A Few Notes on HeroConf 2015 (and Portland)

Earlier this week, I had the good fortune to spend about 46 hours in Portland, Oregon — mostly downtown. In fact, I was entirely downtown, except for the airport and some travel between the airport and downtown on MAX, the light-rail system.

I was there for HeroConf 2015, a useful and enjoyable PPC convention.

Whoever ordered the weather did a nice job. Sunday evening and Tuesday were Portland weather: a bit rainy but manageable. Monday was sunny, warm, gorgeous.

Major Themes

I won’t offer detailed notes of discussions here or attempt to recount what I learned at any length. But here are some major themes.

Andrew Goodman at HeroConf 2015Mobile devices are growing in number and importance for paid search. I suppose this surprises no one, but it is surprising how slowly advertisers are adapting to this trend by creating mobile-friendly web sites. A less obvious implication of this mobile growth is that conversions (sales or leads) increasingly come after the user has used multiple screens (devices) to research a product or company. A moment’s thought will confirm the idea that tracking these cross-device conversions is as important as it is complex. Google is going one step further, engaging with brick-and-mortar retailers in complex, months-long projects to measure and attribute store sales which begin with PPC ads.

I attended multiple sessions devoted to the psychology of surfers, searchers, and buyers, and how advertisers can exploit it. For example, one speaker noted that our “inner Mr. Spock” is switched off 95 percent of the time. We tend to make intuitive, emotional buying decisions, instead of thoughful, analytical decisions. This is a realm in which marketing starts to get creepy to some people. But the emphasis in the sessions I attended was less on manipulating gullible humans to buy our products than on helping them to do what they want to do on our site, instead of a competitor’s.

Bing ended the year with 29 percent of search share in the US — that is, 29 percent of Internet searches occurred on the Yahoo! Bing Network (YBN). One quarter later, the number is 31 percent. Bing is relatively little used by searchers under 18, so the average age of Bing users is higher than the average age of Google users, and Bing users tend to spend more money online. For astute advertisers, Bing Ads are a growing opportunity; for other advertisers, they are a growing blind spot. None of this was news to me. But watch for Bing’s search share to increase dramatically with the upcoming release of Windows 10, which integrates Bing more than previous versions of Windows have done.

So there was plenty of food for the mind at HeroConf 2015. And it’s worth noting that the literal food (breakfasts and lunches) was well above average conference food quality.

Downtown Portland

I enjoyed downtown Portland, which is very clean. Those in the know tell me that the city revitalized its downtown quite dramatically a decade or two ago.

On Monday evening Bing was buying everybody free drinks and throwing a huge party at a local bar. That’s not really my style, and I had other plans anyway. You see, I had been to Portland a couple of times before, but I had never been to Powell’s City of Books, a veritable Mecca for a bookish soul such as myself. It’s a full city block of used books. (Some new books too.)

Downtown Portland was fun. Here are a few photos, taken mostly downtown and mostly on that sunny Monday I mentioned.

As a rule, I try to support street musicians. They add value to my urban existence.

Portland bass playerPortland-Soprano-Sax

I would almost bet money that panhandling is a hobby for this guy, not a vocation. He sounded more like a college professor — and folks were giving him plenty of beer money. If he is a panhandler, props for counter-intuitive marketing.

Portland Needs Beer

Ah, Powell’s. So ┬ámany books. And Sizzle Pie, across the street, with great pizza that leaves plenty of cash for book shopping. And there’s my traveling, photo-bombing 180fusion water bottle.

Portland Sizzle PiePortland Powell's

Books by and about Dostoevsky fill four or five shelves to the left. At least one of us cares.

Portland Powell's Interior

I’m a big fan of public transit, especially when it goes to the airport, leaves me within a block or two of my hotel, and generally is clean and runs smoothly. Two thumbs up for MAX.

Portland MAX

Seattle’s Ivar’s still sets the curve, but Portland is justly proud of Mo’s Seafood. I had the clam chowder and the halibut-and-chips, and I’d do it again.

Portland Mo's

In Summary

So . . .

HeroConf? I’d go back.

Portland? I’d go back.

Posted in PPC