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March 8, 2010

3 Takeaways from SMX West 2010

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SMX West was a rollercoaster of highs, lows, twists and turns. The highs of adrenaline-fueled excitement, the lows of getting the lowdown from the search reps, and the twists and turns of going with the flow during such an activity-filled week.

liveblogging
Liveblogger clearly gone mad…

I was on that ripping ride of a rollercoaster for three days, and while it was a blast and a half, I’m glad to be back on the ground where I can process everything that just happened. While reviewing my liveblog coverage of SMX West I was struck by three major points worth highlighting.

Search Community Still on the Fence about Microhoo

An opening keynote by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer assured that discussions of Microhoo were everywhere all conference long. Ballmer didn’t give away much info himself in regards to the partnership, other than some high-level speculation:

I see the opportunity for a number of game changers. It’s really important to have momentum and progress with a differentiated point of view. Total game changer? We’ll get there. But the world is so dynamic we’ll find opportunities for game changers. The business model of search, we haven’t figured out how to remake it. But we think there’s lots of opportunity for growth on the business side as well as the technology side.

During the session Microsoft + Yahoo: What’s It All Mean?, we learned more about the details of the deal, some possible outcomes of looming questions, and the upsides and downsides for marketers regarding many of the changes.

And at The State of the Search Union keynote, this conversation seemed to cover all the bases:

Chris Sherman: What’s the reaction of clients across the spectrum?

Misty Locke: They’re excited, not only clients but also the search managers at her agency. It allows her to shift strategy, so instead of 70/20/10 it’ll be 60/40. The opportunity is big around reach and the additional volume this will bring. One question will be will Microsoft still bring us some of the highest conversion rates once Yahoo! comes in. Bing Cashback has been a big opportunity for her clients.

Avinash Kaushik: Competition is a good thing. It gets people to innovate and do better and not get stale. The way each engine works and the kind of people that use each engine is very different. You should have a strategy for SEO for each engine, a portfolio strategy because you will find more customers and find your dollars more effectively.

Vanessa Fox: She’s waiting to see how the partnership shakes out. She doesn’t know how Searchmonkey and BOSS will work when Yahoo! doesn’t have its own index. Yahoo! did have a play for innovation and for startups, so she’s reserving judgment until the partnership settles in.

Super Site Speed Speediness

runner in sunset
CC BY-ND 2.0

Speed, speed and more speed was a recurring theme throughout the conference. One session aimed to tackle the issues of speed in depth: The Need for Speed: Google Says It Matters. The session’s panelists, including Google’s Maile Ohye, presented compelling statistics about why load time matters to users; where to focus initial efforts to get the biggest bang for the fewest bucks; and a number of tools that help diagnose a site’s speed issues.

Lately Google has been aggressively pushing a message that a site’s speed should be optimized. So SEOs and webmasters have been wondering, “Is speed a ranking factor?” Ohye answered this question during the session (paraphrased):

As of today, speed or performance is not a factor in organic ranking. If performance becomes a signal, we expect to notify webmasters. But, hint: Google is pushing the importance of speed.

She also pointed to AdWords Quality Scores and its consideration of page load time as a model similar to what might be used if and when Google uses speed as an organic ranking factor. Bottom line: make sure your site is as fast as it can be. Like, yesterday!

Exciting New Options for Online Advertisers

New opportunities are rarely in short supply when it comes to search marketing, though I was struck by platforms I’ve talked about and learned about before that just haven’t taken off yet. I believe that the early adopters in these spaces could reap the benefits while the rest of the advertising world catches up.

Facebook Ad Tactics for Search Marketers: Facebook has the highest daily reach of any site and also takes the cake for time spent on a single site. Audience targeting is super granular, and consumers can be reached at any point of the conversion funnel. Plus, while adoption is still scarce, the costs are often much lower than on platforms like Google or Yahoo!

Mobile Paid Search Ads: Real Opportunities: A panel of mobile experts shared their tips for mobile search PPC optimization, Google’s various mobile PPC offerings, advertising for smart phones vs. feature phones, and pitfalls to avoid along the way.

Not Your Father’s AdWords: The New Google Ad Formats: We all know that Google rolls out new features faster than a liveblogger’s fingertips, but I had no idea there had been so many recent changes to Google AdWords. Ad Sitelinks, local ads, product ads and comparison ads, and emerging solutions for performance attribution all hold significant promise.

So site speed, Microhoo and ad opportunities were the three takeaways of SMX West from my perspective. What were yours?

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2 responses to “3 Takeaways from SMX West 2010”

  1. Michael Martin writes:

    Wouldn’t another takeaway at SMX West be all those orange juice bottles you took up to your room ;)

  2. Virginia Nussey writes:

    Haha! True that. :)



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