SES Becomes Clickz Live: Moving Away from Search or Breaking Down Silos?

This Monday I received an e-mail. The e-mail was written by Laura Roth, Head of Content, Interactive Marketing Division at Incisive Media. I was on her list of people to e-mail because I have been a speaker at the SES Conferences several times. Laura came to tell me that I wouldn’t be speaking at SES too many times anymore. Actually, this upcoming SES London will be my last appearance probably.

It’s not that Laura doesn’t like my speaking skills (at least, I hope she likes them), but it’s because Incisive Media, the organisation driving the SES Conferences, decided to rebrand SES, from the show in New York in 2014 on the SES shows will be re-branded into ClickZ Live. That means the upcoming London event in February will the last one which will carry the SES brand.

The rebrand of SES into ClickZ Live is yet another sign how the industry is changing, how silo’s are being teared down and how brands within the SEO industry are looking for the right positioning of their brand. We’ve seen SEOMoz going to Moz, A4U going to Performance and off course we ourselves went from Search to Digital. And with new shows like the Digital Marketing Show, Content Marketing Show and others it might look like we are all moving away from search. Is this the long predicted ‘death of SEO’? I don’t think it is, but let’s explore a little.

SES becoming ClickZ Live

ClickZ-Live-New-York-2The move from SES is not really unexpected. Incisive Media publishes both Clickz as Searchenginewatch and has been putting more emphasis on a more broader direction for the past few years. SES used to be “Search Engine Strategies”, but rebranded to “SES” a few years ago, to be ‘less search’ and more general online marketing. With SES being the first search conference out there years ago now making the complete shift an era ends.

The history if SES is well described by its original founder Danny Sullivan on Searchengineland.

So has Incisive declared ‘search’ as something from the past?

Not according to their statements. What Incisive is aiming for is “a natural transition that recognizes the ever-evolving changes taking place in the digital marketing industry and the convergence of content across two of Incisive’s premium brands.

Mike Grehan, Group Publishing Director of the Interactive Marketing Division at Incisive Media, says this about the rebrand:

“As we talk about the “internet of everything”, and with up to 50 billion devices becoming connected around the planet in a just a few short years, once again, technology in marketing and advertising is transforming the way we do business on a global scale. With its international audience, ClickZ reaches every area of the digital marketing industry and touches on every discipline – the timing couldn’t be better. And where better to launch our new look and feel than the advertising capital of the world.”

It’s a trend

Grehan indicates here that ‘just search’ is not enough anymore. Digital is broader. It is something we are seeing more and more around the industry. As said, there were the re-brands like ours, but there is a lot more indication for a changing digital industry. Different trade shows are appearing, more focussed on different elements of digital marketing. We’ve been covering events like the Content Marketing Show, the Conversion Conference and Affiliate conferences (Permance Marketing, before A4U) for quite a while and the focus is clearly not just search anymore.

Even within companies you see the shift. Agencies are not ‘just’ offering search anymore, but are offering a wide range of services, from social media to content marketing and search. And with that comes the changing job roles. People who used to be “SEO” are now “Digital Marketers” or similar.

Even companies rebrand, especially those with the name ‘search’ in their original name are finding the need to rebrand.

What does this mean?

Death of SEO?

Does this mean that we are finally at the point which has been written about and predicted so many times? Is this the death of SEO? I highly doubt it. Hell, I’m even sure it is not.

SEO is still the driving force behind many digital campaigns and people still search, a lot. It is just changing and what we are seeing is a shift towards (finally) breaking down the silos. Search is not a stand alone trade anymore. It has always been connected to other channels, but the realisation that the different channels have to work together has become much stronger.

But do we need to re-brand for that?

In some cases yes. Because much of the success of a digital campaign depends on how people look at setting up the campaign in general. Breaking down these silo’s actually makes search less ‘distant’, it makes it part of the entire process instead of something ‘we also need to do’ or something which is the only thing which is done. For the realisation of the marketers, the businesses creating the campaigns, search is getting closer.

Conferences: a shifting field

So back to the SES rebrand: the question is if breaking down the silos and creating a broader scoop of the digital industry is the only reason for the re-brand. I doubt it. Off course there is the bigger audience they will be able to reach with a different brand: those that are beyond search. But there could be more.

Over the past few years the conference circuit has changed significantly. The most obvious change is that of the size: many new conferences are appearing, more smaller ones and conferences which are more content specific, so focussed on ‘content marketing’, ‘conversion’ and other ‘silo’s’ are getting their own smaller conferences. This makes that the bigger conferences like SES and SMX are having a tougher time. Because the more conferences, the more people have to choose. They can’t go to all, so they will pick a few, those that specifically fit their needs, and in many cases, are less expensive.

I think this started with Thinkvisibility (see more about them here) who made the first big impact in the UK online marketing events and evolved in the next big change: the freemium model. Brighton SEO was the first one to do this: organise a free conference and let the sponsors pay. They are happy to because after all, the chances they will get to specific niche audiences increases the more focussed conferences there are.

The move from SES to Clickz Live will not make the competition with those smaller events easier for the conference, but it will make for a different audience. And that is what they will be after. I’m curious to see how this will evolve and if we will see big differences in the content of the conferences for example. We’ll have to wait until New York 2014 to find out.

Bas van den Beld

About Bas van den Beld

Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.

2 thoughts on “SES Becomes Clickz Live: Moving Away from Search or Breaking Down Silos?

  1. Hey Bas, hope you’re well and thanks for the article above. I just want to be clear about something here. We’re not abandoning search, or our existing audience. And we’re certainly not taking search out of our content, we’re simply adding more content in. We absorbed SES into ClickZ live bringing the two brands together. But SES was really just an acronym. You know that it stood for “Search Engine Strategies” but for many others, it could just as easily stood for “Sausage Egg Sandwich.” A lot of attendees we get weren’t in the industry back in the day (yes, I’m afraid as we get older, the audience appears to get younger 🙂 Anyway, with all that said, I have a little surprise for the search side of the business (the side that I was so active in during the earliest days and still feel part of) up my sleeve. Watch this space!

  2. SES was an acronym that stood for Search Engine Strategies for good reason — because at the time, when there were plenty of conferences that focused around digital marketing in general, it seemed to make sense to have one conference that was focused deep on the growing search marketing space — so that search wasn’t just a few sessions stuck in a corner.

    That hasn’t changed. Bas, you wrote that the bigger conferences like SES and SMX have been having a tougher time. SMX hasn’t been. We’ve been focused on search, constantly refine our programs to keep giving search marketers — who make up over half the online ads spend — compelling content, and that’s been working for us. Our last SMX in New York was our largest show ever.

    I think it’s an overreach to look at SES making its second rebranding (first from Search Engine Strategies, then to ClickZ) and say that there’s something wrong with search, that this is somehow a sign that search is in trouble, or that search is too siloed, or that you can’t be too siloed, etc. Why SES is shifting may have less to do with some industry change and more to do with challenges that Incisive Media in particular faces.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think a good search marketer understands other disciplines. I think plenty of digital marketers have to wear search marketing hats in addition to other hats. Maybe the shift to ClickZ Live will work for Incisive. But if you’re trying to seek a trend in all this, all I can tell you is there are plenty of people who want, and crave, events that are focused deep on search. For us, we’re happy to keep providing one.

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