SES NY Recap

The weather was wet and rainy for SES NY, and things seemed quieter than in years past. I couldn't help noticing that there was plenty of unoccupied exhibitor space on the third level, foot traffic seemed light, and you could even find a seat at the hotel lobby bar, where in years past people used to wait four deep to order a drink.

Have search-oriented trade shows peaked out? Is the industry getting tired of going to the same venues all the time? Perhaps it's simply a case of poor scheduling (OMMA Hollywood overlapped with SES this time round). Still, despite the lighter-than-usual turnout, there were some interesting things at SES NY; here's what stimulated my synapses this time round:

1. At last, some actual gee-whiz technology. Call me jaded, but it's rare that I encounter any SES vendor offering any technology or service that knocks my socks off. But Blinkx, a video search company, has developed a brilliant solution to the nettlesome problem of finding video content. Blinkx' proprietary technology analyzes the audio track of any given video, then produces an audio-to-text transcription, thereby making it searchable. I was greatly impressed with Blinkx' technology and spent a long time at the company's booth because just about every search I performed produced extremely relevant results from credible partners. Interestingly, Blinkx' approach practically eliminates SEO spam (AKA "Video Search Optimization"). because it bypasses tagging (which may or may not reflect the actual content of a video). Of course, being able to produce this kind of innovation didn't come cheap: Blinkx has invested about $150 million in its video search technology, and as more and more video content flows through digital channels, being able to sort the wheat from the chaff will become ever more important.

2. Lifting the kimono on click fraud. Let's be blunt: the problem of click fraud is a cancer on the search economy.  The industry's efforts to control/contain it have been inadequate, and the bad guys now control an ever-growing array of sophisticated ROI-stealing botnets. Unlike older forms of media that have neutral third-party auditing mechanisms in place, PPC marketers must rely on the assurances of search engines when it comes to verifying the quality of the clicks sold, a situation that results in an inevitable conflict of interest. So it was welcome news when Yahoo announced a partnership with auditing firm Click Forensics to provide an additional perspective on the issue of fraudulent clicks.  While I'm quite confident that search as a marketing channel will survive and thrive even in these recessionary times, it's equally clear that cash-conscious marketers who pay the search engines' bills will be more closely scrutinizing the traffic they buy. Yahoo's initiative couldn't have come at a better time; my hope is that the other engines will quickly follow suit and provide some real transparency for search media buyers. I firmly believe that click fraud is a problem that can be licked, but only if this industry stops talking about it and starts taking real steps to fight it.

3. SEM agencies: does everybody now do everything? One obvious trend I noticed by walking the show floor is that many SEM agencies are broadening their service offerings to include just about every service under the sun, from SEO to PPC to email marketing to social media optimization and beyond. It's clear that clients searching for "one-stop shops" are driving this process. I frankly think that the movement away from specialization makes very little sense from a client perspective, because SEO, PPC, email and other digital marketing channels are very different specialties, and it's quite rare that a given firm will have the expertise and resources to execute them equally well. This new trend reminds of that old "Saturday Night Live" skit in which a "miracle" product called Shimmer, after being introduced as both a dessert topping and a floor wax, is praised as "the greatest shine you ever tasted."

Did I miss something exciting or significant at SES NY? Send me some email, or post to the blog below, and let's chat



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