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February 27, 2008

Search Marketing Expo West: Day 2 – Recap

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Today’s conference menu features nine more fresh sessions. But here you’ll find two of yesterday’s leftovers plus seven hot and juicy selections from Day 2, rehashed into an easily digestible form. Too far with the food metaphor?

Is It Time For Search Marketing Standards?
Top Takeaways

• In order to sustain growth and establish authority, SEM professionals need to develop industry standards (kinda like our very own SEO Code of Ethics). Standards offer guidance, credibility, and protection as they point us in the most mutually beneficial direction. SEMPO, IAB, and DMA are developing guidelines or standards.
• One model for industry standards defines SEO and SEM tactics and provides a risk rating of each. Risk ratings would be based on community feedback.
• Under this model, the process would include: defining tactics by an authoritative committee; adopting the definitions through a series of beta releases and feedback; establishing a rating system; publishing and promoting the final results, with ongoing review and evolution.
• We need to be aware of pitfalls, like: restraint of innovation; loss of control or unfair concentration of power; blurring morals and ethics with standards and guidelines; a too broad or narrow application; enforcement and authority.
• A code of ethics should be clear to practitioners, researchers, and the public. Standards should be more specific than ethics and must be measurable.

Search 3.0: Online Retail & Blended Search
Top Takeaways

• Blended search gives you more opportunities to show up in SERPs, creates engagement, builds traffic, and generates buzz.
• Video is a major blended search opportunity. For best results, house your own videos and make sure you include analytics, optimize the page, and get inbound authority links.
• Use blended search to get your products in shopping results. For best results, use product names rather than product numbers, put the product name in the title, target specific long tail queries rather than general ones, and include images.
• Implications of the rise of blended search: organic search becomes a stronger research and branding vehicle; SEO changes focus from keywords to relevance.
• Tips to getting into blended search results: create quality content; recognize trends and act on them; respect sources; become a reference; test your material.

Keynote by Louis Monier: Past, Present & Future of Search
Top Takeaways

• The past: When the Internet was developed, the need for search was obvious and unanimous. Search results in the early leader, AltaVista, featured links. This gave rise to the SEM industry. Early search engines gave weight to the query words on the page.
• The present: Search engines today weigh anchor text and linking information. The difference between then and now is that users want to access not just a few select sites but all relevant sites.
• The future: Human powered search via directories, personalized, social and vertical search, natural language processing, and semantic search are on the horizon.
• Already search engines are being used for more than their navigational purpose, i.e., spell checker, aggregator. A better search engine will act as a research assistant by going out, doing analysis, and returning a report.
• Right now we have no choice but to accept the narrow definition of search as it stands. But, realize that search engines are making your choices for you and may cut out information that you’re looking for.

Wonder Twins: Landing Pages and Multivariate Testing
Top Takeaways

• The two kinds of landing pages are reference landing pages, that provide information, and transactional landing pages, that allow shopping. They can be either static (HTML), dynamic (JavaScript), or application-based (API).
• To optimize your landing page, implement A/B testing, multivariate testing, and targeted content delivery. Contrary to some suggestions, tests show that navigation on a landing page is fine.
• Fractional factorial and full factorial are the two types of multivariate experimental designs. In fractional factorial you need less data but you only look at part of the page. In full factorial you’ll be sure not to miss anything but you need a lot of data.
• If you have time constraints when conducting multivariate testing, start with a plan and have a goal. Think about whether the page is worth testing, understand who your visitors are and where they’re coming from, and don’t cut corners on design.
• The process for multivariate testing is to: identify page elements with the greatest impact; develop a simple hypothesis for each; test a few variations; repeat.

Search 4.0: The Personalized Search Revolution
Top Takeaways

• Personalized search is primarily based on Web history. It helps find the most relevant results for an individual user and provides subtle ranking changes in results.
• When marketing for personalized search, create compelling content and appeal to your niche users. The search experience and marketing needs are simplified, so SEOs don’t really have to change marketing plans (maybe).
• The challenge of marketing for social search is creating and finding high-quality user-generated content.
• Yahoo offers some great but limited innovations in search. Pinpoint has a slider to dynamically change Yahoo! Shopping search results. Search Monkey is an open source to which you can add applications and input your preferences for prominence of certain results.
• There are no stats available on conversion rate for personalized search, but search engine reps think it works. Google won’t disclose the percent of users using personalized search, but says it’s large.

Search 4.0: Will The Social Graph Change Search?
Top Takeaways

• Types of social search: shared bookmarks and Web pages (i.e., del.icio.us, MyWeb); tag engines (blogs, RSS, i.e., Technorati and Bloglines); collaborative directories (i.e., Open Directory Project, Wikipedia); personalized verticals (i.e., Google Custom Search Engine); social Q&A sites (i.e., Yahoo! Answers); collaborative harvesters (i.e., Digg, Sphinn).
• Problems of social search: vastly expanding scale and scope; tagging ambiguities and misuse; emerging spammers.
• The ultimate in social search will combine algorithmic and people-mediated search within trusted networks. Increased personalization and user preferences will control result filtering.
• As always, content is key to avoiding pitfalls of social search marketing. Make sure the content comes across as authentic and is easy to recommend.
• Don’t spread your SSM efforts too thin. Focus on one or two sites if you find it difficult to manage many accounts among the various social media sites available.

Wonder Twins: SEO & Social Media Marketing
Top Takeaways

• Many link techniques have been diffused in efforts to wipe out spam. Now, a good bet for spreading your content and gaining links are through social networks.
• Hitting it big on social media sites takes daily commitment. First, learn what’s popular in the different communities. Then, build a reputation. Make sure your profile isn’t similar to any of the top users’ profiles. Choose a unique name and avatar and use across all sites. Finally, don’t get caught promoting yourself.
• More guidelines for social media success: start networking with the top users; add supportive friends; avoid high maintenance friends; vote early; leave a comment; submit from a variety of sources; write titles that match the community; list your other site profiles and IM; don’t submit more than three stories a day; don’t take comments personally.
• Benefits of Twitter as a marketing tool: reach the outer edges of your audience; users voluntarily subscribe; there’s great potential in pull technology.
• To get the most from Twitter: build your profile before you try to build friends; decide on the balance between information and sales messages; use tools to post and automate whenever possible.

Wonder Twins: SEO & Blogging
Top Takeaways

• Competition among blogs is fierce. It helps to focus on a niche, have a bias, have a smart format, filter, give opportunities for interaction, post regularly, monetize, and use push marketing.
• When formatting your blog: use a clean design; adopt a positive and reinforcing tone; include an About Us page; include a way for press to contact you; use pictures, video and sketchcasting; use simple words and short sentences; take advantage of bulletted lists, headers and subheaders.
• When monetizing your blog: don’t put AdSense above content; sell branded ads or affiliate offers; offer your own products; raise prices to maintain high visitor counts; don’t monetize too early.
• More recommendations for your blog: ask questions to entice readers and encourage interaction; optimize titles and headlines to make it easier for people to find you; hold writing contests and invite guest authors.
• Blogs are a reputation management tool, enabling you to react to problems. They are also research tools that collect professional commentary. And, of course, they’re also a sales tool, a platform on which you can publicize products or services.

Search 4.0: Search Ads & Behavioral Targeting
Top Takeaways

• When optimizing for behaviorally targeted search ads: build segments and affinities; hypothesize relevance; create and develop; test and validate; monitor.
• Think about who your audience is, how they reached you, and how many times they come around.
• If you see a lot of traffic coming in from a particular area, landing on a particular page, customize that page to reach them.
• When targeting a specific user profile, ignore the demographic and psychographic markers and instead look at what they’re doing, what they’ve searched for, where they’ve gone, and what they’ve bought.
• Upside: the more you know about a user, the more they convert. Downside: the more you know about a user, the lower your rate of interaction.

I suppose not many people read these meat-and-potato recaps, what with the whole feast just a link away. Still, I’ve enjoyed adding my own flavor to the first and last bit.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.





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