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Welcome to a special edition of the SEO Newsletter. Why a special edition? We picked up so much good information at the search engine marketing conference SMX West last week that a special newsletter seemed in order.

Here we distill the best points from all the sessions we liveblogged, for your scanning pleasure. Click through if you want to read more about the presentations made at the show. And please feel free to share!

NEED TO KNOW:
3 Takeaways from SMX West 2010
MEDIA:
Audio & Video Conference Coverage
THE WRAP-UP:
Complete Liveblog Coverage from All Three Days of SMX West 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Takeaways from SMX West 2010  

Liveblogger Virginia Nussey's coverage of the conference highlighted three major takeaways for online businesses and search marketers to consider. Check out the Bruce Clay, Inc. blog for more on these three SMX West takeaways:

  1. The Search Community is on the Fence about Microhoo
  2. Get Your Site Up to Speed
  3. Explore New Options for Online Advertising
3 Takeaways from SMX West 2010

  Audio & Video Conference Coverage  

While at the conference, Bruce Clay was interviewed by search industry reporter Mike McDonald of WebProNews. In the twenty-minute interview, Mike picks Bruce's brain on everything from social media marketing to inbound links to SEO for personalized search.

While at the conference, Virginia sat down with several search industry insiders for SEM Synergy on location from SMX West. Ian Lurie, president of Portent Interactive, speaks about analytics and the Yahoo!-Microsoft partnership. Marshall Simmonds, search strategist for the New York Times, talks about enterprise SEO issues. And Scott Garell, president of Ask Networks, shares insight into the strategy of Ask.com, Q&A search, and online communities.

  Day 1 Coverage

SMX Keynote Conversation: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

  • Steve Ballmer explained how the partnership between Microsoft and Yahoo! will help Internet marketers: the quality of a search engine depends heavily on the relevance of advertising, and the relevance of advertising relies on the volume of bids. For folks here that means more eyeballs, which is great. It will also help Microsoft scale and improve relevance. With more signals there will be improved results.
  • He also addressed rumors about Bing becoming the default search for the iPhone, saying that it's just a rumor, though Microsoft is focused on increased distribution of Bing and improving the Bing app for iPhone.
  • When asked what differences there are between the culture at Microsoft and the culture at Google, he said that the number one thing that Google did that contributes to their success is getting search right first.
  • In response to the suggestion that Microsoft buy Twitter, he said that it's not clear whether Microsoft should own the company or not. He explained that as an independent, Twitter has a lot of credibility with their user community. He's not clear they would have the same credibility if they were under another company. Instead Microsoft is focused on a strong partnership.
  • Regarding mobile search, he said that there will need to be more innovation and IQ applied to mobile advertising, answering questions of how to rethink the fundamental UI and design model of search and how organic and paid get laid out on a phone.

Mobile Paid Search Ads: Real Opportunities

  • There's a difference in the way people search on mobile devices vs. on PCs. On computers people have a long conversion process. On mobile devices it's much quicker because people are on the go. To advertise on mobile, you want to sell something and you want to drive consumers to brick and mortar locations.
  • When optimizing a site for smart phones: 1) use light graphics for faster load times; 2) use Java rather than Flash because of iPhone limitations; 3) test site.mobi vs. m.site.com vs. site.com/mobile to find the most successful; 4) track traffic with sniffers, cookies or pixels; 5) choose the hosting solution with the fastest user experience.
  • When optimizing a search ad campaign for mobile: 1) isolate mobile into a unique campaign; 2) know that if you're not in position 1 or 2, you're likely not going to get a click; 3) don't drop the long-tail keywords in your mobile campaigns.
  • When creating ads for WAP browsers: 1) character counts are much shorter; 2) URLs aren't allowed to have hyphens; 3) popular verticals are sports, celebrity, news, wallpapers, videos and ring tones; 4) reinforce mobile friendliness: "mobile optimized", "4 Ur Phone", "Mobile Ready"; 5) CTR is frequently high, even when relevance is low; 6) there's less need for exact or phrase match.

Not Your Father's AdWords: The New Google Ad Formats

  • The Universal search philosophy of Google's organic search is being extended into paid search. New features including Ad Sitelinks, product ads, local ads and comparison ads are part of that effort.
  • Ad Sitelinks deliver up to four links below ad, pulled from 10 links indicated by the advertiser. Ads must meet "certain quality criteria" and Ad Sitelinks will appears automatically for qualified campaigns. Google claims a "30% average increase in click-through rate" with Ad Sitelinks.
  • Google Product Listing Ads are out of private beta. Advertisers must submit a product feed via Google Merchant Center (formerly Google Base) and Google chooses which products are shown for a query. Advertisers pay for conversions, not clicks.
  • Comparison ads bring a user to a page where they can add filters to their search and contact different advertisers. Google wants to align what the advertisers and users want with an appropriate pricing model. They expect to be experimenting a lot in 2010.

Google's Personalized Search Revolution

  • Google's personalization of search results rely on geography, topicality, preference, patterns and a user's social circle. Google aims to personalize search results with transparency and user control.
  • A signed-in user can control their personalization by clicking on Web History in the top right corner of search results. From here, a user can remove or pause items on the list, or wipe out the entire history. Data is retained forever, or until removed.
  • Google displays social search results based on Google contacts (chat, friends, family, coworkers, followees), a user's Google profile and the Social Graph API.
  • SEOs benefit from personalized search because there is less likelihood of competing with the whole world, and more likelihood of competing with sites in your area. A site is also less likely to get visitors from search that aren't looking for what the site offers.

Supercharging Your Descriptions With Sitelinks

  • Sitelinks are links to pages within a site displayed on search results. In organic results, two-column Sitelinks display when Google believes the result is the most authoritative for a particular query. One-line Sitelinks show when Google believes the result is highly relevant but not necessarily authoritative for a particular query.
  • Tips to get better organic Sitelinks: 1) create a site that is well-structured and easy for users to navigate; 2) use meaningful page Titles; 3) pay attention to anchor text throughout your site; 4) avoid boilerplate and repeated text; 5) consider headers and other content on each page.
  • Breadcrumbs on search results are a variation of Sitelinks. They are found in place of the normal URL, showing a site hierarchy of where the result fits on the site. Each level of the hierarchy is a clickable link. A site must have a clear and visible hierarchy with linked breadcrumbs on the site for breadcrumbs to show in SERPs.
  • Ad Sitelinks can help you segment your user before they ever reach your site. They also give advertisers the opportunity for brand segmentation. If a brand has several sub-brands, Ad Sitelinks can highlight those segments. Ad Sitelinks can also direct traffic to the most valuable or popular pages of a site.
 
  Training Opportunities

SES New York takes place March 22-26 in New York City. Bruce Clay, Inc. will present a one-day SEO Training Class in partnership with the conference on March 22. Get a 20 percent discount on your conference pass with code 20BRU.

Announcing our newest training opportunity:

There are a number of upcoming opportunities to attend SEOToolSet­ training and certification courses in the United States and Australia.

In the U.S., upcoming SEOToolSet standard and advanced training and certification dates are as follows:

  • May 3-7 in Long Island, New York
  • May 10-14 in Simi Valley, California

A number of one-day standard SEO training classes will be held in Australia in the coming months:

  • 7 April in Brisbane, Australia
  • 12 May in Melbourne, Australia
  • 9 June in Sydney, Australia

Seating for the one-day SEO training classes in Australia are limited, so book your seats now!

 
  Day 2 Coverage

Keynote: An Insider's Look At Google Research - Peter Norvig

  • Peter Norvig, director of research at Google, oversees the many research projects Google is involved in, including Person Finder, Speech Recognition, StreetView photos, Android App Inventor, and more.
  • In response to the question, "How can someone grow up to be a search engineer?" Peter said that currently, people will enter Google and find that the world is different than school. However, books coming out now are getting better, expanding focus from library science to search.
  • In response to the question, "What's the training to become a Googler?" Peter said that Googlers start with a course, then join a starter project. They get experience and help as they get their feet wet.
  • In response to the question, "What's the most hyped technology development?" Peter said that the emphasis on mobile as well as hand-curated tags are appropriate while PageRank is overhyped.

Bring In The Bling Via Bing Cashback

  • Bing Cashback allows users to search for products and then offers consumers money back for purchases made through Bing. According to a representative from the Bing Cashback team, shoppers are doing a lot of research to get the best deal on a product, and Bing Cashback resonates with these shoppers.
  • Consumers ranked what they use to help them shop: 1) search engines; 2) coupon sites; 3) comparison sites; 4) auctions; 5) classifieds.
  • Merchant benefits of Bing Cashback: 1) only pay for actual sales; 2) shares back 100 percent of the advertising spend with the consumer; 3) zero click fraud concerns; 4) no complicated Web analytics necessary; 5) sell all of your products at the ROI you set in the merchant center.
  • Merchants that decide Bing Cashback is a good program for them must plan to: 1) answer users; 2) monitor religiously, especially social; 3) invest in proper integration; 4) regularly audit results.
  • To implement Bing Cashback: 1) set up merchant account/billing; 2) implement order tracking via pixel/batch; 3) upload product catalog (datafeed); 4) allocate resources for ongoing program management.

Dealing With Domain Names, URLs, Parameters & All That Jazz - Technical SEO Tactics

  • There are several ways to indicate to Google a site's targeted region, and none is preferred to the other: 1) ccTLD automatically geo-targeted to the appropriate region; 2) setting manual geo-targeting with gTLD in Webmaster Tools; 3) location-suggestive words used in a sub-domain or subdirectory.
  • Google's recommendation regarding parameters is to use standard encodings, and avoid maverick encodings. Create algorithmically easily understood name/value pairs for dynamic URLs. Duplicates can be detected this way.
  • PageRank can be directed in pagination scenarios. Use unique titles on pagination pages. Avoid using parameters for pagination. Less links per page means the links are more valuable.
  • There are considerations for organizing multilingual and multinational web site content. Ways to organize content, in preferred order: 1) top level domains (TLDs); 2) sub-domains; 3) directories on the Web server.

Facebook Ad Tactics For Search Marketers

  • Benefits of Facebook advertising: 1) lower cost per click; 2) lower cost per conversion; 3) less saturated ad inventory; 4) demographic filtering; 5) competitive targeting; 6) reach customer earlier in buying cycle.
  • There are four standard types of direct response ads on Facebook: 1) standard ads; 2) standard ads with social features; 3) events; 4) fans.
  • Targeting is based on user interests, not keywords. Marketers can take advantage of interests and connections. You can specify targeting for age, gender, location and authentic interests.
  • The current Facebook ad space is dominated by data collectors, aspirational products, local advertisers, dating site, brand advertisers, products addressing everyday needs, and Facebook game apps.

The Need For Speed: Google Says It Matters

  • Optimizing a site for speed doesn't have to be expensive. The Performance Golden Rule states that 80-90 percent of the end-user response time is spent on the front end. Start there.
  • Pay attention to KPIs that shed light on page speed bottlenecks, such as visits, page views, bounce rate and time on site.
  • According to a Google rep, page speed and site performance is not currently a factor in organic ranking. If performance becomes a signal, Google expects to notify webmasters. But take Google's emphasis on page speed as a big hint.
  • Three steps to a faster site: 1) check site performance in Webmaster Tools; 2) install the Firebug plugin Page Speed; 3) explore tools like YSlow and WebPagetest.org, and hang out in the "Make the Web Faster" forum.
 
  Day 3 Coverage

The State Of The Search Union Keynote

  • The change in big brands' ad strategies can be seen in the Super Bowl. For instance, Pepsi shifted the money that would have gone to a Super Bowl ad to social media. Also apparent in the Super Bowl ads is that many large brands are just starting to recognize search is important.
  • What impact is the Caffeine update going to have on SEO? Vanessa Fox says that she doesn't think Google Caffeine will have an SEO impact, because there is no change to rankings, other than indirectly, for instance being able to crawl a site quickly.
  • Social media marketing elevates the opportunity for search marketing, breaking down the boundaries between marketing departments. Social is breaking down the barriers because it has to be implemented across an organization.
  • There is a lot of consumer data available today, so what should marketers do to keep unethical marketers from misusing this data? All advertising channels can do is attempt to suppress spam and provide incentives for marketers to do things the right way.
  • The ubiquity of mobile opens up the door for new search opportunities. Users don't even know they're searching when they use Urbanspoon or Google Goggles. The iPhone is the first smartphone with a mass audience. Mobile is here.

Microsoft + Yahoo: What's It All Mean?

  • Microsoft and Yahoo! are going forward with a partnership in which Microsoft has an exclusive 10-year license to Yahoo!'s core search technologies and Yahoo! will take over the sales activities of both company's premium search advertisers.
  • Yahoo! benefits from the partnership with: 1) guaranteed monetization; 2) staff and infrastructure savings; 3) maintained client relationships; 4) retained user experience.
  • Microsoft benefits from the partnership with: 1) market share and relevancy; 2) advertiser depth; 3) monetization; 4) data for innovation.
  • The partnership's benefits for advertisers: 1) relevant volume in adCenter; 2) single platform; 3) single point of contact; 4) stronger innovation in core algorithm search and ad platform; 5) ends "Match Driver" at Yahoo, enabling simpler buying.
  • The partnership's risks for advertisers: 1) must adapt bids to value change; 2) disruptive transition with volatility as networks are integrated; 3) lack of advertiser control in bidding on distribution partners.

Measuring How Search Ads Drive Offline Conversions

  • Online experiences often influence a consumer's purchases offline. However, attributing offline conversions to online interactions is a challenge that directly affects the online marketing budget.
  • In order to begin attributing online interactions with offline conversions, marketers can start by tracking search, display ad activity, and phone calls as these platforms are among the most trackable.
  • There are four kinds of offline conversions to pay attention to for online marketing attribution: 1) phone calls; 2) phone calls that result in sales; 3) visits to or sales in a brick-and-mortar store; 4) coupon redemption at a brick-and-mortar store. Only number 3 is untrackable.
  • Call analytics goes beyond tracking where a call comes from. Call recording results in an understanding of what, down to the keyword, is driving calls. A business can also improve customer service with call recordings.

Analytics Action Plans For PPC & SEO

  • There are 5 characteristics of an organization that will have success with analytics. The organization: 1) adapts to technologies; 2) understands their business and goals; 3) has a hunger for data that reaches across and up the organization; 4) focuses on actionable data; 5) and doesn't avoid nor get stuck in the weeds.
  • When doing analytics for organic search, worry about 3 things: 1) opportunity; 2) competition; 3) attribution. Opportunity and competition are about improving rankings on terms you want. Attribution shows evidence that what you're doing works.
  • Don't start your strategy with keyword-driven research. You'll miss opportunities for keywords that are almost on page one. Instead, the first step is to determine opportunity. Look at which pages are getting the most organic search traffic and what keywords are driving that traffic. Then determine the difficulty of competing on that keyword.
  • There's a lot of activity happening on your site but usually only a small portion of that is measured as success. Don't forget about soft conversions or micro-conversions when doing Web analytics.

Social Media, Search & Reputation Management

  • Search reputation management is keeping the first search engine results pages free and clear of negative results from branded search queries.
  • Search elements including Google's OneBox, Universal results, starred results, SideWiki and real-time search make search reputation management vital.
  • Build positive assets, including local business listing, sub-domains, news stories and social profiles, to outrank negative listings. Caveat: engage with social profiles, don't just set it and forget it for the sake of ranking.
  • Track your results. Regularly monitor all branded search queries for both positive and negative results.
  • Proactive reputation management is engaging with an audience in positive ways before a crisis so that the business will be in a secure position if and when a rep management situation arises.