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February 26, 2008

Search Marketing Expo West: Day 1 – Recap

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By now you know that Lisa and Susan are in Santa Clara for SMX West. I, the noob, have been left with the task of reading about their conference fun and recapping their sessions for those of you also living vicariously through the BC blog. I really shouldn’t complain. I’ve got the office to myself and an open invitation on the blog! So here goes!

Day 1: Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Opening Keynote by Danny Sullivan: Search 3.0, Search 4.0 & Beyond
Top Takeaways

• The first generation of search, or Search 1.0, was easy to game because all that mattered was the location and frequency of search terms. We’re now in the era of Search 2.0, where links improve the democratic nature of search, but the system is still manipulated.
• We’re seeing the emergence of Search 3.0, as vertical results (such as books, images, news, video, local) are blended into Web search results. Ask3D, Morph and Microsoft Live show a good early effort of providing blended search results.
• In Search 4.0, or personalized search, Google is the lone leader of the pack. Personalized factors, such as an iGoogle personalized home page, bookmarks, search history, and Web history, render subtly personalized search results.
• Attempts at social search have been less than successful. However, engaging in social media is a must for SEO, so don’t be afraid of it. Social media builds links, visibility, and reputation.
• Don’t be frustrated by the bad reputation the SEM industry seems to be branded with lately. SEO continues to grow and be in demand. It may help to develop a centralized complaints area, increase PR efforts, and conduct SEO case studies.

Decrypting Quality Scores
Top Takeaways

• There are two pay per click quality scores. One affects your minimum bid and the other affects rank.
• For a quality score you’ll need: narrow keywords, hand-built ads, tailored landing pages that work, segmenting and micro-targeting, and sometimes, geo-specific targeting.
• The key factors of a quality score are the relative click through rate by position, account history, and landing pages.
• Consider this throughput checklist: track total throughput for all variants of ad copy; isolate the variables; track to sales only if changes impact product choice or quantity; ad creativity should match your product; landing page and ad copy should match; try different grouping structures; normalize ad groups; only complete matches count; use day-parting on high demand and conversion periods.
• Often really poor quality scores are due to poor keyword selection. Test and experiment with your keywords.

Legally Speaking: Recent Legal News about Search
Top Takeaways

• Trademark policies: On Google anyone can bid on a trademark but it can’t be used in the ad copy. On Microsoft and Yahoo no one can bid on or use trademarks in the copy, except for official resellers, information sites without affiliate links, or for use of the trademark for a definition.
• Interesting recent cases: In Langdon v. Google, the courts upheld Google’s right to deny publication of ads. When decided, American Airlines v. Google will show whether or not Google’s trademark policy puts too heavy a burden on trademark owners.
• The Communications Decency Act says that only the author, not the publisher, can be held liable for defamatory content posted online. However, the act is written very broadly and has invited many lawsuits attempting to determine what is and isn’t protected.
• The decision in Fair Housing Council v. Roommates.com further defined the CDA. If you passively host or pre-screen third-party content, you’re immune from legal action. If you edit third-party content in a way that changes the meaning or if you use pre-fabricated parts of the responses or presentation, you may be held liable.
• The three keyword advertising battlegrounds are search engine policies, courts, and legislatures, such as Utah and Alaska’s anti-adware laws. It will be interesting to see how American Airlines v. Google plays out.

Search 3.0: Video, Images & Blended Search
Top Takeaways

• Each search engine is doing blended search a little differently, integrating books, images, local, news, video and blogs into Web search results. In Google’s version, rather than blended replacing Web search, they use the additive technique and return the top 10 Web search results along with additional blended search results.
• Blended search results usually show up in this order: images at the top (additive), videos anywhere in the space (subtractive), news anywhere in the space (additive), products at the top or bottom (additive), blogs at the bottom, books at the bottom (additive).
• Eye tracking studies have shown users scan SERPs in an “F” pattern, but when images are located in the result, users first look at the top left corner and then focus on the image.
• To get a site into blended search: perform smart image search optimization (including ALT attributes, file names, on-page optimization, and link building), use the word “picture” or “image” in the ALT attribute and file name, and make sure SafeSearch is not filtering your content.
• Three out of five Internet users consume online video every month. When creating and promoting your video, be sure to do keyword research, invest in quality production, surround the video with HTML, create a video site map, and track your video views.

Search Marketing & Persona Models
Top Takeaways

• People manage reward, risk, emotion and knowledge in all their decisions. However, the way humans interact with search engines are fairly similar. Decisions are made from broad to specific, and the intent of wording and the size and placement of images make a difference in the actions that are taken.
• A persona is a brand’s character, created to target demographics that might use a site or product. Having a marketing persona will help create empathy, integrating the emotional part of people’s decision-making process.
• To create a marketing persona, research your demographic, and then brainstorm and write. Avoid stereotypes, the quest for perfection, and uncommon words. After implementing your persona, measure, adjust, and repeat.
• Personas are stand-ins for your visitors. Craft your message to speak to them and create a narrative for their needs and wants.
• Don’t rely too heavily on the data you collect from research because you need to act on what people will do, not what they say they’ll do.

Defending Your Paid Search Budget Against New Ad Fads
Top Takeaways

• Defending your paid search budget is also about retaining the investment of time – time both for price comparison among second-tier search engines and for testing new keywords, ad copy variants, new landing pages, etc.
• Know your numbers. That includes accurate metrics and analytics, cost per lead and cost per acquisition, cost of various types of paid search, and the ROI.
• It helps to: present a clear goal and definition of success; educate the site’s stakeholders; focus on the highest ROI drivers to maximize ROI across all programs; present statistics when evaluating programs.
• Don’t ignore the advancement of paid search, including geotargeted ads, mobile ads, video ads, and local ads.
• Global paid search revenue is expected to reach $30.5 billion this year and went up 48 percent last year. Paid search advertisers have seen an ROI as high as 15 to 20 times their investment.

The Economics of Search
Top Takeaways

• The best interests of advertisers and search engines are mostly the same. Maximizing the value delivered to users and advertisers are equally important to maximizing the search engine’s profit.
• The major challenges of sponsored search are: making it more relevant; better measuring the user experience; lacking tools for advertisers; better targeting.
• When bidding on Adwords: base it on real search behavior; use long-tail keywords; consider the cost per conversion compared to the value per acquisition. Bid until the value per click is equal to the incremental cost per click.
• You may want to consider cross subsidization. Make deals with low profits or margins now in order to grow in the future.
• Google will be affected by the recession. As people are buying less, they are also searching less.

My ladies are busy live blogging two more sessions this evening, but it’s time for me to go home. I’ll catch up with you and the conference crew tomorrow!

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