If you weren't at SES San Francisco this week or weren't following the #SESSF Twitter hashtag religiously, then you may have missed out on some key learnings and takeaways. Before I delve into the specific takeaways, perhaps we'll touch on a few themes that in many cases transcended across the paid search, organic search, and social media topics. Those themes were "big data" and "business optimization," in contrast to campaign optimization, which can be myopic, and "quality content."
I had the privilege of speaking at the event and I presented "The Foundations of Search Engine Marketing," a PPC and organic primer session for those who are new to SEM, SEO, and perhaps digital marketing. Quite a challenge for a solo 50-minute session, but I did what I could. Perhaps the bigger challenge was following up directly behind Avinash Kaushik, Google's digital marketing evangelist, who always rocks the house. For PPC search strategists, perhaps Avinash's points are among the most important, which brings us to the six important SES San Francisco takeaways:
Marketing myopia results in a sub-optimal campaign, every time. Avinash Kaushik, the opening keynote, discussed many areas but a clear theme evolved and that would probably be best described as a railing against marketing myopia, a shortsightedness that manifests itself differently depending on the marketer or agency involved. Avinash poses the theory that we should focus on:
Influence. Generating influence on and over consumer preference by meeting or exceeding the needs and expectations of the consumer. If it helps to use old-school marketing-speak, think of influence as moving consumers down the buying funnel. Any positive influence that increases branding metrics or tips the consumer's likelihood of purchase in our direction is a positive outcome of our marketing.
Experience. Delivering an amazing experience to your customers and prospects. Obviously large brands have the resources to do so across platforms and screens, but delivering a positive experience should be an aspiration of all marketers, large and small.
Value. Value and price are not the same thing. When one exceeds the expectation of the customer, the customer feels that they have received value, even if the cost is high. Delighting customers is a great way to deliver value. Avinash prefers to call them mini-orgasms.
Purely focusing on the converters and trying to influence them and provide the value and experience to those site visitors is myopic. We need to meet the needs of anyone who has an interest in our products or services. With social media, we even need to take into account the influencers. Unfortunately for the SES audience, few of whom are CMOs, the metrics for success are often handed down from above. Until CMOs and VPs of marketing can be taught to think holistically about marketing spend optimization, I'm afraid most of the audience will continue with last-click attribution and only measureable short-term ROI as their success metric.
Content is king again (perhaps it always was). One of the reasons the search agencies and search marketing professionals have been well-positioned to advise within the social media space is that organic SEO (particularly white hat SEO) relied on a constant flow of great content that delivered value to the reader. Not only did great content stimulate link activity, it also helped cement the business, brand, or even the individual blogger or columnist as a subject matter expert. The same holds true in social media. A key difference is that social media conversations are most effective when they are indeed conversations. Businesses aren't always used to engaging in conversations other than through customer service departments or sales channels.
Paid and earned social media successes are more easily arrived at when there is an amplification effect. Messages that get passed along either in their original form or with additional commentary are more likely to break through the clutter. Sometimes advertising can jump-start the process of sharing and conversations, or the advertising can amplify the existing conversations.
Feedback loops. Social media metrics can serve as an easy way to determine if your messaging and marketing are resonating with consumers. Never before have marketers had an opportunity to learn immediately if their campaigns suck. Perhaps a nicer way to put it is that one can test and iterate against customers and prospects, using social media not just as a form of media or as a communications conduit/channel but also as a metric. Social media and search share this dual personality as both media and metric. Never before as marketers have we had an opportunity to refine our messages and media mix based on analytics and data that arrive in almost real time.
Mobile is here to stay. Mobile search and mobile social stats are rising. We all need to figure out how to delight and serve our customers when they choose to interact with us on their mobile devices. It may not always be easy to measure the influence that we get from our mobile customer interactions, but the time where we can ignore those of our customers who arrive via those devices has passed.
Big data can take your campaign to new heights. While the big data theme was most prevalent in the social media and display advertising (including retargeting) conversations, my team has actually found that big data can revitalize even a stale search campaign.
So, if your to-do list wasn't long enough, and your marketing budget wasn't large enough before, now you'll have some ammunition to get some more resources allocated, because if you don't step up your game, your competition will and they'll eat your lunch.
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.