Search Marketing Expo (SMX) is hosted in multiple locations across the United States and other countries all over the world including: England, Germany, Australia, France, Sweden, Israel, and Italy. Of the many locations where SMX is held, there are only two that play host to SMX Advanced. Luckily for us, one of those two is just a few hours south from us in Seattle Washington.
As the name suggests, SMX Advanced is for experienced internet marketers; covering advanced topics and tactics in fast-paced sessions. As with previous years, this year’s SMX Advanced did not disappoint.
Off to Seattle
Being a busy time for us, we decided to squeeze in a few hours of work at the office Monday morning before hitting the road at around lunchtime to start our drive. Fast forward a few hours and we were enjoying the evening sun atop the Bell Harbor International Conference Center for the SMX Meet-and-Greet.
The Mad Scientists of SMX
My SMX experience got off to an excellent start Monday morning as I attended a session titled ‘The Mad Scientists of Paid Search’. Chris Haleua from Adobe kicked off the session in true mad scientist style, using the laws of physics and the process of solving a Rubik’s cube to present a method on Actionable SEM Analysis Patterns. Sound confusing? Basically, Chris explained how he breaks down his data into segments in order to focus his optimization efforts on the highest impact areas of an account. There are so many different ways to do this but the process Chris has created and the theory behind it are quite solid.
Are Enhanced Campaigns Smart or Can They Be Easily Tricked?
Next I was off to attend a session focused on Enhanced Campaigns which has been all the talk lately. During the session, one big question that I had been wondering about was answered.
- The question: Can you trick an enhanced campaign to only show ads to mobile devices?
- The answer: Not really…
Both Jeff Allen from Hanapin and Brad Geddes from Certified Knowledge were far from successful in getting a campaign to show 100% on mobile devices. This is big news as it confirms we do have to accept the new campaign types, at least for now. With that in mind we should be focusing our efforts on taking advantage of the good new features that these campaigns bring instead of on trying to trick the system into running the way it used to in the past.
Matt Cutts Does It Again
For the afternoon I would have to say the highlight was the You & A with Matt Cutts; head of Google’s web-spam team. Just like last year, Matt and Search Engine Land’s founding editor Danny Sullivan put on a show that was both informative and fun. More stuffed animals this year as Danny joked about how he had picked up on the naming convention Google was using for updates. As the last major updates were Panda and Penguin, Danny brought along his guesses for the next update: a pig, a pug and a polar bear!
SMX After Dark Party
The After Dark Party, sponsored by Bing, was again hosted at the Seattle Aquarium. As seems to be the norm with conferences, the party happens right in the middle of the session days. I feel like this is a test for attendees and everyone gets a good laugh from it as it’s pretty easy to tell at the next day’s sessions who got carried away at the party.
The open bar and photo booth with goofy props were hits as always, but this year’s after dark party had something really unique. It took a while before I went to investigate what the hour long lineup was for, but when I finally did I saw The Bumby’s! The Bumby’s are two anonymous New York performance artists that, using nothing more than their manual typewriters and charming wit, provide you a personalized assessment of what they think your looks say about you. You can review mine below.
SMX Day 2 Begins
Day 2 kicked off with a presentation from the man with the longest job title at the entire conference: Gurdeep Singh Pall, Corporate Vice President, Information Platform & Experience Team, Microsoft. Gurdeep presented on what he sees as the future of Search and how users will interact with the devices they are making the searches on.
The main idea is that we will be moving away from having little boxes that you type queries in, to a more human type of interaction similar to how we speak to other people (like the direction Apple’s Siri is headed). The devices we use to search will evolve as well, performing searches by speaking to our gaming consoles, Google glasses, maybe one day even our fridges.
Gurdeep’s presentation was interesting, but I felt it would be better suited as a mass presentation to the entire world and that he should have presented on something much more targeted towards the SEO/PPC audience that was present.
Remarketing Beyond the Basics
After Gurdeep’s presentation I was off to attend Pro Level Tips to Succeeding at Remarketing. The session started off with good presentations from both Susan Waldes of PPC Associates and Bryant Garvin of Get Found First.
Susan presented case studies highlighting the performance experienced with the new Remarketing types that have recently become available: Dynamic Remarketing, Search Companion Remarketing and Similar Users Remarketing. Then Bryant Garvin presented on remarketing channels other than Google.
Unfortunately, the third speaker, Jarvis Mak from Rocketfuel used his presentation time to blatantly plug Rocketfuel. Not to be harsh, and I’m sure Rocketfuel offers a great service, but I feel that Jarvis should have had to pay for a booth in the trade area in order to give the sales pitch that he did.
Rocking with PLAs
The PLAs session was extremely informative. It wasn’t just another session where presenters would give a quick overview of a case study or their method, but instead, presenters really got down into exactly how they create, manage and optimize their PLA campaigns.
The highlight for me actually came after the session was completed when I had an in depth conversation with Micah Heath from TQE Marketing on how Vantage could tackle PLAs for our clients’ unique situations. Micah very open to helping out and provided some great advice, even going as far as presenting an invite to contact him again if we needed any further assistance. Thanks Micah!
Tools, Templates and Automation
The last session of SMX was the hardest to decide on as I was really excited for both PPC Tactics & Tools and Extreme Excel Excellence. Both sessions focused on ways to improve performance and save time through automation, tools and templates. With one of my main projects of recent being to improve our productivity through tools, templates and scripts, these sessions were highly anticipated.
In the end, I headed to the Excel session and Steve attended PPC Tactics & Tools.
As was expected, Extreme Excel Excellence had a ton of great presentations filled with actionable insights. One of my favourite speakers was Annie Cushing from AnnieLytics.com. Annie showed us the different things she does in Excel to “Make Your Data Sexy”. When your data is sexy it becomes effortless for your clients to see the important information and understand the point you are trying to get across. As reporting seems to be a neglected area for many small PPC outfits, solo operations and even larger firms, this was a great topic for a presentation.
Brett Snyder from Nebo got very technical with excel formulas during his presentation about building tools and templates. As per my comments earlier, this was a presentation that couldn’t have been timelier for me. Brett was also kind enough to share with us a bidding tool that he created which I’m very excited to analyze and compare to the bidding tools I have been working on!
On the other end of the spectrum, John Gagnon from Microsoft used his time slot to demo a new plugin for Excel 2013, code named GeoFlow (now officially called Maps in Power View). GeoFlow is an amazing tool that displays your data in the context of geography. And although I’m sure this wasn’t the main purpose behind its design, GeoFlow works exceptionally well with PPC and SEO data. I can definitely picture using GeoFlow in the future to analyze data and report to clients.
That’s It, That’s All
And that pretty much wraps up our time in Seattle for SMX Advanced 2013.
I’ll leave you with a video of GeoFlow in action. Unfortunately it’s not being presented as excitingly as it was presented to us by John Gagnon, but a quick skim through will give you a small idea of what it is.