Search Engine Strategies NY is upon us this week, and it's time to celebrate with a look backward.
Backward? Yes, because the search marketing industry, like the tech sector of which it is a part, is far too forward-looking. While it's great that our eyes are so much on the future, there's a lot you can find out studying what's gone before. Past is prologue, after all, and in this spirit I spent several hours looking through old SES NY agendas. My aim was to discover topics that -- in their day -- were hot enough to warrant SES panel discussions, but have since been dropped in favor of others.
Naturally, the mere fact that a given topic was dropped from the SES agenda doesn't mean that it isn't of interest to real-world search marketers. Some topics (such as click fraud) may pose greater challenges than ever, even though they're no longer deemed "buzzworthy" enough to be panel discussion themes.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 conference topics that have been dropped from SES agendas over the years. I call them "The Lost Buzzwords of SES." (Note: I didn't examine all regional SES agendas, just those for the NY shows).
1. Paid inclusion. The last time SES New York covered paid inclusion was in 2004, just after Yahoo announced its SiteMatch program. Five years have passed; Yahoo still does paid inclusion, but Google doesn't, so why should anyone care?
2. Blogs, boards, and posts. Once upon a time, crafty marketers plotted how to manipulate conversations on blogs, boards, and posts, and so the subject rated a panel at SES. Today, with everyone driven crazy by Twitter/Facebookmania, the topic is MIA, although there are still plenty of blogs, boards and posts out there.
3. Viral marketing. Remember this once-powerful meme? Conjure up a cute idea like the one made famous by the Mentos/Pepsi fountaineers, record it, upload to Youtube, and let the users spread it worldwide. This topic (which has very little to do with search) warranted its own panel in 2006, but was dropped, probably because fewer than 0.0001% of produced ideas gain any kind of online traction.
4. Click fraud. According to Click Forensics, click fraud is actually at sky-high levels now; in Q4 2008, it hit a whopping 17%. But don't look for any panels on click fraud at SES NY. In these hard times, it's more fun to talk about silly tweets than evil cheats.
5. Rich media. It's dynamic, embeddable, animated, and incredible! So why doesn't rich media warrant a panel at SES NY? Well, rich media was always just a fancy term for those annoying and increasingly hideous display ads that nobody clicks on, despite the dreams of its gang of boosters. And what the heck did it ever have to do with search, anyway?
6. Podcast optimization. Podcasting -- what a grand idea! All it takes is a cheap microphone and you'll be on your way to becoming the next Rush. Only problem is, Rush has millions of listeners, whereas most podcasters have about seven. The sequential nature of podcasting is just about the least efficient way to deliver information online, and maybe that's why nobody seems to mind that SES no longer pays attention to it.
7. Search convergence. Flash Bulletin From SES 2005: In the World of Tomorrow, you'll use search queries to access everything on your desktop, your PVR, and even your cell phone! I'm not sure why this topic died, because "search convergence" is still happening. Maybe all the topic needs is a re-branding as "Search Osmosis" or "Search Creep."
8. Widgets and gadgets. Not sure why widgets and gadgets are no longer interesting enough to warrant panels at SES. I suppose the buzz has passed to IPhone and Facebook-style "apps."
9. Pay-per-call. Search pundits predicted that pay-per-call would be a $4 billion industry by 2009, but something derailed on the way to the cash register. I'm not saying that nobody's doing pay-per-call; just that in the SES universe, the topic now scores zero on the buzz index.
10. Cashing out your company. How much is your SEO firm worth? Should you be swimming with the VC sharks? These were relevant questions back in 2005 but today, in "the fear economy," with VCs licking their wounds, questions of burn rate and sustainability have trumped any dreams of a quick and lucrative exit strategy. And maybe that's not such a bad thing.