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What You Need to Know from SES San Jose

by Susan Esparza, August 17, 2009

Last week wrapped up Search Engine Strategies. For one week, search marketers of all stripes and experience mingled and shared information, seeking to better their business and hone their craft. If you couldn't make it, or you just want a refresher, we've pulled together all the things that you need to know from SES San Jose.

The overall theme of the conference was summarized neatly by Greg Jarboe in his panel. To be successful online, SEOs need to focus on something more fundamental than the technology du jour. They have to focus on the people using the technology. By focusing on people, you avoid tunnel vision and can consider options beyond just ranking and conversions. When people are making buying decisions, it's about how people feel, not logic. Establish a relationship and understand that you are establishing a relationship, even if the transaction seems very simple and of the moment.

Focus on Location

Local search is still gaining momentum. By targeting regional searches and using geo-local technology to find people, merchants of all sizes can better target and engage their audience. Local search optimization isn't just for small businesses. Though local mom and pop shops can definitely capitalize on local search for big wins, it's important for every business to consider who their audience is and find those people where they live.

It's important to claim and consolidate local listings. To appear in the local results, you're going to need more than a P.O. box in the right ZIP code.

David Mihm's local search ranking factors are a great place to start narrowing down where your local search optimization can use improvement. Like everything in SEO, conquering local search is a matter of doing many small things right.

Recognize the difference between searches for local information (those done by people seeking things in their own home town) and searches for location-based information (such as someone planning a trip to a place they've never been) and optimize for both. Consider how those audiences are different and develop content that will reach out to both types of local searchers.

Focus on Conversation

In order to effectively target your audience, you must know not only where they are but also what interests them. The Web allows people to reach out and push content in a way they've never been able to do before. Look at YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other social sites not just as a way to feed out your content but also as a way to get to know the people who are your potential customers.

Authenticity is key to the social conversation. The white hat/black hat distinction isn't clear cut in social media, and in fact, those labels might be meaningless. Customers will respond to good content and ignore poor content. Lying to your customers in a social setting is especially dangerous because the entire conversation depends on trust. Not everyone in your organization is suited to social media. Find your superstars and let them engage your audience. Think out of the box; you never know who might be your best evangelist.

Talk in and around the conference was split on whether any agency can truly do a good job representing a company in the social media space, but it's worth noting that you must do more than simply inject buzzwords into conversation. No one wants to be friends with a company that only is interested in promoting itself. Your focus should remain on engaging the audience and delivering value.

Focus on Attribution

Customer-focused strategies lead to the death of last-click attribution. By acknowledging that the last click is only when the sale occurs and not what made the sale in the first place, you're able to spend your marketing budget in a more organic and effective manner. You already know that customers do not start out ready to buy. Following the entire conversion path of a customer requires knowing who that customer is and how your relationship started. Understand what drew him in. Understand what caught her eye.

The key is to track multiple conversion points - not just the sale, but the first contact and every subsequent step of engagement. Cookies are often unreliable, but there are ways to increase the accuracy of your tracking. Thomas Bindl recommends:

  • Store click IDs on your site and return on conversion
  • Pass on order/client ID with every conversion
  • Use local shared objects (Flash cookies - often too slow for redirects)
  • Ask your users for channel of origin
  • Track unique coupon codes

Don't ignore phone calls. Even if you're not using call-tracking technology, train your CSRs to ask where and how the caller found you.

Applying correct attribution is still far from a perfected science, but it is crucial to the growth and success of the Internet marketing industry.

Focus on Working Smarter

The last component of outreach to customers is learning to use available tools to optimize your pages. The SEO Tools panel was one of the most popular at the conference and for good reason. Tools won't do your search engine optimization for you, but properly applied, they make an SEO's job a lot easier. From our perspective, two of the most exciting developments were our SEOToolSet demo showing our next generation of tools and the pairing of SEO-friendly CMS Pixelsilk with SEOToolSet data. (If you haven't seen Pixelsilk yet, we've got a Pixelsilk demo right here.)

At the Bruce Clay booth, conference attendees saw a sneak peek of three tools from the brand-new, revamped SEOToolSet. Though not yet released, the Ranking Monitor, Check Server and Single Page Analyzer were instantly recognizable as useful tools for any SEO working on a search marketing campaign. The Ranking Monitor goes beyond simply reporting rankings and allows the subscriber to delve into an abundance of information to report on overall site health. The Check Server is used to check the performance of a domain's Web server in order to help diagnose any potential problems. Subscribers will find that the Single Page Analyzer is the real workhorse of the bunch, providing data about on-page factors that will help them edit pages and direct their SEO site-wide.

Ideally, when you build a Web site you integrate search engine optimization into the very fabric of its construction. At the show, Pixelsilk announced Search Advice, a new feature of the Pixelsilk content management system that is aimed at doing precisely that. Real-time SEO feedback from the SEOToolSet provides additional search engine optimization support by displaying best practice recommendations real-time, right within the content editor.

SEOToolSet subscribers using Pixelsilk will be alerted when on-page elements or tags might benefit by including specific keywords. On-screen and e-mail alerts can be scheduled to inform the production staff of changes to a page or notify them when content edits don't meet SEOToolSet suggestions. The inclusion of SEO best practices early in the content-creation cycle can help marketing and IT departments better coordinate SEO efforts from the beginning of a project as well as into the upkeep and management phases.

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