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SEMpdx SearchFest 2011 Takeaways

The Amplify Interactive crew attended yet another outstanding SearchFest in our home town of Portland, Oregon at the Governer last week and as always we came away with reassurances that we’re doing things right, ideas for things we should try, and lots of stats.

Here are Ben’s thoughts after SearchFest

While there are plenty of recaps and ‘takeaways’ posts for SearchFest 2011 – I thought we’d take a look at a few of the more broad insights we gained and where we’re likely to focus our attention over the next year.

Mobile – Are We There Yet?

Christian actually blogged the “Mobile Marketing Strategies & Tactics” session for the SEMpdx blog

“This is the year of mobile!” – I’ve heard this proclamation every year since I’ve been in the search game, but now there’s real reason to feel like mobile’s time is now. When you look at mobile adoption rates, and the sheer number of smartphones on the market, and then lump in iPads & other tablets as mobile devices – it’s obvious that brands must consider mobile as part of their mix. Consider some stats from this session – the numbers are big and getting bigger:

  • More smartphones were sold than PCs in Q4 2010
  • In 2015 there will be more mobile Web users than desktop Web users
  • 35% of Yelp’s queries are coming from mobile
  • 200 million people use Facebook on their mobile device (25% of overall Facebook activity?)
  • 1 in 7 search queries on Google are coming from a mobile device

But perhaps the most interesting of all – most websites/brands are not ready for mobile. They don’t have a mobile version of their site, they don’t have an app, they don’t have a strategy… Mobile could be your brand’s competitive advantage this year!

I know that mobile strategy isn’t at the forefront of most of our client’s minds… we’ll probably look to change that this year. Hint: we’ll probably start by checking out how much site traffic currently comes from mobile… especially search.

SEO Is Not Dead – We’re Just Getting Smarter

Having worked on much larger sites over the last couple of years – we’ve learned our lessons about how effective the concept of “maximum exposure” is. In a nutshell – for large sites (and even not-so-large sites), a big part of the equation for success is actually getting all of your content crawled/found/spidered.

Two sessions in particular were pretty interesting, informative and reassuring here: “Universal Search Marketing Strategies and Tactics” as well as the “Advanced On-Site SEO Tactics & Strategies” session.

Universal search results have given us more opportunities to be competitive through image, video, news, shopping results, etc. Part of the value-add for an SEO is knowing the opportunities available and how to leverage them. We also really like fellow SEMpdx-er Matt Brown’s “Maximum Exposure” concept which further reiterated the fact that if you know how to use the tools at your disposal from XML and RSS and all their variations – you have a much better chance of getting your content found.

Paid Search (AKA PPC)

There wasn’t a lot for us that was NEW here, but it was nice to get some perspective on the various opportunities. Depending on your industry – there may be plenty of areas you aren’t pursuing. Starting with, literally, the “Opportunities” tab in the  Google AdW0rds interface. As our friend Joanna Lord put it during the “Advanced PPC” session (I’m paraphrasing here) ‘your competitors probably aren’t paying attention to the opportunities tab’. That’s reason enough to regularly check in.

A few other key takeaways/notes for marketers to think about:

  • AdWords isn’t the only game in town for your paid search dollar
    • Excellent opportunity abound for many marketers as competition isn’t fierce in many categories on sites like Bing/Yahoo, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc
  • Bing is gaining ground. Most advertisers are seeing higher conversion rates & lower costs-per-click but the volume isn’t there yet… and neither is the interface or desktop tool  (and ask anyone who actually uses either and they’ll tell you the same thing)

Social

Rather than regurgitate a ton of insights/stats and scream from the rooftops about how social and search go together like peanut butter and jelly, we’ll stick with the three primary things we got out of not only the sessions, but also simply out of talking to other attendees

  1. Measurement/Track Your Results: for social – this is a moving target and still evolving. Measure what you can and takeaway what you can which it’s an uncomfortable position for search marketers – but the fact is, we simply don’t fully understand the true impact that social media has on the bottom line… This is not new – PR folks have always had this problem.
  2. Have a Strategy and a Policy: To help mitigate some of the concerns about #1 above – it’s good to start with an actual plan.
  3. Embrace failure… Too often we try to start out perfect and don’t really plan to evolve our strategies & tactics. Prepare to fail, learn, iterate and keep at it. Frankly – this goes for SEO too (and web site development at that). Too often the expectation is that “we’re going to do SEO to our site and then we’ll do the next thing”. Truth is – SEO is not a deliverable… it’s a process. Same with a true social presence.

Anyway – these are a few of my insights – but I thought you might like to see what Christian thought (he’s been to every SEMpdx SearchFest with me) and also what Jessica came away with (this was her first SearchFest).

Here are Christian’s thoughts after SearchFest

Another year, another solid SearchFest! I had a great time watching sessions, learning about some new tips and tricks (and being able to apply them to my client accounts) and doing some networking.

Once again this year, I was able to do some liveblogging for the SEMpdx blog. I liveblogged four different sessions:

I had a couple of favorite speakers this year. Matt McGee seems to always bring some great stuff each year and this year was no exception. Will Scott was a very engaging speaker and had a great presentation. He posted his slides on his blog as well as his key takeaways from the presentation. The Mobile Marketing Strategies & Tactics session label was a bit misleading; the session was more about “the state of the industry” than presenting any tactics. That being said, seeing the data presented, having a marketing plan for mobile users is definitely something every business should have.

Here are Jessica’s thoughts after SearchFest

Hello!  This is actually my first post to the Amplify Blog and I have to admit, I am kind of excited.  I moved from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Portland in January 2010 and was immediately bombarded with SearchFest chatter from my new friends.  Since we were still getting acclimated to our new city and swamped with too many boxes until the end of March, I was unable to attend that year’s event.  So SearchFest 2011 was my first and it did not disappoint.

First, may I say, the Governor Hotel is gorgeous and was a fantastic venue to host the event.  The food was abundant and similar to most large functions, chicken and a vegetarian pasta option.  The staff was very informative and attentive.  I appreciated the Clear Wireless internet that was available for the day.  They had a minor hiccup on the 2nd floor during the beginning of the day, but they resolved the issue within 5 – 10 minutes of the first session starting.

As for the sessions, I was in the intermediate track pretty much all day.  I found all the speakers to be informative, while still being entertaining.  A couple times I was concerned that the information was going to be too beginner for me, but before I could dwell on that fact, the speakers would start moving through their presentations at a faster pace and would talk about something I did not know or a new tool they were using that I had not heard of before.  The amount and value of new information far outweighed any information I already knew.  I met fabulous new people with great projects and innovative plans for the future.

So, do I think SearchFest 2011 was worth going to?  YES!  Am I excited about SearchFest 2012?  You better believe it!

Ben Lloyd

About Ben Lloyd

Ben Lloyd serves as Principal at Add3 and manages the agency’s Portland office.  Ben got his start in SEM way back in 1999 – when there was like, 15 search engines and Google was barely a thing. Prior to Add3, Ben had founded Amplify Interactive in 2003 (which was acquired by Add3 in 2013), and hasn’t looked back since. Ben likes lots of stuff like golf, pinball, food(ie), booze/beer/wine – in that order, etc. Mostly – he likes doing that stuff with his friends. Ben is also co-founder of SEMpdx. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn