SES San Jose, Google Dance, and More

What will you miss if you don’t attend Search Engine Strategies (SES) San Jose next week? You might miss a lot, and I’m not just referring to the annual Google Dance (the party, not the search algorithm shift).

Search engines have launched more features, upgrades, programs, and bells and whistles at SES San Jose than at any other search conference. Perhaps it’s the proximity to home base that prompts all these West Coast companies to schedule major announcements or make major changes during the early August event. And there’ll be no shortage of announcements this year, given the conference boasts over 110 exhibitors and major sponsors. The pressure to innovate and to serve the needs of search marketers has never been higher now that there are three major PPC (define) search (and contextual) auctions and a whole host of smaller players, including Ask, Miva, Kanoodle, AdBrite, and the various shopping and yellow pages engines.

Likely announcements will focus on better search engine targeting and more transparency in data and reporting. Advertisers want a combination of control and reporting, through both the normal log-in screens and APIs (define). I hope we’ll see some announcements from the engines relating to behavioral retargeting using search as the key criterion, particularly since the engines are in the best position to leverage search data to enhance other ad inventory opportunities. Third-party behavioral players like my company and Revenue Science may also announce enhancements.

The core of SES is learning, sharing, and networking. All three will be in full swing with some great new sessions. A big change is the addition of a whole new “Social Search” track on Monday. Here are some new sessions you may want to catch, even if you’ve been to many SES conferences in the past:

  • “Social Search Overview” is a new session that demonstrates the power of the collective consciousness isn’t something purely for the Borg. Tagging and data mining user behaviors, as well as using cluster analysis on searchers’ historical searches, will open up new ways to increase relevance through personalization, collaborative filtering, and predictive modification or relevance. Separate sessions on social search for Yahoo and Google are also planned, as is a session entitled “SEM Via Communities, Wikipedia & Tagging,” which will cover user-generated content and the power of tagging.

  • The “Search Arbitrage Issues” session is also new and promises to be particularly interesting because Google’s recent adjustments to the Quality Score weight determined by landing page relevance criteria supposedly hit the search arbitrageurs very heavily, raising minimum bids past the point where they could effectively “arb the spread.” The panelists may end up agreeing that arbitrage is dead. Then again, it may be alive and well. Based on some test searches I ran on Google, arbitrage seems to be alive even if it’s not quite as prevalent.
  • I’ll be a panelist on a new session that’s a bit of an extension of an earlier session topic: “Does Demographic Targeting Matter?” I’ll give you a hint: it does but not necessarily in the ways you might think. I encourage you to attend the session if you’re at SES (and, of course, I encourage you to attend SES).
  • The session entitled “SEM For Non-Profits & Charities” may end up being a good one (although I think it would have been cooler if it had included SEM and SEO). One of the panelists is Gregory Markel, the driving force behind SEMcares.com, a site that encourages SEO professionals to contribute time and money to support charities of their choice with links and PPC campaigns.

And of course, on Monday, an entire ClickZ conference track features columnists from this publication with other industry experts expounding on broader online advertising and marketing issues, including video advertising, metrics, social media, and customer communications.

During lunch, on the trade show floor, and during breaks, marketers spending from $500 to over $1 million a month will chat and share best practices. Sometimes you can learn more chatting with your peers than from a session. That’s not because the sessions are lacking. Often practitioners don’t want to reveal their really powerful tactics to everyone in the audience (including their competitors). But one on one, perhaps over drinks, you might be able to get some great tips and tricks that more than pay for the trip.

At all SES conferences, networking and partying combine. San Jose’s proximity to the Googleplex means Google will once again host its Google Dance party. All you need is an SES badge and an RSVP confirmation printout to get in (I think even the free exhibit hall badges work).

SEMPO is also active at SES San Jose and has teamed with event producer Incisive Media to partner on three events. Details are available in the press release. If you need the scoop on all the parties, check out the Search Engine Watch Forums.

I hope to see many of my readers at SES at my booth, at the sessions, or at the parties. If you run into me, feel free to share the burning issues you think I should cover in this column.

If I don’t see you there, never fear: ClickZ columnists, reporters, and bloggers will be reporting on the event and will be joined by a host of other reporters and bloggers. No one can ignore SES San Jose.

Meet Kevin at Search Engine Strategies in San Jose, August 7-10, 2006, at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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