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
The 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.