The first takeaway from SES New York is convergence. It’s quite appropriate that SES New York has extended its brand to include social media, because one of the themes has been the convergence between and across media. Search marketers have known for years that there is a huge correlation between TV advertising and search behavior. We even see interaction effects between other media and search. Sometimes search behavior is as much a metric as it is a form of media.
Savvy search marketers have taken this TV to search linkage and gone way beyond the interaction effects between TV advertising to actually leverage the content being consumed when a sponsorship is in place. Some TV sponsorships are obvious and therefore the impact of the sponsorship is easy to amplify in search (think of the online music and talent shows). Other sponsorships are less obvious (think golf and other sports), yet the brand doing the sponsorship has decided that there is a demographic and/or psychographic fit between the brand and the viewer of the show, so why not amplify the brand within search (paid or organic)?
Amplification of sponsorships and taking advantage of the demographic and/or psychographic fit between a show and a brand shouldn’t stop with search engine visibility. It should be no surprise that TV watching (in particular real-time TV content consumption) is a huge stimulus of social media behavior as Mike Proulx, a senior vice president and the director of social media at Hill Holliday, expounded in his Day 1 keynote at SES (and in his book “Social TV: How Marketers Can Reach and Engage Audiences by Connecting Television to the Web, Social Media, and Mobile.”) Any sponsors spending millions of dollars of their marketing budgets on TV sponsorships would be wise to integrate the sponsorship’s information into both the search strategy and the social media strategy. Search-friendly content could reside either on the brand site or offsite, as long as it accomplishes marketing objectives. Similarly, paid search and paid social media can amplify the link between show content and the brand, often at a very reasonable cost with a very high engagement and impact.
The second theme was mobile search. The biggest areas of discussion center around the upcoming deadline to the Google Enhanced Campaigns account structure. Small to medium-size marketers in particular haven’t had an opportunity to make their main websites fully adaptive to mobile or tablet traffic. Some of those advertisers had built microsites for their most important keywords and had been running tablet campaigns separately, with different landing pages, and are quite concerned about what to do about the deadline. My team whipped up a fix for our clients that routes clicks based on OS/browser to the optimal landing page. That way, the user experience will be better and of course conversion rates will be better as well.
Even if the advertiser implements either adaptive design or a click routing solution to provide the best possible user experience, there is still a question of bid strategy. Some advertisers find that tablet clicks don’t convert as well as desktop clicks, and others find that tablet clicks convert better. Usually it’s the former. That means advertisers need to make a hard decision: lower bids a bit to keep ROI constant and risk losing position and click volume, or take a small hit on ROI in order to maintain position. Those advertisers will likely see greater spending as a result of the incremental tablet click volume and slight CPC escalation.
Big data was the third theme at the conference. I moderated one session on big data and we covered big data applications in organic search, paid search, and social media. It’s clear that marketers are currently only tapping the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the power of big data. One takeaway I had from the discussions is that the big data have-nots will fall behind the haves when it comes to the insights and strategy changes empowered by big data. Therefore even smaller advertisers and search marketers will need to think about whether or not third-party big data can serve as a substitute for their own data warehouse, which may not be economically feasible.
The fourth and final big theme at the conference was attribution. I’m not simply talking about attribution across advertising. Now it’s about attribution of all marketing touch points: paid, earned, shared, and owned media. There are some significant difficulties in accumulating data on all these touch points, but it’s great to see marketers thinking more holistically at a search conference. Search has always been great at harvesting demand and it’s pretty good at also generating demand higher up in the funnel, but other touch points are generating search behavior, so a holistic strategy will win in the long run.