searching for their specific product or service — e.g., Pampers buying the keyword "babysitters" to reach moms.

7. Data, Analytics (tie)

Clearly, advanced search insights lay at the intersection of data and analytics.

Analytics has been a top buzzword for three summits running now and, while we've seen great progress in terms of the investment marketers and agencies are making in data analytics technologies, the consensus seems to be that too often these tools are not being properly deployed.

Craig Macdonald of Covario used a great analogy during the "Fast Forward 2013" panel –"Omniture is like the Hotel California. Data checks in but doesn't check out." In other words, many marketers are plunking down hefty budgets to install robust analytics tools but don't have the wherewithal or resources to mine the data and put it to good use.

Perhaps the only way to cross the chasm here is for companies to align their marketing departments more closely with their business intelligence functions. James Lamberti of comScore said it best on that same panel, predicting that in 2013, "marketing, analytics, and technology will be sharing a cube and singing kumbaya."

8. Strategy

Summit MC Gord Hotchkiss set the stage for an acute focus on strategy with his recent exploration of just what it means to be strategic and how you can tell a strategy when you've found one.

In fact, the first session following Gian Fulgoni's keynote was titled "The Strategy of Search." One solid nugget from that panel came courtesy of fellow Search Insider Gerry Bavaro, who defined strategy in SEM as "intent that can achieve goals through relevant tactics."

Over the next three days many a new and innovative application of search was shared. The question, of course, remains if these were strategies or tactics we were discussing. Rather than open that can of worms here, suffice it to say that one marketer's strategy is another marketer's tactic.

9. Twitter

Not sure why this came up so often during SIS, as I see little connection between Twitter and search, beyond the fact that both require efficient use of limited characters of text. Maybe it was Persia Tatar from MediaPost tweeting every couple minutes about the goings-on in Captiva. Or was it Amy Worley from H&R Block — aka the Social Media Queen — schooling everyone on how marketers can leverage Twitter? Or perhaps it was the musings of SIS programmer David Berkowitz on listening to and searching tweets. Whatever the reason, there's no denying that Twitter is the new "it" thing. Only time will tell if this fad has staying power and what, if any, true application it has to search marketers.

10. Mobile, Local (tie)

Here's another combo that's been a staple of my buzzword bingo since the first summit I attended. Every year seems to be the year for mobile and local to emerge as game-changers. And, while we've seen some great innovation in the local and mobile space, we're still a ways off from these platforms gaining the scale needed to warrant significant budget allocation. One interesting thread around mobile emerged from the breakout session led by Dan Perry of The question arose, "How do you define mobile?" — is it just WAP sites or any digital experience that lives on a mobile device?

Missing In Action

I was happy to see one glaring omission from this Summit's buzz breakdown — Click Fraud. Methinks we've finally shaken that thorn in our sides — not that it's gone away, but at least it's not distracting us anymore.

And then there was one topic I was surprised didn't make the list — Video. There was very little talk about video search despite the expanded roll-out of Universal Search and the continued growth of companies like Blinkx and ClipBlast. I think it might have something to do with the fact that no one's cracked the code yet on how to properly monetize that space.

Where Do We Go From Here?

In reviewing the Top 10 buzzwords from SIS Captiva, it's telling that none of these topics are really search-specific. I'll pick it up here in my next column and ponder the implications of the de-searchification of search marketing — it's something that's been driving me buzz-erk for some time.


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