This week was my first MediaPost Search Insider Summit event and I was glad to have been able to participate. I’ve been a reader of MediaPost publications on and offline for several years and have been a big fan of the Search Insider, which is pretty much the only email format search marketing content that I’ll actually read outside of my ClickZ subscriptions.
To answer a question I had posted to Gord Hotchkiss in an interview last week, “What’s different about the Search Insider Summit conference from other search marketing related conferences?”, is that both the content and the conversations were weighted more towards the strategic side of search marketing. In fact, I overheard Gord at the end of the conference say he had more strategic discussions about the future of the search marketing industry this week than he’d had at any other conference.
Many other conferences are tactics driven, which makes sense because they are large events and work hard to meet the needs of the industry by attracting as many marketers as possible. The Search Insider Summit event is designed to be small and focused on topics important to those people within organizations responsible for all digital marketing, not just search.
That is not to say there wasn’t room for tactics, because there certainly was. My suggestion to MediaPost and David Berkowitz would be to have just a bit more tactics mixed with strategy in the panels and presentations.
One of the standout features of this event over many others is that you could really tell the moderators knew the subject matter of their panels inside and out. That is not the case at some other search marketing conferences where moderators are often, literally clueless about the topic they’re moderating. Moderators can add a tremendous amount of value to a session and even “save” a session from failure, but only if they’re knowledgeable and curious about the session topic.
It was also obvious that paid search was the darling child of topics. Natural search entered conversations and presentations here and there, but it was by no means a focus. And let’s face it, right now paid search is where the big agencies, marketers and search engines are spending their time. It’s where the money is.
Since our company specializes in natural search optimization as well as other forms of editorial visibility on the web, one might think this would come across as a threat or at least a disappointment. The contrary is true actually. Such a situation is, and was, a tremendous opportunity.
Since there are so many SEO consultants out there making overzealous claims, what many big companies are looking for is simply a SEO company that they can trust to do what’s promised. Many organizations are bringing SEO and paid search in-house to handle tactical search marketing execution, but they’re also continuing to retain search marketing agencies as strategic consultants. SEO agencies will ignore this trend at their own peril and I believe it will pay off dearly to develop more strategic consulting services along with improving their standard search marketing services.
The next Summit is apparently going to be mid December somewhere in Utah with a skiing theme. With Pubcon in Las Vegas the first week of December, a trip to the slopes right after sounds pretty festive (and potentially productive) to me.