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Google Zeitgeist, Like TED, Focuses on Big Picture

  |  September 30, 2011   |  Comments

Five trends touched on at the Zeitgeist conference that will have a significant impact on SEM.

This week, Google held its thought-provoking conference, Zeitgeist. Like TED, the Zeitgeist conference sessions are designed to inspire, educate, and broaden the horizons of the attendees while allowing some additional time for schmoozing and fun. Google keeps the conference surprisingly non-commercial. However, that doesn't mean that attendees don't talk about media, advertising, social media, and marketing among themselves. We do, and we did.

In prior years, the event was strictly off the record, but with the proliferation of Twitter, there was a constant stream of observations, comments, and discussions flying around the Twittersphere throughout the conference. (Twitter or your favorite search engine of choice may allow you to search for the #Zeitgeist hashtag to read those comments.) Like TED, Google has started to release near real-time videos of selected portions of the Zeitgeist conference. I highly recommend the following Zeitgeist videos on YouTube:

Cory Booker (Newark, NJ mayor)

Adam Braun (founder, Pencils of Promise)

Deepak Chopra (needs no introduction)

Larry Page and Eric Schmidt

Mark Cuban (chairman and CEO, HDNet)

What do these videos have to do with paid search strategies? A common theme across the conference as a whole was the ability of individuals to be a catalyst for positive change. Often the speakers were making positive changes to society and following their passions, while simultaneously keeping their businesses, government entities, and/or nonprofits viable-going concerns. Part of your responsibility as a search marketer is to make sure your employer or client remains a healthy-going concern. I've seen online and offline businesses fail partially due to failure of that business to follow SEM and online marketing best practices. Businesses and non-profits have a responsibility to their shareholders and stakeholders to do a reasonably good job in marketing, and that includes PPC search, social media marketing, online display, and of course offline marketing.

Also, if you don't love this stuff (PPC search, online advertising, social media, etc.), have someone else do it for you. Passion and its correlation to success was another major theme of Zeitgeist.

Some other mega-trends touched on at the Zeitgeist conference, either within the official presentations or simply in discussions I had with the thought leaders in attendance that I believe have a significant impact on SEM, are:

  1. Frictionless movement of information often accelerated due to social media: your PPC search campaign may have to be very nimble.
  2. Search behavior is clearly stimulated by online media, social media sharing, news, etc. Make sure your search team knows what's going on in the social media ecosystem, knows if a company executive will be interviewed on TV, when your company or brand are going to receive significant press, or when changes are being made to the offline media and marketing plan.
  3. Mobile (smartphones and tablets in particular) is increasingly important both as a source of PPC traffic and social media stimulus. Take a step back from your campaign and think about whether or not your campaign should target tablets and smartphones separately. I'm not only talking about different bids, but different metrics and messages.
  4. Generational or societal differences in the use of search and social media may necessitate different marketing strategies: prospects that are significantly different demographically may hang out in different places online, search differently, and respond to different ads and landing pages. Does that necessitate a change in strategy?
  5. Search can't exist in a vacuum with a marketing strategy. Search is highly responsive to other media, advertising, and marketing stimuli. A holistic view is superior. My interpretation of this is that we must go beyond simple attribution to understanding at least a bit about interaction effects, which requires a media mix modeling mindset.

At another conference immediately after Zeitgeist, Digital East, it was clear that for those in the trenches running Internet marketing (not necessarily search specialists), the ecosystem was getting a bit challenging. Search engine marketing (and online marketing) isn't going to get any easier. Even PPC search will likely have more targeting options in the near future. Keep yourself educated and use the right tools, plus don't be afraid to use consultants or tap an agency even if only on an as-needed basis.

In the meantime, if you are in Chicago, Atlanta, LA, or New York on October 12, you might want to consider attending a joint SEMPO Google event, The Future of Web Analytics; a multi-city simulcast event sponsored by Google. Read more here.

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Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee, Didit cofounder and executive chairman, has been an acknowledged search engine marketing expert since 1995. His years of SEM expertise provide the foundation for Didit's proprietary Maestro search campaign technology. The company's unparalleled results, custom strategies, and client growth have earned it recognition not only among marketers but also as part of the 2007 Inc 500 (No. 137) as well as three-time Deloitte's Fast 500 placement. Kevin's latest book, "Search Engine Advertising" has been widely praised.

Industry leadership includes being a founding board member of SEMPO and its first elected chairman. "The Wall St. Journal," "BusinessWeek," "The New York Times," Bloomberg, CNET, "USA Today," "San Jose Mercury News," and other press quote Kevin regularly. Kevin lectures at leading industry conferences, plus New York, Columbia, Fordham, and Pace universities. Kevin earned his MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1992 and lives in Manhattan with his wife, a New York psychologist and children.

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