The Buzz (and Lack Thereof) At The Search Insider Summit

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

Last week's Search Insider Summit was filled with compelling content, candid conversation and concrete takeaways -- sorry, ran out of Cs! There was one thing palpably missing though -- BUZZ.

Perhaps it was the state of the economy, or maybe it was the lack of snow in Park City, but SIS attendees were decidedly low-key, with no single issue, trend, topic or platform bubbling up and getting the crowd jazzed -- with the exception of the TV giveaway from

That said, there were some recurring themes woven throughout the panel and breakout discussions. And, as always, I present them to you here in Top 10 format. But, first, a recap of Buzz-o-meters from past summits to help us see the progression, er... stagnation.

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

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

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 2008 - Captiva Island

  1. Google
  2. Clicks
  3. Social, Facebook (tie)
  4. Integration
  5. Conversation
  6. Branding
  7. Data, Analytics (tie)
  8. Strategy
  9. Twitter
  10. Mobile, Local (tie)

Drum roll please...

December 2008 - Park City

  1. Google
    For the second straight Summit, the Big G topped the list. Nary a thought was completed nor POV stated without referencing Google. And more often than not, it was accompanied by overtures (sorry, bad word choice) of fear, envy, sarcasm, eye-rolling or all of the above. See David Berkowitz's column "So Over Google" for more context.
  2. Economy, Recession (tie)
    Nipping at Google's heels on both the Buzz-o-meter and Fear-o-meter was the recessionary economy. There was a lot of discussion around the role of search in a down economy and, given that eight Search Insider columns
    in the past 6 weeks have touched on this topic, I won't belabor the point other than to remind search marketers that it could be worse. We could be in the display business.
  3. Data, Analytics, Attribution (tie)
    As I proclaimed on the Silo Smashing panel, if Search is God then Data is King
    : When budgets are tight and every dollar invested is scrutinized, it's crucial to tap the millions of data points we have available to us on both the front end and back end of our search programs. And developing cross-channel attribution methodologies will help marketers understand the role of search in the mix and how to optimize holistically. (Wow, my buzzword density for that last sentence was pretty high!)
  4. iPhone, Mobile (tie)
    Mobile is officially the only buzzword to appear on every SIS Buzz-o-meter to date. Whether it was people showing off apps on their iPhones -- my personal favorite was David Berkowitz's Flick Fishing -- or talking about new Google targeting options to isolate iPhone users, mobile was a hot topic, and the iPhone seemed to be mentioned in the same breath just about every time. The one exception might have been when Danny Sullivan was talking about voice search and the great progress Microsoft has made there.
  5. Microsoft
    Speaking of Danny and Microsoft, the Google Universe panel discussion was surprisingly Microsoft-heavy and that trend seemed to carry through for the duration of the conference. The consensus seemed to be that Microsoft will never catch Google
    (but at least they're getting attention) whereas many people are writing off (or at least indifferent toward) Yahoo.
  6. Relationship, Transparency (tie)
    OK, I know I'm copping out with all these ties but there were a lot of closely related themes. The importance of relationships and transparency among marketers, agencies, and media/technology vendors permeated many of the breakout sessions. Granted, some roundtables, such as the Three Sides breakout
    , were specific to this topic -- but the thread around how the various players in the search ecosystem can better align, break down silos, and truly integrate (bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) was oft-cited and hotly contested as two-thirds of us resisted the urge to "blame the client."
  7. Strategy, Tactics (tie)
    For a conference that is known for being more strategic in nature, there sure was a lot of tactical discussion. Not surprising, though, given how critical it is when times are tough for search marketers to button up their tactics -- or, as Olivia Lemaignen of Intuit put it
    , strive for excellence in execution.
  8. Bid Management, Quality Score (tie)
    Speaking of tactics, there was a lot of talk about bid management and quality scores. Methinks this was due in part to the heavy presence of bid management tool providers as both attendees and sponsors. I'm still amazed by how much attention is paid to this commoditized piece of our business. To me, we should be focused more on campaign management and systems integration.
  9. Omniture
    The "good folks" (to steal Jon Whitfield's catch phrase) from Orem cracked the Top 10 for the first time and, with data, analytics, and attribution all top of mind, it's no surprise why. It also didn't hurt that SIS was held in their back yard.
  10. Social
    Social media limped into the Top 10 on Day 3 thanks to a breakout session focused solely on the topic. In fact, we remarked
    how absent social had been from the conversation to date. Outside the opening panel highlighting the Obama campaign's use of social media, there was very little chatter about the intersection between social and search. My sense is that this was due to an increased focus on quantifiable channels that deliver immediate (and positive) ROI. It seems like marketers are less willing to experiment with social strategies right now.

Honorable Mentions: Long Tail, Hope, Integration

Looking forward to the next SIS. Maybe by then we'll have awoken the hive and unleashed the buzz!


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