SES San Jose 2007 started for me during the one-hour delay waiting for the gate to be fixed so I could board the Sunday night flight from Newark Airport. With all the Search knowledge waiting to get on board it was easy to kill the one-hour delay talking with Kevin Lee, Barry Schwartz and Tamar Weinberg.
Things really kicked off for me the next morning on the Ads in a Quality Score World session. This was the third time for this panel and I’ve been on all three. However, as much as one would think I would getting better at presenting on this subject the more I do it, I’m afraid the opposite is true. Quality Score is such a difficult subject to shed light on for many reasons. The factors in QS are changing, the algo is opaque and it is calculated differently for Google/Yahoo/Live. SEMs struggle with wanting to understand the details of something that if they saw the details would probably make them only more confused.
The mood of attendees seemed tense (consistently no one laughs at jokes in this session) and I’m sure attendees left dissatisfied coming to a session hoping to take something actionable back with them and leaving without answers from panelists (Google) or panelists telling them to “ignore the score” (me). In a strange way I think everyone was glad when this session was over and not for the reasons you would expect.
After lunch it was time for some redemption with Personalization, User Data and Search. I was honored that Chris Sherman invited me to speak on this panel because in my mind it was the most important panel at the show. It didn’t disappoint the SRO crowd in the big room.
On the front end Gord Hotchkiss and Sep Kamvar of Google spoke about the symbiotic and incredibly important relationship that personalization of the SERP has with widget, application and mash-up development and optimization. This is in my mind the most important sea change to impact digital marketing since AdSense. (For more of my thoughts on this check out this post on Optimizing Widgets & Applications this one on Social Media and Search and this one on Brand, Product & Community)
My presentation was about creating dynamic site-side or landing page personalization using parameters from the referring URL string (or cookies) to create more targeted and relevant user experiences. I received a tremendous amount of positive feedback from this presentation so thanks to all of you who took the time to let me know. It’s possible that I will redo it again adding a few more things that I didn’t have time for in the form of a webinar.
After the Monday sessions I had pleasure of having drinks at the speaker reception with Avinash Kaushik who introduced me to his team at Market Motive. I also had the pleasure of meeting Dave McClure who’s taken a keen interest in analytics of late.
Tuesday morning kicked off with Ad Testing Research and Findings. This was my third time on this panel too and unlike Quality Score it is consistently a great session. All the presenters provided some real actionable recommendations. Of course Quality Score reared its ugly head here too and poor Clay Bavor of Google. He had the kamikaze mission of sitting in for Nick Fox on both this session and the Quality Score session. A funny aside and proof that multivariate testing is getting traction – Gord joked after my presentation that I would be holding a discussion group over lunch about Taguchi method orthogonal arrays. After the session four folks actually came up and asked where the lunch was taking place. Next SES we will really make that happen.
Tuesday afternoon I sat in on Offermatica President and OTTO Digital CEO Jamie Roche’s presentation on Landing Page Testing. Jamie steered away from MVT and similar to my earlier presentation focused on what we’re doing with clients through personalization and targeting showing some more case studies and the great results. At OTTO we’re all about results.
Wednesday was a mix of hanging at the Offermatica booth, hitting the session on CSS, AJAX, Web 2.0 & Search Engines, networking, meetings and catching up with email. I took the red-eye back from SJO Wednesday night and found it hard to believe there was still another entire day of program content ahead at SES.
This was my 11th SES show as a speaker. It will be interesting to see what happens with SES now that Danny Sullivan and Chris Sherman are no longer involved in programming it. My gut feeling from looking at the new SES advisory board is that there will be less emphasis on industry “insiders” and more emphasis on client side speakers sharing their experiences. Whatever SES morphs into, it has played a crucial role in building recognition for search engine marketing and optimization.
Bravo to Danny and Chris and also to Rory, Stewart, Karen and everyone else whose hard work over the years went into allowing SES to help legitimize Search. It was only a few years ago that Search was a marketing afterthought and regarded with skepticism. Now it is a multi-billion dollar a year industry and fundamental marketing practice for businesses of all sizes. If there’s one thing that everyone was saying at SES it was that “this thing of ours” is still only a baby. Search in 2012 will look little like it does in 2007. The learning never stops…