The 3 Biggest Takeaways from SES New York

Yesterday, I returned home after a couple of days at SES New York. It had been years since I attended the East Coast version of SES – in fact, SES was my first search conference way back in 2003 in Boston, before they moved the show to New York. While I didn’t attend the whole show this year, I was there long enough to see a lot of friends and catch the buzz. So, here are my top 3 takeaways from the show.

1. The Bing announcement that wasn’t. The audience was buzzing about Thursday’s keynote by Yusuf Mehdi from Microsoft. Rumor had it that he was going to be making some big announcements about Bing. The room was packed, everyone waiting with baited breath. What were the big announcements? Maps. Lots of maps. Oh, and a partnership with Foursquare. Sorry, but this wasn’t news to me. I know a lot of people get into Foursquare, but I just don’t see the business value. In fact, I asked that question during the keynote: where is the business value in all of this? The answer? Businesses have more information about intent with these lovely features. I don’t know about you, but I won’t be rushing to Bing to put my clients’ ads on their Foursquare map.

2. Social media is where it’s at. There were entire tracks at SES New York on Social Media, and every session I attended was packed. People clearly want to learn about social media and how to make it work for them. I found, though, that most of the sessions were unfocused and didn’t stay on topic. For instance, the session on Social and the Marketing Mix was billed as a session on integrating social media with your other marketing – something that, in my opinion, is key to social media success. But the only speaker who talked about integration was Beth Harte. The other speakers talked about how to start a social media program, measuring results, claiming your name on social channels (hello??), and a bunch of other random things that had nothing to do with integration. That said, it’s obvious to me that social media is hot, hot, hot.

Side note: Call me old-fashioned, but I was really surprised at the number of snarky Tweets from the show. I’m sure some of them were deserved, but many just went beyond the pale – there was a series of tweets ridiculing someone for their outfit. I agree she looked, well, out of place – but this isn’t high school, this is a search conference. And tweeting about someone’s long nails on their laptop keyboard or the BO of the person in front of you isn’t really useful, either.

3. People still want and need to know the basics of PPC and SEO. I was shocked at how many people I *didn’t* know at this SES – in fact, the only people I recognized were the other speakers. (Quick detour: I remember being at SES Chicago about 5 years ago and accidentally sitting at lunch with a bunch of the speakers. I felt totally out of place and embarrassed. This time, it was the exact opposite – I ended up having lunch in the speaker room because there were no seats in the Grand Ballroom, and I didn’t know anyone there anyway. I don’t know if that means I’ve arrived, or if the audience has really changed. Anyway…) The Fundamentals sessions were very well attended. My good friend Matt Van Wagner told me that his Paid Search 101 session was packed. He started out with the real basics: what PPC is, how it works, etc. I asked him if that was too basic, and he said, “No. I told the audience to let me know if it was too basic, and they told me that it was just what they were looking for.” I had a similar experience in my Paid Search Site Clinic – several of the attendees weren’t even doing PPC yet – they wanted to know how to get started. Maybe this shouldn’t surprise me, but it does.

Well, there you have it – my 3 top takeaways from SES New York. I actually have a fourth: food poisoning. Yes, this makes the 3rd time I’ve come home from the East Coast with food poisoning – not sure what that’s all about…. Alas. What are your biggest takeaways from the show?

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