Where are the growth opportunities in search? Who should be accountable for search? What do the search engines want you to think? What should you really believe?
As I'm no stranger to ad:tech (having been on the advisory board for many years), I headed off to San Francisco this week to find out what marketers are thinking about the future of search. Maybe I'm just a bit nostalgic or maybe I just wanted to see what Kodak, AMD, Google, SEMPO, Microsoft, and Clickable had to say on the subject.
Whatever the motivation, Tuesday afternoon's session, Futuresearch, presented by SEMPO, offered interesting discussions and attempted to shed some light on the biggest challenges and growth opportunities in search. As the discussion proved, this isn't an easy task.
The 1-2 Punch
The quest for Internet marketing Utopia is a hot topic. Well, it's a hot topic for Google and Microsoft because they're very interested in making sure you're buying as much of their inventory as possible.
What about the brands? One rarely hears a brand manager, media buyer, or marketing vice president for an advertiser talk endlessly about media buying Utopia. Maybe there's a lesson to be learned here.
Brands are less excited about inventory buying potential and more interested in making sure revenue goals are met. They certainly want to know what's effective but they're confused about how to attribute sales from online advertising.
"I know I am driving a lot of sales offline, I just have no idea how much," should be the quote of the day. This particular statement came from Kodak, but I hear it at least twice a day from marketers everywhere.
At its core, social media's influence on search is pretty simple. People talk about your brand and products and those discussions can lead to sales and better search rankings. Brands are perpetually dealing with the loss of control (or perceived loss of control) of their brand in the digital conversation.
Central to understanding the conversation is the loss of control and offering integrated measurement. One of the solutions to this challenge lies in making sure everyone is singing from the same song sheet.
Easy solution to discuss, not so easy to execute.
In my experience, you can start with agreeing to invest in one metrics kit (Omniture, Google analytics, et al.) and executing that platform instead of trying to solve every problem at once.
Return of the BS Generator
We are optimizing 24/7 eyeballs to engage a higher level of granularity in strategic executable approaches. I have no idea what the previous sentence means, do you? It doesn't really matter. I thought we were past the days of using text from the dot-com BS generator, but I digress.
Both brands involved in today's discussion are struggling with measurement and attribution. They don't seem to have any answers, but are at least aware of the problem.
The Next Big Challenge?
Reputation transparency and changes in the ways companies use search seemed to be a hot topic in this discussion. Personalization of the search experience and the combination of search, display, and advertising components continue to be "all the buzz" when discussing the future of search.
Among the many delightful takeaways from today's discussion was the notion that even though many problems have yet to be solved, there are quite a few people working together to find solutions.