An Insider’s Look At SMX Advanced: Greg Sterling

SMX Advanced kicks off tomorrow (well, tonight, really with our SMX Meet & Greet bash), and it’s the third time in a row that the show has sold out. If you still want to attend, don’t completely despair—we’ve established a waitlist in case we have last minute cancellations. Below, Search Engine Land contributing editor Greg Sterling offers his perspective on the show.

You’ve been involved with local and mobile search for quite some time. How did you get started in this space?

sterling Greg Sterling: I got into local and mobile by accident in 2000. I kind of backed into being an analyst after the first dot-com bust. The firm I was with at the time was focused on the yellow pages industry (The Kelsey Group). Yellow pages data was a central focus of early local search development. After I left Kelsey at the beginning of 2006 I became more broadly involved in exploring how consumers interact with the Internet across sites before buying offline and the implications of that behavior for large and small marketers alike.

Mobile is an extension of some of that behavior and critical emerging marketing platform in its own right.

Like another of the coordinators, Jeffrey Rohrs, you were once a practicing attorney. What’s with lawyers going into search?

I’m not sure lawyers are going into search in droves. But most lawyers are pretty unhappy. I did litigation and didn’t want my life to be defined by the conflict over money at the core of that experience.

The title of your session is “Time to Think Seriously About Mobile Paid Search.” What can we expect to see in this session?

We’ll see some broad discussion of mobile in general (market size, behavior, etc.). But the speakers will also be offering very practical information about how mobile performs as a marketing platform independently and how search marketers should think about mobile in the context of their overall efforts.

With all due respect, haven’t we been waiting for quite awhile for the arrival of mobile search? Why now?

There are lots of things that are converging now: better devices, improved networks and more attractive pricing of handsets and data plans.

Of course the iPhone has had the biggest single impact on consumer behavior in the mobile market. As I’ve argued in the past, it’s the “proof of concept device for the mobile internet.” But it’s also impacted competitors. Lots of handset OEMs are building iPhone like devices with touch screens. There are now five major “apps stores” and so on. Furthermore, the so-called smartphone segment of the market is the only one that is still showing growth in this economy.

Driving that growth are more attractive choices for consumers and lower prices, as I’ve said. The key development was the iPhone price cut last year to $199. Android came out and started selling for $179. The forthcoming Palm Pre will be $199. You can’t sell a smartphone now in the US (at least one that is subsidized) for more than $200. This is the de facto price ceiling. And consumers are responding.

Smartphone users search more than non-smartphone users because the experience is better and easier.

Unlimited data plans have also become more widely affordable due to carrier competition; think about Boost/Sprint’s $50 “all you can eat” voice, text and data plan for example. Once price uncertainty is removed consumers tend to go online and search more on their mobile devices. It’s not unlike the transition that took place on the PC from dial-up and per minute pricing to unlimited broadband.

All of these factors are playing a part in what is now a very real and rapidly developing market.

What do you enjoy most about coordinating a session at SMX? Least?

Getting a bunch of terrific speakers together and helping lead a really interesting discussion. Least? Maybe getting on a plane? :)

Anything else to add?

SMX Advanced promises to be an exciting show right on the heels of the Microsoft Bing launch—and the weather is beautiful in Seattle right now.

As mentioned, SMX Advanced is now sold out. We are compiling a wait list should we receive any cancellations. Sign up for the wait list here or call (877) 242-5242 to add your name to the queue. Looking forward to seeing you in Seattle!

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Features: Analysis | SEM Industry: Conferences


About The Author: (@CJSherman) is a Founding Editor of and President of Searchwise LLC, a Boulder Colorado based Web consulting firm. He also programs and co-chairs the Search Marketing Expo - SMX conference series.

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