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Search Marketing Summer Camp – My Experience at Search Engine Strategies San Francisco

Search Marketing Summer Camp – My Experience at Search Engine Strategies San Francisco

It’s been about two weeks since attending the Search Engine Strategies conference in San Francisco with the rest of the Forthea Interactive search team (check out Terri’s blog post from her favorite session about mobile marketing here). My head is still spinning withDavis Baker-Forthea ideas to implement into my PPC, display and SEO efforts.

Going in, I knew the conference wasn’t going to have the glitz and glamour that the SXSW Interactive Festival has been associated with as of late. Looking back, I can honestly say that I grossly underestimated SES. I’ve been involved with search for over three years now, I’m no beginner, but I learned more from the industry heavy hitters at that conference than any webinar or blog post could ever teach me.

I found every session to be extremely beneficial and I left each one with knowledge gained. However, there were a few discussions that really stuck out. The first one I found to be very informative was “PPC Competitive Analysis”. This was the first session of the week for me and I was still a bit woozy from the late flight, but nothing a little coffee (3 cups) couldn’t fix. When it comes to competitive analysis, Matt Van Wagner said it best, “eat their lunch before they eat yours”. Like everyone in marketing and advertising knows, an essential component of any marketing plan is understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. During this event, Jeff Ferguson, Lisa Raehsler and Matt Van Wagner took a close look at what tips and tricks you can use with search engines for competitor analysis. The best tip I got from this session is to look beyond the obvious things and ask more strategic questions.

The second session I found very useful was titled “Landing Page Optimization”. Guess what we talked about? That’s right, landing page optimization! The speakers focused on the idea that getting someone to come to your website is only half the battle and the biggest opportunity comes AFTER the click. Bryan Eisenberg and Nathan Ritcher gave the attendees a crash course in how to tune and tweak your landing pages to get a conversion. The most useful tip I got from this session pertained to the importance of not making it just a landing page, but a landing session.

Another session that stuck out was “Ads in a Quality Score World”.  I’m not going to lie, I was a pretty excited about this session. I had just wrapped up Craig Danuloff’s Quality Score book on the flight there and I wanted to hear what he had to say. In this session, Craig Danuloff, Matt Van Wagner, Paul Corkery and Frederick Vallaeys took a look at the ever important quality score factors and gave tips on increasing the perceived relevancy of your campaigns. The best tip I gained from this session was that there are two types of relevance factors to consider when it comes to quality score. One is horizontal, which we can’t control. The other is vertical, which is something we can control.

Rounding out my favorite sessions at SES San Francisco is “Avoiding PPC Stagnation”. Cam Fortin, Michael Mothner and Christine Churchhill discussed proven innovative strategies used by leading e-commerce players to get more value out of even the most finely-tuned, mature PPC campaigns. The main reason I thoroughly enjoyed this session was that both Cam and Michael gave real life examples of tactics utilized on their brands and offered 12 solid tips to those in attendance to try out. All 12 of the tips for avoiding PPC campaign stagnation were great, but the one that really stuck out was how to deal with deadlines & seasonality and how to use them to your advantage.

Favorite Speakers:

  • Matt Van Wagner
  • Bryan Eisenberg
  • Craig Danuloff

Favorite Non-Conference Experiences:

  • Eating Swordfish and truffle fries
  • Hippie cab drivers who clearly played San Francisco Rush back in the day
  • The highs in the low 60s and clear skies/not sweating

Did you go to SES San Francisco? Let us know what you enjoyed the most about it!


Davis Baker
Davis is the PPC Team Lead at Forthea and a digital advertising veteran of six years. Outside of the office, you can find Davis running, riding his dirt bike, or searching for the perfect cup of coffee (freshly ground and brewed with a French press. Anything less just won't cut it).

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