As I am writing this SMX West is still going on at the San Jose Convention Center. I was only able to allot one day to the search marketing expo this year. Last year it seemed there was a little more excitement at the show. Twitter was there and it seemed like they had a lot more booths in the Expo Hall. This year was a little dead. Maybe it was the weather.
In all fairness I can’t really give a fair review of the conference since I only get the Expo Plus pass, which is free and has limited access to the goings on. For full session access plus a workshop the price tag nears $3k which would be hard for me to justify. The primary reason I go is not for the free snacks or trinkets, but to find out what people are talking about, what they are excited about, and also what the big players, like Google and Bing are focused on. Like last year, this year the focus was big on mobile and omni-channel attribution. This year added chatbots to the mix.
Prior to the Keynote, Nicky Rettke of Youtube put on a presentation about video advertising with an emphasis on how video can improve your conversion rate. It came up during the presentation that Youtube had a brand meltdown, and the speaker did not look to happy about the subject being brought up. Apparently Youtube failed to remove obscene comments from videos of children even after they were flagged. That doesn’t surprise me, as I find their comment moderation across their properties lacking. This time it bit them, and major brands pulled their ads. But I digress.
So, the point to the presentation tied in well to the omni-channel tracking theme of the conference as I experienced it. Video is top of the funnel content, where people are learning about the product or service before making the buying decision. Companies using video in their marketing mix can see a significant improvement in conversions. Here is the entire presentation:
The keynote was delivered by Shelby Reed, Regional Vice President Sales Bing Ads. The presentation focused on AI, machine learning and chatbots. A new or possibly beta feature of Bing ads is serving a chatbot in place of an ad to engage customers and answer questions. The presentation went on to show how Bing leveraged its AI to create a custom chatbot for the home repair matching service Home Advisor. Interesting, but definitely more relevant to large enterprises than the SMBs I work with. Although AI has come a long way, I think the application is very limited to processes that have simple, clear cut steps that can be automated. This would be along the lines of replacing people in call centers who are just reading scripts.
For us Expo Plus attendees, the Learn with Google theater is the primary session destination. These sessions are all focused on using Google Adwords and never touch on the subject of natural SEO (which would be cool). This year, as last year, the sessions I attended were focused on cross-device, omni-channel attribution. There is a new tool in Beta called Google Attribution to make this task possible. Connect your Adwords and Analytics accounts and Google can use it’s knowledge of users and devices logged into a Google Account to track their cross device / cross channel behavior. Very interesting, however I don’t have access to the beta yet to test it out.
Unfortunately I was only able to attend a couple of additional sessions until I was called back to the office to attend to projects.
I think the primary reason most people go to SMX West is for the networking. Even given just the free Expo Plus pass there would be enough networking opportunities, especially if you were skilled and looking for a job. Keep in mind though that the people with the most access are probably working at the enterprise level, and may not have much to say to the SMB Expo Plus people aside from the obvious pleasantries. Even so, knowing what the big fish are up to can help you prepare for things to come in your small business.