An OMMA Journey: Search Past and Present

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

With the OMMA NY Global Conference & Expo kicking off tomorrow, I thought it'd be interesting to compare the agendas of the past 2 shows to this one and see what insights can be gleaned regarding the state of search.

Fans of my bi- annual Search Insider Summit Buzz-o-Meter will know I have a penchant for using trade show content and conversation as a gauge of where our industry is at and where we're headed.

To be sure, this is an exercise I performed not only as fodder for this column but as part of my duties as the programming chair for the Search Insider track at the conference.


The OMMA sessions are set up as a matrix of sorts. There are 4 main tracks: Content, Media, Marketing, and Advertising. Content is geared towards publishers and content producers. Media is aligned with media buyers and planners. Marketing focuses on the client-side perspective. And Advertising is centered around the art and science of online advertising for those creative types.

Within each general track are Insider tracks that drill down by topic rather than audience. These tracks include Search, Video, Email, Behavioral, Mobile, Metrics, Social, and Gaming.


Here's a look at the Search Insider track sessions from the past 2 OMMA NY conferences and the agenda for this year:

Click image for larger view
OMMA NY Past & Present Agendas


The first trend that pops out is the migration from a sole focus on landing pages in '06 to link building and video optimization in '07 to a broader view of SEO as Digital Asset Optimization in '08.

A term originally coined by Lee Odden of TopRank and elaborated upon by Chris Copeland in these pages, DAO has come to represent holistic SEO practices encompassing multiple forms of content beyond solely a marketer's Web site.

Fittingly, Odden will be gracing us with his presence on this panel on Thursday along with a number of other SEO, er... DAO experts.

We've also included a session for publishers who struggle with selling other media placements in a marketplace that's seeing search budgets grow at the expense of display. This had not been a major problem for media sales reps a couple years ago with a healthy economy and plenty of digital dollars to go around.


In 2006, media planners and buyers were trying to figure out how behavioral targeting and search fit together. Two years later, we're still waiting for the Big 3 to come up with a meaningful way for us to create scalable audience segments by overlaying search queries with other web activity.

The other main topic in '06 was extending reach through specialty engines. We've seen resurgence of late in alternative search engines with the much-hyped launch of Cuil and other innovative UI's like Viewzi and SearchMe, not to mention tools like KallOut that enable search sans browser. While it's not a topic at this year's OMMA, I've tried to put the focus back on the "other engines" by rolling out SERF -- Search Engine Rotation Fridays.

All that said, in my opinion, the biggest issue facing media folks today is the perception that agencies (specifically media agencies) have a diminished role in a world of search automation. We've assembled a panel to attempt to clarify exactly what the agency value prop is when marketers have access to tools that can do a lot of the heavy lifting in search program management. Dave Gould of Resolution Media has already laid out his POV and will be joined by a panel of fellow agency leaders and technology providers to debate this topic.


What jumps out here is how long it's taken to quantify if/how search impacts branding metrics. Just a few months ago, fellow Search Insider Gord Hotchkiss and I had a little back and forth on this topic, sending Gord off on a delightful 15-part series(and growing!) exploring the essence of branding and its intersection with search.

Tomorrow, both Google and Yahoo will be unveiling hard research that proves search can move the needle on brand awareness, consideration, and purchase intent -- and all that without even drawing clicks.

On Friday, we'll build off last year's session on integrating search and display with a broader conversation about breaking down the search silo among all forms of marketing.


Over the years, this track seems to be the X-factor from a search perspective. I suppose it's to be expected given that the target audience is creatives and, let's face it, search just isn't that sexy. Topics on this track have ranged from metrics and local to none-of-the-above. This year we're taking a hard nosed "Mythbusters" approach to cracking this X-files case. The goal is to dig into the data to help us mine the great database of intentions.


Stay tuned for my next column, when I share a recap of the conference and speculate on what the Search Insider track might at OMMA Global 2013.


Copyright © 2008 Resolution Media, Inc. All rights reserved.