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August 17, 2010

Developing Great Content — SES San Francisco

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This will be my third and final session of liveblogging for SES SF. I’ll leave the hard work to others. This will be fun – four speakers!

Moderator:

Greg Jarboe, President & Co-Founder, SEO-PR

Speakers:

ses san francisco logo

Wendi is up first! Leveraging great content: what we’re seeing in the industry, creating content is a huge challenge. How many of you have heard of content farms? (Lots of hands.)

We need to create compelling experiences for users – great content is crucial to that. We just announced to our partners that we’re going live with a beta and I’ll share that with you today.

Our World Cup coverage – we had some amazing original content. We think content is king. There are challenges: writing costs, managing the resources, etc. ABC has teamed up with Day Live to ramp up content.

Advertisers (the “Purinas” of the world, the “Walmarts” of the world) are seeing themselves as content producers. Have you seen our content? Do you like it? Rand raises his hand and says “yeah.”

Today’s publishing process is too complex. There are a lot of points of contribution. This costs a lot. It’s very rich but very complicated, manually intensive. The definition of content is changing.

The Old Spice commercials are an example of content. User generated content is out there. We have been working with partners for a long time to simplify the process. There is a search component, social stream, related searches, trending now — that we think is great content. There’s fair use content, images, etc. All of these are critical components you need to think about.

We are live with an Alpha Beta. [WTF IS THAT? Ha ha ha ha, okay, back to liveblogging.] We’re very bullish on it [Yeah you need to be — you just poured your souls into it!] It addresses all those components of content, not just traditional articles. We believe we can automate it. Right now, it’s a value add, we have significant relationships with partners. Later on, there are different models we’re evaluating. This alone is not going to drive SEO, but it can help SEO. [She’s showing a preview that shows LebronJames.com.]

If this is your mission, you should look at a solution to think about how to compliment your strategies with partners. SEARCH TRANSITION UPDATE: Look at rankings, do housekeeping. You can go to the Microsoft Alliance site for help.

Next up is Michael from BazaarVoice.

We’re all about UGC (user generated content). UGC for SEO and conversion: What percentage of content in major brand sites is UGC? It’s 80 percent! [Really? Ha! That’s a lot!]

UGC is content that rocks it, lifts conversion, increases average order value, reduces returns, improves e-mail and advertsing ROI and strengthens SEO performance. Top three rules of UGC:

  • Get UGC, append current pages. Don’t put 100 percent of your UGC in product pages. If you put four to six reviews on a product page, it gives you a freshness boost. Create new pages as well – for 100 percent UGC.
  • Ask Users to Contribute. Examples:
    • Swanson Health Products: Product details page – content isn’t very rich, but it’s focused. (Very little content). In UGC, there are a lot of great words providing a lot of high-quality content. Saw 163 percent increase in sales of this product.
    • OpenTable: Content wasn’t visible to search engines. When they exposed the UGC to the search engines, they increased search traffic by 17 percent. Rich snippets like user-review ratings at OpenTable show up in the search results. You wouldn’t have that value without UGC.
    • QVC: There are 43 questions about one product, hundreds of answers, all UGC. The obscure, really long tail over 18 months (in the example shown), slowly grows over time tremendously.

Next up is Rand!

Leveraging great content as an SEO strategy, four methods:

  1. Focus on increasing rankings for individual results. It’s the opposite of the long tail. First do research. Figure out your weak versus strong metrics. Look at the competition. Where am I weak versus where am I strong? That will tell you where you need content and links.
  2. Establish the optimization techniques you need based on where you need it. Be careful to match value to difficulty. This keyword is very hard to rank for. Is it worth the effort to target? In this process for high-target keywords, you may want to avoid exact match domains. If you can register that exact match domain and build out a microsite around that, it may work for you.
  3. Widgets and badges are a great way to build links to targeted places. They’re legitimate solutions. Content you build other people distribute. Infographics work this way as well. Content and technology licensing – we develop it, and let others use it. They get great content, we get the links back. Link attraction targets with regular updates – create great content that people want to link to, then update it regularly, like our “Search Engine Ranking Factors.”
  4. Video content – even produce it, post it to YouTube and get the feedback on your site. Use the Video XML Sitemap with the video thumbnail, you can get ranked for these. Local and map results work, image search results can be focused on.
  5. News results – Google has been lenient in the quality. submit your feed to Google News. Real-time results – you can rank very fast for what’s happening right now. Blog results are the same. All of these are ways to get ranked for things regular search might be more difficult to rank for.

Bottom line on this: the long tail is much less competitive but it takes these huge quantities of content. What you can produce is nothing compared to what UGC produces. Blogging is not a long-tail strategy; it’s relationship building, authority.

Twitter: you can use the Twitter API and port your content from Twitter back to your site! [OMG, my 22,000 tweets can all be used as content, duh!]

Conversion rate optimization funnel visits to website —  visits to landing page — add to cart button — complete checkout — customer lifetime value  — (the click to client chain) – You can apply UGC to each step.

Examples of conversion rate optimization:

  • Create default selections. Put higher priced products to the left, lowest to the right. By the time they get to the lowest price option, they think it’s a huge bargain!
  • Create scarcity. Example: “Only two tickets left at this price” — Rand says, those two could still be there in a month! LOL.

Heather is up next!

This is what I love to talk about because good content is what makes you money. I’ve been talking about this since the beginning (1999 for her). SEO sales content is more than just key phrases, slapping up content and calling it good.

There is a lot of psychology that goes into SEO. [AWESOME – THANK YOU FOR SAYING THAT!] Customer personas are key. What you say, how you say it is crucial. The content you might write for one person may need to be different than the content you write for someone else.

Break customer persona content into different sections, unique landing pages. Each customer type has different needs. Think like a newscaster. Have a photo of who you think that customer is. Ask, what are their likes and dislikes? Where do they go for information online? How old are they? Understand benefits. Understand the specific benefits you bring to the table.

When I go SEO copywriting training, a lot of sites have their benefits statements hidden. It’s about what solutions you provide. People want 1/4 inch holes, not 1/4 inch drills. [That was a STELLAR example!]

Tell the audience: this is how we can help make your life better, make it easier, make it safer … whatever it is, speak to that. Take that information and make it front and center. They might not tell you but that’s what they’re looking for.

Leverage your SEO opportunities, research phrases, include in headlines and subheadlines, compare key phrase with benefits statement – that’s powerful. Create a killer clickable title. Not just key phrases but something they really want to click on.

Brookstone is a great example. They name their product names for value. Descriptions are 250 words. They have video. They have good benefit statements. They have reviews, shipping information, protection plans right on product pages.

Where do you start? Content marketing can seem overwhelming — especially with a site with hundreds of thousands of sales pages. It’s okay to baby step a content development program.

Start with your top 20 percent of pages. You don’t have to change everything at the beginning. When you create new pages, then your copywriters – in-house or outsourced – give them marching orders: how to structure the content.

And she’s done!

There’s a few minutes for Q&A. I want to wrap up but what the heck. Let’s do this!

Q: Ever seen successful aggregation of UGC from third-party websites?

Rand: It’s rare. When search engines, especially Google, do comparisons, they do shingling. They can compare elements of a page across the Web. So, categories on a blog — that’s possibly duplicate but okay. Other things can be sketchy.

Michael: We’re seeing value in aggregating content. Some is undesirable. As long as the content from the original site can be established as the original content, and there’s a heavier volume of original content on a site compared to aggregated content, that can help.

Wendi: We think Yahoo! Answers when we syndicate it out, is a great thing. [Yeah? Really? I have to shake my head in thinking about the spread of stuff like that. – Some is okay but some of it is like, WTF? And they want to spread that out AND claim it will be good for sites that tap that?]

Q: For a manufacturer of electronic products, where can we get user generated content?

Michael: Look at your audience. You might reach out to your customers — have questions and answers.

Rand: You might have a Q&A forum where anyone can contribute to it. Like SEOMoz – we do SEO software, but we offer a forum for broader content.

Heather: Business owners like white papers, you might be able to leverage that to build other content around that.

And that’s the scheduled end of the session, so I’m out of here!

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