The Buzz (and Lack Thereof) At The Search Insider Summit

Last week's Search Insider Summit was filled with compelling content, candid conversation and concrete takeaways -- sorry, ran out of Cs! There was one thing palpably missing though -- BUZZ.

Perhaps it was the state of the economy, or maybe it was the lack of snow in Park City, but SIS attendees were decidedly low-key, with no single issue, trend, topic or platform bubbling up and getting the crowd jazzed -- with the exception of the TV giveaway from

That said, there were some recurring themes woven throughout the panel and breakout discussions. And, as always, I present them to you here in Top 10 format. But, first, a recap of Buzz-o-meters from past summits to help us see the progression, er... stagnation.

November 2006 - Palm Springs

1. Branding
2. Integration
3. Engagement
4. Assists
5. Mobile, Local (tie)
6. Long Tail
7. E-mail
8. Click Fraud
9. Truthiness
10. Relevance



May 2007 - Bonita Springs

1. Transparency
2. User-centricity
3. Content
4. Analytics
5. Community, Connection (tie)
6. Integration
7. Discovery, Personalization (tie)
8. Social, Mobile, Video (tie)
9. Funnel
10. Intent

December 2007 - Park City

1. Consumers
2. Universal
3. Big Agencies
4. Query
5. Facebook
6. Analytics
7. Recession
8. Mobile
9. Widgets
10. Transparency

May 2008- Captiva Island

1. Google

2. Clicks

3. Social, Facebook (tie)

4. Integration

5. Conversation

6. Branding

7. Data, Analytics (tie)

8. Strategy

9. Twitter

10. Mobile, Local (tie)

Drum roll please...

December 2008 - Park City

1. Google

For the second straight Summit, the Big G topped the list. Nary a thought was completed nor POV stated without referencing Google. And more often than not, it was accompanied by overtures (sorry, bad word choice) of fear, envy, sarcasm, eye-rolling or all of the above. See David Berkowitz's column "So Over Google" for more context.

2. Economy, Recession (tie)

Nipping at Google's heels on both the Buzz-o-meter and Fear-o-meter was the recessionary economy. There was a lot of discussion around the role of search in a down economy and, given that eight Search Insider columns in the past 6 weeks have touched on this topic, I won't belabor the point other than to remind search marketers that it could be worse. We could be in the display business.

3. Data, Analytics, Attribution (tie)

As I proclaimed on the Silo Smashing panel, if Search is God then Data is King: When budgets are tight and every dollar invested is scrutinized, it's crucial to tap the millions of data points we have available to us on both the front end and back end of our search programs. And developing cross-channel attribution methodologies will help marketers understand the role of search in the mix and how to optimize holistically. (Wow, my buzzword density for that last sentence was pretty high!)

4. iPhone, Mobile (tie)

Mobile is officially the only buzzword to appear on every SIS Buzz-o-meter to date. Whether it was people showing off apps on their iPhones -- my personal favorite was David Berkowitz's Flick Fishing -- or talking about new Google targeting options to isolate iPhone users, mobile was a hot topic, and the iPhone seemed to be mentioned in the same breath just about every time. The one exception might have been when Danny Sullivan was talking about voice search and the great progress Microsoft has made there.

5. Microsoft

Speaking of Danny and Microsoft, the Google Universe panel discussion was surprisingly Microsoft-heavy and that trend seemed to carry through for the duration of the conference. The consensus seemed to be that Microsoft will never catch Google (but at least they're getting attention) whereas many people are writing off (or at least indifferent toward) Yahoo.

6. Relationship, Transparency (tie)

OK, I know I'm copping out with all these ties but there were a lot of closely related themes. The importance of relationships and transparency among marketers, agencies, and media/technology vendors permeated many of the breakout sessions. Granted, some roundtables, such as the Three Sides breakout, were specific to this topic -- but the thread around how the various players in the search ecosystem can better align, break down silos, and truly integrate (bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) was oft-cited and hotly contested as two-thirds of us resisted the urge to "blame the client."

7. Strategy, Tactics (tie)

For a conference that is known for being more strategic in nature, there sure was a lot of tactical discussion. Not surprising, though, given how critical it is when times are tough for search marketers to button up their tactics -- or, as Olivia Lemaignen of Intuit put it, strive for excellence in execution.

8. Bid Management, Quality Score (tie)

Speaking of tactics, there was a lot of talk about bid management and quality scores. Methinks this was due in part to the heavy presence of bid management tool providers as both attendees and sponsors. I'm still amazed by how much attention is paid to this commoditized piece of our business. To me, we should be focused more on campaign management and systems integration.

9. Omniture

The "good folks" (to steal Jon Whitfield's catch phrase) from Orem cracked the Top 10 for the first time and, with data, analytics, and attribution all top of mind, it's no surprise why. It also didn't hurt that SIS was held in their back yard.

10. Social

Social media limped into the Top 10 on Day 3 thanks to a breakout session focused solely on the topic. In fact, we remarked how absent social had been from the conversation to date. Outside the opening panel highlighting the Obama campaign's use of social media, there was very little chatter about the intersection between social and search. My sense is that this was due to an increased focus on quantifiable channels that deliver immediate (and positive) ROI. It seems like marketers are less willing to experiment with social strategies right now.

Honorable Mentions:Long Tail, Hope, Integration

Looking forward to the next SIS. Maybe by then we'll have awoken the hive and unleashed the buzz!

Editor's Note: Want to see (and hear) firsthand what Aaron is talking about? Click here for video coverage from the Summit.

4 comments about "The Buzz (and Lack Thereof) At The Search Insider Summit".
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  1. Martin Edic from WTSsocial, December 10, 2008 at 3:33 p.m.

    I think the position of social last on the list is not indicative of a move to measurable media, I think it is indicative of both fear and a lack of understanding. Just as search was a scary thought a few years ago, social is a scary new thing now. Why? Because it is a game changer for everyone in the marketing business.
    I'll bet it is the number one topic next year.

  2. Tim Kirsch from Apposite Marketing Solutions, December 10, 2008 at 4:04 p.m.

    I'm amused - given how so many internet experts keep proclaiming that TV is dead - that the buzz highlight of the Search Insider Summit was the giveaway of a TV set.

    I wonder how much excitement you would have stirred if you had given away a wireless router or a quality ethernet cable?

    LOL :)

    Broadcast TV ratings may be plunging - but not because people have stopped watching TV - the viewers have just moved to cable.

    btw - I'm not an "Internet Hater" - quite to the contrary. I just don't believe that streaming video on line - no matter how robust a selection becomes available - will spell the end of traditional least not in the foreseeable future.

  3. Michael Mostert, December 10, 2008 at 7:11 p.m.

    To repsond to Martin's point, I don't believe that advertisers fear or misunderstand social sites such as Facebook and MySpace, but in fact see that users of social networks aren't there to search - for information or with intent to purchase - and therefor represent a lower marketing value.

    Personally, I know of many friends who find it "creepy" that advertisers market to them based on the information/topics contained on their profile pages or within the contents of their emails. It makes them feel like someone is "spying" on them.

    Just my $.02

  4. Lee Odden from TopRank Marketing, December 11, 2008 at 12:48 p.m.

    See, I don't go to a SIS and there's no buzz. Totally unrelated I'm sure. :)

    I suspect many advertisers have tired of trying to put their square pegs in the round holes of social media and moved on to other topics near and dear like how their going to make revenue targets 4th quarter.

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