SAScon 2015: 4 Key Takeaways

Earlier this month, I attended SAScon and had the privilege of watching some of the finest minds in search marketing, social media and analytics talking about new trends and tactics shaping the work they do.

For all the slides from the event, check out SearchCandy’s excellent roundup, but keep reading for my 4 key takeaways from day 1…

Email targeting is coming to AdWords this year

WordStream’s Larry Kim was probably the biggest name at SAScon this year — this was his first time in England, and he didn’t disappoint. He gave two talks on day 1 (no mean feat for a jet-lagged man who’d been up for 30 hours), covering paid advertising trends and opportunities in mobile.

For me, his most interesting prediction was that email targeting options will be rolled out for AdWords before the end of 2015. He pretty much declared the death of the keyword, and explained that we’re now moving from targeting based on demographics and interests to “identity targeting” where we’re advertising to specific individuals.

The ability to laser target Google Ads on the search and display networks at specific individuals would bring Google in line with the likes of Facebook and Twitter, where this is already possible. The creepiness with which advertisers are able to “stalk” people around the internet is set to crank up a notch and some may find this invasive and uncomfortable, but the opportunities for smart marketers are pretty exciting and the onus is on us to be creative rather than creepy.

Custom audience advertising is the new outreach

This is really an extension of the point above, but it deserves its own heading because it’s a pretty revolutionary idea for anyone whose day-to-day work involves blogger outreach, media communications and PR. Larry Kim gave an example of a blog post that he promoted on Twitter with a $50 ad spend to his own database of tech influencers. This took him 10 minutes to setup, cost him virtually nothing and resulted in coverage on some of the biggest sites in his niche. First it was picked up on Marketing Land, the next day on the likes of engadget and VentureBeat, quickly followed by a tonne of other huge sites the beginning of the following week. For 10 minutes of time and $50 spend, he achieved this:

Obviously Larry Kim’s name carries some weight and the content he promoted was useful and timely (although also something he just published off the cuff), but the key takeaway here is that promoting Tweets or Facebook posts to a set list of influencers is a powerful alternative to traditional outreach (usually firing out emails and hassling people on the phone for days on end, often with disappointing results). This method gives relevant journalists / editors / bloggers the feeling of discovering content for themselves and the results speak for themselves. Sure, this will never truly replace well-written email introductions and friendly phone calls, but custom audience advertising looks set to become a key feature of the savvy content marketer’s content promotion toolkit.

All standard attribution models are bullsht

Russell McAthy – MD of Deliver Insight — delivered one of the soundbites of the day: “All standard attribution models are bullsht”. His talk was pretty much a cold-blooded dismantling of conventional conversion attribution wisdom and a challenge to marketers to become more sophisticated in the way they credit the contribution of different channels and moments within the conversion journey.

He was critical of Google Analytics’ oversimplification of the attribution modelling options and argued that big marketing budgets need clever people to ensure they’re being spent in the most effective way.

Russell reckons 99% of marketers today don’t truly understand their data and admitted that the data he uses is probably only 80% accurate, but if you can get meaningful insights about your business and your customers from that 80%, then that’s enough. This talk was more thought provoking than answer-providing, but sometimes that’s just as valuable.

Mobile isn’t killing desktop – we’re just online more each day

With Larry Kim evangelising about opportunities in mobile, it was tempting to write something along the lines of “desktop = dead” in my notes, but Paddy Moogan — co-founder of Aira — made an important point about trends in device usage. He argued that rather than mobile replacing desktop for users, the real phenomenon is that we’re simply online more than we used to be; mobile is clearly massive, but it’s not “eating” or “killing” traditional desktop traffic.

In situations where we used to read a newspaper, stare out of a window, or attempt conversations with strangers, we are now often using our smartphones to find and consume information, but desktops haven’t disappeared from our office desks and laptops haven’t disappeared from our coffee tables. As well as people searching from mobiles when on the go, they’ll also often search from their sofas, then jump onto a bigger screen if they find something they want to look at in more depth.

Yes, mobile search has overtaken desktop, but desktop search hasn’t dropped as a result — it has simply levelled out and there are just more searches happening overall than there were before.

This isn’t to say that mobile-first isn’t the right approach, but rather that we shouldn’t assume desktop is dying. We need to get better at understanding multi-screen user journeys involving multiple devices and optimising the experience across the full mix.