SES Chicago: Speakers Speak Out, Part 2

Before I highlight additional words of wisdom from speakers at next week’s Search Engine Strategies (SES) Chicago, I want to mention several new items related to the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO).

SEMPO has now given you 1,181 reasons to join, the first 1,000 courtesy of Microsoft. Hundreds of thousands of search advertisers apparently don’t establish and maintain a Microsoft adCenter account. This perplexes me and, I’m sure, Microsoft as well. Sure, Microsoft doesn’t have 10 percent query volume yet, but its traffic quality is great, and there are often PPC (define) search bargains to be had there. If you’re an advertiser without a Microsoft account (or you know of someone who is), consider joining SEMPO today. Now through the end of December, Microsoft is offering SEMPO members who are U.S. advertisers new to adCenter a $1,000 ad credit. This offer makes joining SEMPO a no-brainer if you haven’t yet taken advantage of adCenter traffic.

The next 180 reasons to join are the leads you get (assuming you are an agency or freelancer). SEMPO distributed 180 new business leads to its membership over the last year. Finally, there’s the annual “State of Search Engine Marketing” survey. Members and those who take the survey get an early peak at results. Speaking of the survey, you’ll definitely want to see the 2008 results. To participate and to make the survey more accurate, please take the survey.

Engines as Data Repositories?

Now on to SES. A carryover reply to last week’s question, what major changes or enhancements do you want to see from the PPC search engines next year? Fellow ClickZ columnist Mike Grehan suggested, “APIs [define] for the search engines that let us upload conversion data into their systems.” This is an interesting response because it suggests that some marketers may be OK uploading conversion data to a publisher’s system even if they prefer not to use the conversion pixels provided by that search engine on conversion pages. Such functionality would also open up the opportunity for customers to upload offline or phone conversion data. My preference is for third-party companies to fulfill the role of providing such data mashups, with the automated or manual intelligence suggesting revised bidding strategies. But many marketers seem to feel OK about the engines becoming the data repositories for both their own media and conversion data.

Getting Money for Search in Tight Times

The second question I posed to SES Chicago speakers was, during economic weakness, how should marketers make sure they get appropriate search budgets from management even if overall marketing budgets are shrinking?

Most respondents agreed with my perspective that it’s vital to educate marketers on how important it is to be present in (at least) the final stage of the buying cycle, one click before the purchase, after all the work has already been done to generate demand. In such a scenario, all a marketer need do is harvest that demand by having a relevant offer to put out there in the SERP (define).

Jeff Ferguson, Napster’s director of online marketing, suggested: “Showing them the ROI.”

SiteTuners president and CEO Tim Ash said: “SEM is not a cost line item.” That’s interesting because I’ve had many conversations with clients about whether both search and affiliate marketing costs should be reckoned as a cost of goods sold (COGS) or as a marketing expense. There’s no consensus on this issue.

Fellow ClickZ columnist P.J. Fusco took the position that armed with ROI (define) data, “you should be able to entrench your search marketing budget.”

Amanda Watlington, owner of Searching for Profit, advised that with respect to ROI, we “compare to other channels.”

Expansion Plus president Sally Falkow added: “People might be looking for different words and phrases through reviews, comparisons, or best deals.”

Lindsay Perkin, director of search marketing and analytics at onTargetjobs suggested a metrics-driven approach based on target objectives: “Provide alternate investment scenarios, empowering executive management with actionable data.”

Sage Lewis had a holistic perspective: “My war chant is ‘communicate, communicate, communicate.'”

Marcelo Sant’ Iago suggested a focus on the fact that PPC search delivers “qualified leads,” while Lee Gientke recommended a focus on “short-term testing to determine what is the consumer’s attitude towards a given product or service.”

Clearly, with all this data supporting PPC search, one would expect search budgets to be somewhat recession-resistant as long as there are in fact consumers and prospects (business-to-business) searching in sufficient quantities. After all, search advertising relies on the consumer behavior of searching to create inventory for all of us to buy (or bid against each other to buy).

Additionally, I asked SES speakers about which sessions they wanted to attend, and there wasn’t a consensus. To me this means the agenda is chock full of diverse and desirable content.

Meet Kevin at Search Engine Strategies Chicago December 8-12 at the Chicago Hilton. The only major search marketing conference and expo in the Midwest will be packed with 60-plus sessions, multiple keynotes and Orion Strategy sessions, exhibitors, networking events, and more.

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