Friday, December 16, 2005

Monster Commerce Acquired by Network Solutions

I have really good news to report. Some of my best friends in the search marketing industry - the crew at MonsterCommerce have announced this morning via an interview with Brett Tabke of WebmasterWorld that they have been acquired by Network Solutions. My good friend Stephanie Leffler will give up the CEO reigns to Champ Mitchell (CEO of Network Solutions) and will run the organization as President and General Manager. Ryan Noble (formerly President) will be Senior Vice President of Monster Commerce.

I have been following this company since I first met Steph at PubCon IV in Boston March 2003. At the time they had 18 employees and Steph introduced herself as Director of Sales. Steph got into the business as an ecommerce owner herself selling UV protective clothing and found the original MonsterCommerce software and saw a business opportunity so she became an investor and joined the team. As she ramped up the company, she took a more active role and along with her business partner Ryan Noble, grew the organization to over 100 people strong. I'm happy to say that over the years, not only have I consulted with Steph and the MC team on business matters and worked with her on occasion, but have become a part of the Monster Commerce family myself and have made many close friends with the team members so this is especially exciting for me. More about the acquisition can be found on the Monster Commerce website. So I just want to say CONGRATULATIONS to all the guys at MonsterCommerce and share a few of my favorite pics. ;)

Lindsay Rust, Matt Cutts and Stephanie Leffler in Boston - PubCon IV March 2003

Ryan Noble, Stephanie Leffler and Craig Paddock - SES Chicago December 2003

Craig Paddock, Steph, Me and Rob Snell at Universal CityWalk from PubCon VI Orlando, March 2004

Friday, November 04, 2005

Danny Sullivan's 40th Birthday Party!

On Saturday, I made the long 3.5 mile commute to the Irvine Spectrum to meet up with local (and a few long distance) search marketers in wishing Danny Sullivan a happy 40th birthday. Danny had been vacationing in Southern California with his family and had also been kind enough to join the moderating staff present at the Search Engine Watch LIVE event held at The Disneyland Hotel two days prior. Danny's wife Lorna was nice enough to arrange a shindig for Danny at Dave and Busters where we could celebrate in style amidst gaming, drinking and eating.

Several of the SES speaking crew swung by for well wishes. Pictured below are Jennifer Slegg, Greg Boser, me, Danny Sullivan, Dana Todd, Jessie Stricchiolla and Laura Thieme.

A lot of Danny's non-search friends were also in attendance from his days as a newspaper journalist with the Orange County Register and LA Times and even from high school. It was nice to see everybody in such a casual setting and playing video games with each other. One really disconcerting image I have though is tough-guy Web Guerrilla Greg Boser with a pink gun:

Tim Mayer (Yahoo) and his family stopped by while they were spending time in Southern California also:

Jennifer Slegg (Jenstar), Tim and Laura Thieme

Also in attendance were search marketers Alex Bennert and Todd (Oilman) Freisen. Danny did manage to blow out all 40 candles proving that he is full of hot air ;)
Thanks for making Orange County your place for celebrating your 40th Danny!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Search Engine Watch Forums LIVE Anaheim, CA

Last Thursday, Search Engine Strategies brought it's new shorter half day format to The Disneyland Hotel for its second LIVE conference which in a nutshell is kind of a cross between SES and speed dating. Instead of several sessions with multiple panelists all talking about a particular topic, here you have several topics being discussed at once by several panelists - all of whom have a broad range of experience levels across the search marketing and advertising spectrum. The panelists included Danny Sullivan, our own esteemed Editor of Search Engine Watch, and fellow Forum Moderators Elisabeth Osmeloski, Editor of Search Engine Watch Forums, Nacho Hernandez from iHispanic Marketing Group, Jennifer Slegg of JenSense fame, Alex Bennert from Beyond Ink, David Wallace of SearchRank and of course Yours Truly.

We attempted to keep to the forum format by trying to engage the audience as much as possible and keep an informal but lively discussion of particular search topics of interest. We asked a lot of questions of the audience and we pretty much nailed the demographic of the participants by type of SEM/SEO practiced, what language set sites were optimized for, size of sites, types of revenue models and what role our attendees played within their organizations and what type of organization they represented. What surprised me was the number of attendees representing agencies (about 15 - 20%) and how many in-house search marketers were in attendance (about 40% of the room). Pure affiliate marketers (25% or so) was a much lower percentage that I anticipated.

Once we had our demographics, I noticed the panelists attempt to focus as much toward the majority of their particular area of expertise as possible. Nacho Hernandez focused on multi-cultural online marketing as is his specialty, I carried over my presentation from Stockholm - "Site ECG, Does Your Site Have a Healthy Heartbeat" which although I didn't speak on this topic, I understand was a popular presentation from the last San Jose SES. I focused more on my area of expertise - big brands, and enterprise level sites and I tried to use examples from large sites that I have worked on with millions of pages and millions of pageviews to get my point across. Jennifer Slegg spoke on Contextual Advertising and did a good talk on Yahoo's new Publisher's Network. Yahoo YPN was also in attendance and sponsored the cocktail mixer right after the show. Alex Bennert focused on the conversion and usability of a website and went into deeper detail than I did on specific topics such as site search engine analysis and using information on hand to drive more sales. David Wallace and Danny Sullivan didn't have formal presentations but were both on hand to answer Q & A topics which they did.

It was a real treat having Danny on our panel and it was kind of a fluke that he was even there at all. Fortunately, he was vacationing in Orange County (where he is from originally) with his family and actually came straight to the event from Disneyland that morning. Danny spoke on a variety of things such as Google's recent stock price surge after earnings (340 that day, now 383 as I write this) and could the market sustain such a large market cap for Google and could there still be room for growth. Danny gave an example of a stock analyst quizzing him recently who had done incredible research into Google's company performance and had charts and spreadsheets mapping out hopeful targets to track where Google's stock price could go, but as Danny mentioned, he couldn't account for Google changing its revenue model or adding new products or services and therefore was entirely unpredictable. We live in a fast changing industry and nothing quite frankly surprises me anymore.

The Q & A sessions went surprisingly well and I thought that the wide diversity of experience on the panel led us all to be able to almost know who was going to answer the next question based on what topic it was on. Danny jumped in and gave a lot of credibility to a lot of what was asked and answered by expanding on certain topics and Elizabeth really did a fine job of moderating the event by asking a lot of thought provoking questions that certainly engaged the audience - to the point in fact of almost tears by one audience member who had experienced a high percentgage of click fraud.

The cocktail mixer went well and I would guess that a good percentage of the audience stuck around to ask questions, I did notice that the panelists werent hanging around each other as everyone had a crowd around them - especially Danny ;) it's rare to have that kind of access to Danny at an event and even rarer at a SES show where several thousand people are milling about and Danny is literally running between sessions and obviously sidetracked by everything going on. By his being on vacation, his relaxed mood continued into the pace of his discussion and aterwards participation.

After the show, the panalists reqrouped (we really are all good friends outside of the panel) and went up to the Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney and a few of the audience members joined us for really great New Orleans style food. I got home maybe around midnight from a great day of conferencing and networking and eating. Cant wait for the next one, I've heard a few rumours about where the next one will be but nothing has been confirmed yet. I did run across a couple of write ups from audience members - Michael Nguyen covered the event in his blog Social Patterns and Mike Banks from Web Pro News wrote how we engaged the audience forum style during the event. I will post pictures from the event as soon as I get them.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Tallinn, Estonia Trip Review Part 2

Day 2 of our trip to Tallinn comprised of sleeping in since we had stayed out late the night before. I didn't bother calling Jimmy's room since I knew he would still be out and I went and explored the sights on foot and took some pictures while it was still morning:

Tallinn is a very historic and medieval city and it was refreshing to find a lack of commercialization with no signs of McDonalds or a Starbucks. After awhile Jimmy and I went off to explore the Olde Towne part of the city and had a great lunch in a rustic cafe off to one side of a large courtyard area. We then set off to explore some castles that were very old having been built around 1000 A.D.

This particular street sign looks like it could be painful - Ouch!

One of my favorite pictures from the trip:

Pictures of a very old and beautiful church:

For dinner, Jimmy and I headed back to Klafira for some more Russian food because the food and the service was excellent and once again we posed for a picture with our new Estonian friends:

The menu included an interesting caption for ordering Black Beluga Caviar - maybe they just meant to say "Feel like a Czar"????

All in all a great trip, would definately return to Tallinn, Estonia - maybe when it's a bit warmer too!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Tallinn, Estonia Trip Review Part 1

After the Stockholm SES show, Jimmy Furland and I decided to head out to Eastern Europe and experience Tallinn, Estonia. The flight on Saturday afternoon was short and uneventful and the ride into town from TLL airport was extremely short. Tallinn is a very small yet wonderfully quaint and very historic. We checked into the Radisson Hotel right in the center of town and then decided on Russian food for dinner. The hotel concierge suggested Klafira Russian Cuisine and we made our way over by foot. Once inside, the atmosphere was amazing with Russian ornamentation throughout and elaborate colorful costumes worn by the staff. Jimmy ordered Black Beluga Caviar for a starter while I had the chicken noodle soup. Both were fantastic!

While dining, every so often a dance troop would come out to entertain us with accordian music and Russian dancing and the dancers would change costumes with every set:

The main courses were also fantastic, I had a steak and Jimmy had salmon and we also ordered some traditional russian vodka to add to the authentic Russian experience. The staff was very helpful and extremely friendly and after several hours of dining, we finally departed for the evening but not before preserving the memory of our new found friends from Estonia:

What a dining experience! All in all, a great first night in Eastern Europe!

Search Engine Strategies Stockholm Part 4

On my final day in Stockholm, I slept in rather late but did manage to make it to the club lounge just in time for breakfast and got to explore the hotel a little bit more, I rediscovered the gym and hot sauna that I remember using last year during the Stockholm conference and opted for an executive in-room massage to complete the Swedish experience.

I had planned to meet up with Nate Elliot from Jupiter Research and Jimmy Furland to go out that night and we all met up in the hotel lobby around 7 to have dinner at the hotel restaurant - Die Ecke - where the german sausages were superb.

So we started off the night at a nightclub called Hoteles which was a crowded multi-leveled club and proceeded to get the night going. After about an hour or so we began to notice the crowd thinning so Jimmy suggested we head into Stureplan which is the party central point of the city with a lot of well known nightclubs such as Koket, Kharma and Sturecampagniet.

Here I am with Nate Elliott and Jimmy Furland at Sturecampagniet:

Search Engine Strategies Stockholm Part 3

After a late night out with the gang I slept in and then made may way back to the club lounge on the 8th floor for some breakfast. The lounge had a nice balcony which was a much nicer view than the one from my room since even though as a Starwood platinum menber they had upgraded me to a suite, it was on the 1st floor. At 11:00 the view looked like this:

So after finishing coffee and my view, I figured I had better work on my presentation since I was speaking at 1:15.
I was speaking on "Site ECG - Does Your Site Have a Healthy Heartbeat" with Anne Kennedy from Beyond Ink
and Thomas Svensson from Mirago. The presentation went well even though the audience was rather small and we received some intelligent and thought compelling questions on a variety of topics.

After my session I sat in on "Writing for Search Engines" with Chris Sherman from Searchwise and Heather Lloyd-Martin from Successworks International.

So after my long day ;) I joined my fellow speakers in the hotel bar and tried to figure out what to do next and opted to explore the city a bit and have dinner with new found friends that I met during my session
where once again I feasted on Swedish meatballs. :)
A lot of the speakers were leaving in the morning and I had already said my goodbyes to several of the gang so I ended up calling it an early night, at least by SES standards.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Search Engine Strategies Stockholm Part 2

First day of the conference was ok and probably would have been much better had I gotten more sleep, so zombieness aside, I poked my head into a few sessions and joined Mikkel, Jimmy Furland, Martin S, Dave N, Christine Churchill and a few others for lunch. I didn't speak today so I didn't bother throwing a suit on and the highlight of the day was my brief nap but I felt much better afterwards.

For the evening festivities, there was a cocktail mixer put on by Jupiter/Incisive in the exhibit hall (whopping 6 booths!). After that, several of us headed to dinner where I feasted on Toast Skaagen and traditional Swedish Meatballs.

After dinner, three cabs full of conference attendees pulled up to Cafe Opera, a hip and trendy nightclub in downtown Stockholm where Jupiter had given conference attendees access prior to 11:00 p.m. so we didnt have to wait in line.

Once inside, Jimmy Furland and I managed to secure a private table by ordering bottle service and had a couple of bottles of Champagne delivered. Here I am with Danny Sullivan (London), Thomas Bindl (Munich), Jimmy Furland (Stockholm) and Dave Naylor (Leeds):

After awhile Mike Grehan showed up with yet another bottle of Champagne in hand so of course he was invited to sit down - mostly because it was a nice bottle of Moet & Chandon but also because we like him ;) Andrew Goodman stopped by and I spun around on the dancefloor for a bit with Christine Churchill.

Since most of us had to speak the next day, we called it an early night (by our normal standards) and went back home (hotel) by around 2:00 a.m. I guess we'll save the hard charging night for later in the week. When I got back to the hotel, I saw Danny, Thomas, Andrew and Dave in the lobby so I joined in on the gossip and stole one of Danny's donuts. Ok, so now its 3:00 a.m. but at least I dont have to speak until 1:15 p.m. Time for bed...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Search Engine Strategies - Stockholm

Well I've arrived into Stockholm for SES and I'm beginning to get acclimated. So far, I've had a wonderful dinner with friends Jimmy Furland, Thomas Bindle, Mike Grehan, Anne Kennedy and Chris Sherman. Last night we hung out at the lounge at The Sheraton Stockholm and Towers. One of the highlights of the evening was listening to David Naylor (DaveN) strke up a fascinating rendition of "Great Balls O' Fire" on the piano.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Danny Sullivan and Brett Tabke Embrace SPAM

Just returned a few days ago from Ad:Tech and PubCon in London. I couldn't resist the opportunity when I saw all three parties in close proximity so I seized the moment... ;) Who would've thought?