Friday, May 13, 2011

SMX Advanced 2011: Exhibitor analysis

I ran into Danny Sullivan at the airport a couple days ago on my way to Seattle, but that's about as close as I've been to my old world of SEM in a long time. Last year I took a spin in the world of dynamic display, joining Dapper, an Accel-funded startup. We were acquired in Q4 by Yahoo!, and now I run Sales for Smart Ads, Yahoo!'s dynamic display business.

Anyways, being in Seattle got me to thinking about all my trips up there in years past to attend SMX Advanced. SMX Advanced is far & away the best search marketing event, and the only one that consistently has sessions worth attending. [NOTE: judging by the fact it is sold out, the industry must agree with me.]

Looking at the 2011 exhibitor list, though, much has changed. Whereas before it was mainly SEM tools, SEM agencies and keyword intelligence tools vendors, the crowd of firms paying for exposure has changed in two key respects:

1. SEO tools vendors now are on par with SEM tools vendors (7 vs 7):
BrightEdge, Conductor, SEOMoz, SEOClarity, webposition, webCertain & The Search Monitor

2. Dual SEM/SEO agencies and SEM/SEO agency/tool hybrids:
Efficient Frontier, Covario, Zeta Interactive, AdSage, BruceClay, Deluxe for Business & AimClear

From these changes, two key trends emerge. First, SEM as a growth channel has clearly slowed down for advertisers on an individual basis, such that they now have to take SEO more seriously. And second, the hybrid agency/tool business model that Efficient Frontier pioneered back in 2003 has become accepted and embraced by both advertisers and investors.

Last, while I won't be attending (I need a miracle, Danny!) I'd attend the following sessions if I could:

Day 1 - Human Vs. Machine: What’s The Best Way To Manage Paid Search? (12:15-1:45). Since I beat down a rabble of agency types who would've liked to convince the audience that bid management is dead back in 2007, the debate has turned to the relative value of human vs machine.

Day 1 - The Modern Online Marketing Plan: Maximizing the SEO, PPC and Social Mix
I fully expect Covario's Harrison Magun to drive a data-driven session and show the world again just how on top of their game Covario is. Harrison, yeah, I'm calling you out; you guys have great data, so let's see it!

Day 2 - Leveraging SEO Power Tools
With lots of inhouse and VC-based investment in the SEO tools space, this should be a great session. Specifically, it'll be interesting to see how Amazon's internal SEO tool (Advanced Mechanical Turk) compares to the best the VC-backed world has to offer. Wait! But there are no VC-backed power SEO tools on the panel! Conductor, BrightEdge, BloomReach et al., you had better be in the audience & ready with tough questions, or else the crowd is likely to end up thinking that they can build vs buy. . .


Blogger Geoff said...

Great post Chris. Spot on.

As I just returned last week from several conferences ( in NYC and Media Post's SIS (Search Insiders Summit) in Captiva Island, FL I too am witnessing the change in the SEM conference space and ultimately in the marketplace. There is a strong presence of not only SEO but I would inject Social ad Local into the mix as well.

It was almost an even mix of presentations (33% each) surrounding Social (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, others) and Local (Mobile, Tablets, YellowPages, Hyper-Geo targeting, Click to Call, Near-point technologies, others) and good old SEM.

The conversations that followed from the audience both during Q&A as well as outside the events were equally mixed.

SEO was a hot topic at the SIS event last Saturday due to the NY Times story that came out attacking yet another category (online florists - Teleflora, 800-flowers, others) just in time for Mother's Day. Many interesting comments arouse surrounding the idea of "Did technology create this mess or people?" and then tuning to the oposite angle "Can either fix it?"

I AM attending SMX Advanced (dont be jealous ;)

I am looking forward to hearing / seeing if this trend continues to build momentum as i feel that it is a sign of whats to come. More and more we are seeing that with better technology able to manage multichannel and show/optimize attribution and better teams/people that are more skilled and well versed in understanding and optimizing attribution that budgets and responsibility is moving towards the Search teams as they are sitting on the best/right data to take advantage of.

Looking forward to being there...


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