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March 23, 2012

Top Takeaways from Search Engine Strategies NYC

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The first conference of the year for Search Engine Strategies was held in New York this week. From the ideas shared to the conversations had to the networking and more, we experienced another great event from SES. Up next for SES here in the United States is the San Francisco conference in August. Until then, here’s a recap of some of the takeaways we gathered from our liveblog coverage of the show.

Business Optimization in a Digital Age

In the opening keynote for SES, the audience welcomed Google’s Avinash Kaushik who talked at length about understanding and testing the exhaustive channels marketers have at their fingertips today. Avinash talks about not being bogged down by too much data, instead, aim to have a deeper understanding of the data that matters.

  • We don’t have to be in a hording mindset of getting more data. There are overlapping circles: influence, experience and value. Avinash lives in the intersection of the three.
  • Embrace ecominic value: Obsess about the one big thing your boss cares about – conversion, direct revenue. This is the macroconversion. But also think about the other possibilities available. What are they? If people didn’t jump into bed with you right away, is there anything you can extrapolate and use later? These are the microconversions.
  • None of us optimize for just one thing or the other. We invest in many things: social, search, display, email, etc. Don’t cut out channels because you don’t see them driving macroconversions. It’s like cutting off your legs to run faster.
  • Intelligent attribution modeling: First understand how you’re doing today and then apply an optimal attribution model. Create a core diagram to see how any one channel creates an outcome for your brand. Know that any attribution model just takes into consideration a handful of variables. So, understand, test, be less wrong – that’s the best you can do.
  • Social sucks today because we’re measuring dumb things like what time you tweet. Instead, ask, “So what?” Find the indirect value of social. There will be no debate over the value of a Facebook fan or a follower on Twitter. Ask, “Where?” Discover your off-site activity. Correlate overall traffic and social traffic and identify what you’re doing on social that’s causing traffic to come back. Ask, “Why?” Why are people using the +1 and “liking” you? If you ask this, it will bring you back to the people causing economic value.
  • Multichannel testing is the only way you can become sophisticated. For example, send only a catalog to some users, only emails to others and emails and catalogs to others. This is an online/offline test, but it can be used between any channels. Use a 10 percent budget to always be testing.

Social Media Performance

  • New layer of social data in Google Analytics launched this week for some users and will be rolled out to everyone in the next couple weeks. Content consumption today has moved off the browser to applications. A marketer needs a 360 view of actions, which is hard to pull together. Number of tweets or followers is comforting because it gives a sense of measuring. But it doesn’t address economic value.
  • Google Analytics is aiming to bring together the actions onsite and offsite with its new social layer. The data is broken down by networks. It measures which share buttons are working for what content and which audience. Visual data available now shows the flow of the traffic through the site from a social source. The conversations tab shows comments offsite.

Local Optimization

  • Using consistent categories across all channels when optimizing for a local business drives results; for example, categories on Places pages matching the site’s content/categories. Find relevant categories through webmaster tools and analytics. Search for similar businesses on search engines and DMOZ to see what categories they fall under. Read this WSJ.com article to understand the search refresh from Google and how it impacts local search.
  • Use schemas on your site to help search engines show relevant information on your website quicker and faster. Find out the relevant schemas for your business. Structure information to ensure that schema can be displayed at the CMS level.
  • Local optimization tools include: AllLocal.com, DatabyAcxiom.com, MyRepMan.com, Whitespark Local Ciatation Finder, Google Places category tool, Local Search Rank Checker.

Local + Social

  • Mobile apps are proving to provide a better user experience because they are faster than mobile browsers; the click-through rate is 5 percent on a browser versus 8 percent on an app. Look into how to capitalize on mobile ad networks; they typically provide an easy entry into mobile advertising, including the ability to place ads across multiple sites and applications in one buy.
  • There are three global location platforms that all have substantial location components: Facebook, Twitter and foursquare. They also power dozens of other mobile apps, like Instagram, Foodspotting, Path, Garmin, Zagat, Waze, etc. But, roughly half of all venue data on Facebook and foursquare is not accurate. An estimated 3.7 million point-of-sales are lost because of this. If you have a local business, ensure the location is accurate and that there aren’t duplicate listing for your businesses.

Search Engine Optimization

In-House Website Migration

  • In order to have a successful website migration, in-house SEO teams need to be thoroughly involved in all of the following phases: The requirements phase, the design phase, the development phase, the testing phase, the post-launch phase.
  • Requirements phase: Addressing canonical tags,changing URLs, defining new URLs, changing domains; Design: review wireframes and design, project documentation; Development: SEO code chacks, baseline metrics, QA test scripts, QA testing; Post-launch: Gather metrics, documents wins and losses, identify what needs to be changed.

In-House Professionals

  • What skills are important for an in-house SEO? Someone who comes from a Web development background, who has technical knowledge but who can learn the space. Beyond the skills, it’s who you can work with, collaborate with and grow with. And while tech backgrounds can be helpful, SEO has a very important marketing aspect. There needs to be a passion for and a background in marketing. The smaller the department, the more you need a Jack of all Trades.

SEO Trends

  • A recent comment by Matt Cutts at SXSW that Google is launching an algorithm that targets overly optimized sites is a hot topic right now. Thought leaders weighed in saying this criteria by Google is nothing new — optimization needs to be natural, as it always has been. But marketers need to be careful because the “aggressive” optimization Google might be targeting could simply be the result of a lot of little things adding up.
  • The point of the algorithm change some say is that Google doesn’t want to rank people who do the “best SEO,” it wants to rank the page that has the best content for the user. Google likely announced this particular algorithm change (a first for Google some noted) because revenue is at stake for companies that could be affected.

[Editor’s note: Check out this recent video by Google featuring Maile Ohye on the 5 common mistakes in SEO:]

Link-Building

  • Link-building today is done the same way links were built  prior to the Internet: relationships. Through meetings and making connections. Google is trying to get back to the idea of a relationship behind a link.
  • Use Follower Wonk to find writers in your city. Identify targets, people you want a link from. Create an RSS feed where if this person uses a term, you get notified. Respond quickly to amplify relationships.
  • It’s important to build brand links, because we’re past exact-match anchor-text links. It’s about sustainability. Brand signals are important to Google. Have good writers and bloggers and point out that good content to sites.
  • Getting links from sites that have set up the rel=author correctly might cause Google to think those links are more valuable because they know who that person is.

SES Presenter Interviews

Here are some discussions we had with SES presenters leading up to the show. Don’t miss these informative Q&A sessions to add depth to some of the topics discussed in this post:

Full Coverage

For a full list of sessions covered by BCI with links to those sessions, check out the table below. You can also find SES coverage from other bloggers, here:

BCI Coverage Day 1: Tuesday, March 20

Time Liveblogged Session
9:00 a.m. Keynote: Business Optimization in a Digital Age with Avinash Kaushik
11:00 a.m. Social Media as a Performance Channel with Google Analytics
2:45 p.m. Protecting High-Value Branded Search Terms
4:00 p.m. Local Myth Busters: Local Optimization Facts Proven or Debunked


Day 2: Wednesday, March 21

Time BCI Liveblog Coverage
11:15 a.m. Local + Social: The Future of Promotion
2:30 p.m. SEO and Website Migrations: How to Have a Smooth Transition
4:00 p.m. SEO Is Dead. Long Live SEO!


Day 3: Thursday, March 22

Time Liveblog Session
9:30 a.m. Keynote: Integrated Marketing — What Does That Really Mean?
1:00 p.m. Agency vs. In-House SEO: What’s a Client To Do?
2:15 p.m. Lord of the Links
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