SES San Jose 2005 Day Two
August 9 , 2005. San Jose, CA.
Day 2: Google Dance Tonight!
Tuesday was a very productive day for me. Although I missed the opening keynote session due to having to catch up on writing, I was able to attend three sessions and do comprehensive coverage for serountable.com. The following is a recap of a busy Tuesday.
The first session I attended was one of great importance to me: "Ad Management: Do Humans Matter?" I have always had the opinion that all PPC should be operated by humans, with little if any help in the bid management process from software. More recently, as we have added some clients with much larger keyword baskets, I have begun to wonder if we need to boost our process. According to the majority of the panel in this session, technology is now a requirement in order to effectively and efficiently operate a large PPC campaign. Kevin Lee form did-it.com summed it up very nicely when he described the two outcomes of someone using paid search management software: “a totally friggin brilliant marketer” or a “rampant raging total lunatic on steroids.” In the wrong hands, technology such as bid management software can hurt you and others. He then further described the main reason that humans are still important: strategy. Technology facilitates the process since there are so many factors involved in management of hundreds and thousands of terms, but humans still need to define goals and perform analysis of the metrics.
Kevin Stylman of Reprise Window started with a strong warning to organizations that are considering outsourcing paid search management: if no technology is being employed, that they should turn around and run away. Mike Sack of Inceptor, Inc. quotes Battlestar Galactica “Humans created the robots.” You cannot let the bid management technology turn on you like the cylons. He then gave a good breakdown of the PPC Management functions, asking who wins each factor, humans or technology? Human win: keyword selection, creative and creative optimization, and keyword stemming. Technology comes out ahead in the processes of keyword generation, bid updates, bid analysis (most humans cannot see more than 3 layers deep in a pattern), and bid optimization.
Sara Holoubek from icrossing feels that SEMs must use technology. Proposes the story of “Search and the shiny hammer” Employing a carpenter with a flashy hammer will not ensure the best final product. Tools do not equal talent - a good carpenter will have both. Currently SEM’s are being measured by the shine of their hammer, soon this will change. Kevin Lee likes Sara’s analogy, but for example if you have the sniffles, you will use most any doctor, but if you need heart surgery you are going to seek greater expertise. Depending on your needs, you may be able to “get away” with a less qualified person or even perform SEM yourself. Mike Sack adds that having a good tool may not make you the best, but it does make you better.
The second session I attended was the link building basics. The good news is that if you read my article, Choosing Link Partners, on this subject, it may as well be an echo. I like it when my thoughts on certain issues are reinforced by attending these conferences. Debra Mastaler of Alliance Links added a few rebuttals to common myths about linking. The following are NOT true: reciprocal links are bad, out-bounds can hurt you without being reciprocated, only PageRank 3 or above links count, DMOZ links have greater weight, incoming links from bad sites will hurt, need lots of links to rank well. All false.
I enjoyed lunch at the Search Engine Watch Forum member’s birds of a feather table, where I met the famed “Aussiewebmaster” and we continued to agree on many subjects, as we often do in the forums. By the way, don’t forget you can discuss these recaps and pose questions in our SEO forums… After lunch I was volunteer for the SEMPO Booth, where I helped to offer information about this fine association. I was able to have a nice conversation with Dave Williams from 360i, who is one of the board members that is helping to greatly distance SEMPO from its problems of the past.
After SEMPO, I attended the last session of the day, the “Search Advertising Forum.” Along the same lines as the Ad management sessions earlier in the day, I was very fortunate to have chosen this session. It was moderated by Detlev Johnson, who introduced Dana Todd of SiteLab, who also happens to be the president of SEMPO. She is a very frank person and talked about some “difficulties she has experienced” (aka: “things she hates”) about various SEM related products and portals, as well as giving a sort of “state of the industry“ talk. She finds it surprising that Yahoo has made so many great advances recently, but is “still not loved by Wall Street.” Also talks about how Click fraud is becoming more of a problem, and that technology limitations are causing more legal issues in the SEM world. Touches on the continuing trends of Google giving and taking, and how AOL seems to have all the right pieces to succeed, but is quite an under performer. She then described the joining of FindWhat and Miva as a “marriage of mediocrity,” which got quite a few laughs from the room. Finishes by mentioning that the pay-per-call method seems to be “heating up” as a more popular form of search advertising.
Dan Boberg from Yahoo Search Marketing spoke next, and briefly described some of the recent advances that Dana had mentioned, including the introduction of the Yahoo Publisher Network, an AdSense-like product that will offer more categories and sub-categories to choose from than its popular rival. Also described that more and more organization are beginning to understand the branding value of paid search and budgeting accordingly. David Fisher from Google spoke next (am I allowed to mention these two speakers in the same paragraph?) He Described the “Google-Advertiser-Website Ecosystem” and how they related to each other, including the publishers of AdSense ads. Talks about the upcoming new quality-based bidding system, which will allow some terms to be as low as 1 cent per click. Admits that some others will be more. He then spoke about Urchin, recently purchased by Google, and one thing that surprised me is that he claims Urchin can do optimization. I will have to look into this. Lastly he mentioned how geo-targeting is such an important feature to advertisers.
David Jakubowski from MSN Search spoke next, and gave a brief overview of the upcoming paid search product. Some of the desirable features will be greater control, flexibility and the ability to more thoroughly refine campaigns. Advanced features include: Geo-targeting, targeting by gender, bid by day of week, and day-parting (setting times of the day for bids to be active). James Speer of the new AskJeeves PPC: “ IAC Adverting Solutions.” spoke next. He introduced the new Ask product and described some interesting differences between the old Jeeves and the new. The biggest one in my opinion is that the paid listings will only occupy the first three spots on the page. Also described the small overlap between the Ask listing sand the other major SE’s: The overlap is only 16% at Yahoo!, 14% at Google, 13% at MSN, and 9% at AOL. Lastly, they will offer many user features as well, including enhanced forecasting capabilities, ability to set campaign budgets at monthly level or daily targets, real time reporting, estimated traffic summary reports, and more. They are also ensuring quality of traffic is legitimate in order to help prevent click fraud.
The session ended with a SEM buyer, Ron Belanger of Carat Interactive, discussing various pros and cons of paid search. The two major points he made involved the con that that there isn’t really enough space in a AdSense box. Or PPC ad to give as much info as a thirty second spot. Another con is the continued less than desirable measurement abilities. Pros: Micro targeting, Leverage consumer intent, Minimal media waste, Relatively inexpensive, High customer engagement, Flexible.
The 2005 Google Dance occurred on Tuesday night. Once again, Google demonstrated their unparalleled ability (in my opinion) to throw a search industry party. I was fortunate to meet finally Barry Schwartz and Ben Pfeiffer, my Blog compatriots from serountable.com. I relayed my enthusiasm and thanked them both for allowing me to join them in blogging the event. We had been regularly posting session updates on an almost real time basis, usually posting a recap within 20 minutes after each session we attended was over. I also had the honor to meet Gary Price, an Editor at Search Engine Watch, and the writer of one of the leading blogs in the search industry, based at searchenginewatch.com. I also met briefly with Danny Sullivan, who would be moderating the session I was speaking at the following day. I arrived in a taxicab which I shared with Paul Bruemmer, a much respected veteran of search engine marketing and SEO. I also hung out with Dave Williams of 360i.com and a member of the SEMPO Board of Directors. The rest of the evening was spent with my old buddies from Urchin, Brett Crosby, Scott Crosby, and Jason Senn. I also met a nice gentleman from Denmark named Anders, who was an Urchin reseller. It was a great time and wonderful to finally have a few minutes to spend networking and catching up with old friends.
Last year, the party became slightly infamous because Google had run out of beer. This year, that was not going to happen, even though it seemed as if about twice as many people attended than last year. A beer garden had been added to the mix, proudly serving a nice variety of beers including Heineken and Amstel Light. The lines were short, and people were happy. The volleyball court was flanked on one side by a crowd of people watching Karaoke. It seemed as if groups of Google employees had been practicing for the event, because there were quite a few humorous performances.
In the hall where there had been a band last year, there was a DJ spinning dance tunes to a healthy crowd of SEM’s and other conference attendees “boogying down.” There was a large choice of food available, although I did hear some complaints. I guess there has to be something to complain about… As with last year, desserts were flowing. There were probably three or four different dessert areas, offering everything from hand scooped ice cream to brownies and cookies.
Also like last year, there were about 20 computers setup with Google reps on hand to help people to explore various Google products. There was a nice selection of arcade video games, the most popular of which was that two-person dancing game that requires you to step on certain pads in order to advance. I boarded a bus back to the hotel at about 11:00, once again very satisfied with Google’s commitment to partying excellence.