An Insider’s Look At SMX Advanced: Jeffrey Rohrs
Move over, Denny Crane: SMX has its own legal star programming and moderating panels in Seattle next month. In our fourth installment of our behind the scenes look at how SMX gets put together, Jeff Rohrs talks about paid search, law, fraud and what he’s looking forward to most at SMX Advanced.
You are a self-proclaimed “recovering attorney.” Tell me more: how did you end up in search?
Jeffrey Rohrs: After graduating from Boston University in 1994 with both my law degree and a masters in mass communication, I practiced law for a couple of years with Baker & Hostetler. The experience taught me that litigation is too often reliving the worst moments in other people’s lives. Accordingly, I plotted my escape via the growing legal technology industry. I joined LexisNexis in 1996 right when they were migrating to a web-based research tool.
My role at LexisNexis was training lawyers, associates, librarians and staff on how to use sophisticated search techniques to find the most relevant case law and information. I also worked on several web-based projects that made it apparent that search was going to be the default navigation system of the rapidly expanding Internet.
After a move from LexisNexis to a digital marketing agency, I attended my first SES conference in Boston in 2001. Seeing that there were a lot of legal issues being discussed, but no lawyers participating, I approached Danny Sullivan and offered to produce a legal issues panel. He took me up on the offer and the rest is history. I haven’t practiced law in years, but I stay current on the issues in play. What’s scary is how many of them remain unresolved since 2001.
Can you give us a sneak preview of your sessions at SMX Advanced?
I have a really interesting line-up this year. “Mythbusting PPC Legends” will tackle some of sacred cows of the paid search industry to determine whether they are based in reality or not. The “Matchmaker” session will examine how the different keyword matching algorithms—exact, phrase, broad, etc. can help or hurt your PPC campaigns. We’ll also pry under the hood to understand how these matching efforts differ amongst PPC networks.
Can you share one urban legend that will be revealed in the session “Mythbusting PPC Legends?”
One of the panelists believes that click fraud is largely an urban legend. Having moderated a ton of click fraud panels over the years, I’m highly skeptical of the claim; however, I look forward to hearing their take on what has been a controversial topic.
So you think click fraud is still an issue in paid search campaigns?
My personal belief is yes; however, most marketers lack the time, data or budgets to investigate click fraud’s impact on their individual campaigns. I do believe that the PPC networks have made great strides in combating click fraud; however, that’s just pushed a lot of the nefarious activity into smaller networks. Click fraud will never be eradicated completely because searcher intent is difficult to measure and the money to be made is too enticing. Still, it is the duty of every PPC network to filter click fraud and prosecute those who they find stealing money from their advertisers. I find the near total lack of lawsuits/criminal charges in this area a bit disturbing. PPC networks need to make an example of those who try to defraud their advertisers.
How do you come up with the session content and determine what each speaker will address?
SMX Advanced is very much a collaborative effort amongst Danny [Sullivan], yourself, the Search Engine Land audience, and the moderators. Session ideas come from all of these sources, are whittled down by Danny and you, and then the moderators step in to craft the best session from the proposals submitted. This year was the toughest yet as the quantity and caliber of submissions was overwhelming. I read every submission a few times and then try to piece together a panel of 3-5 people who will offer a variety of engaging perspectives. Inevitably, you have to pass on some great people—but that speaks to the quality of each and every SMX Advanced speaker.
How do you prepare for your SMX sessions? Does it get easier as you do them more often?
I always try to get the panelists together for a prep call in order to coordinate the issues that will be discussed and ensure that there won’t be too much overlap or self-promotion. I also seek to brush up on the recent industry coverage of each topic. The majority of my job, however, happens on stage. A good moderator doesn’t just shuffle up PPT presenter after PPT presenter—they try to get the panelists to engage with and challenge one another as well as the audience. I take great pride in being in the moment, listening to the expertise being shared and trying to stir the pot in ways that make the session informative and memorable.
Is paid search holding its own in this economy?
From my vantage point, yes. I know that my company is investing more, not less, in paid search because the ROI can be measured fairly precisely.
What’s your favorite part about attending SMX Advanced?
The people. Everyone in attendance has something to offer, and the conversations during breaks are often as informative as any of the sessions.
Thanks Denny—um, Jeff!
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