Each month I try to structure these articles around a key theme or argument, positing a hypothesis, offering some proof points, and drawing a (hopefully) useful conclusion. But today it isn't
happening. I'm going to blame it on Twitter. I've been using the service often for the last month and the 140 character mindset is clearly not compatible with the steady thought required to produce a
coherent 750-word essay. There is certainly no lack of worthwhile topics to discuss this month, but I can't hone in on one. So this month's column is a bit of a Smorgasbord. Here's what's
- Budgets. They are up, that is. What a pleasant surprise I had the other week when one of our search managers came to inform me their client had come to them with a budget increase. It's
been a year or more since I have seen a bona fide budget increase. Honestly, from August of 2008 through just last month I have only seen budgets slashed. The increase I saw last month was soon
followed by several others across our practice. The increases are modest, but I think we are seeing the beginning of a turnaround that could heat up in the fourth quarter.
Targeting. The industry's ad targeting practices are coming under scrutiny to the extent not seen in a decade. Thus far, however, Search as a whole has stayed out of the fray, the attention of the
press and regulators focused on cookie-based behavioral targeting for banner ads. AOL already demonstrated the extent to which search query data can tie back to personally identifiable information. And the employment of behavioral targeting techniques by Google and Yahoo is in full
swing. Given this, it seems odd that Search has not been singled out in the debate about data-driven marketing strategies online. Maybe the BT practices of Google and Yahoo are so subtle they have
stayed under the radar. Or perhaps the implicit value exchange between service and advertising is so well established that Search gets a free pass while ad networks, and other members of the BT
ecosystem with value propositions less clear to consumers, get hammered.
- The Bing/Yahoo deal. I'm very excited to see this come to fruition. More than anything, this
collaboration creates a stronger second player in the market that can spur on innovation and reignite competition for advertisers' business. I think anyone who has been in the space for a while will
agree that advertisers were better served (better service, better support, and more advertiser-centric product innovations) when Google felt the threat of real competition. Bing and Yahoo together
can reignite that threat and add the dynamism that's been missing from the market for the last few years.
- SES San Jose. The conference was in full swing this week, but for the
first time in four years I did not attend. This time last year I wrote a piece on SES, and the
conference organizers repaid my thoughtful, heartfelt critique by not inviting me back. Hey, I'm not sweating it. The Search Insider Summit is the only conference I need!