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2011 Dec 7

Search Engine Strategies-Chicago: Key Takeaways

Adobe’s Senior Director of Global Media and Demand Marketing, Mikel Chertudi opened the conference with a keynote address titled “Guilty Marketers – Wasted & Wishful Multi-Channel Marketing Spend.” Chertudi focused on the many mistakes marketers make when allocating and measuring marketing investments. Specifically, he targeted three common errors committed by marketers on a regular basis:

  1. Misunderstanding the Business
    Organizations often invest funds into the top of the funnel without understanding how it truly impacts the bottom line. As marketers we need to really understand how it is that our business operates.
  2. Organizational and Tactic Silos
    Considering the impact that one form of marketing has on another is key in forming strategy. Too often marketers fail to utilize technology and leverage the strength of organizational silos (sales, marketing, research, etc.) to work together.
  3. Improperly Attributing Attribution Models
    The majority of marketers are not aware of what models they are using. If you don’t understand the difference between last click, first, all, even, and weighted models you are leaving money on the table as a result.

Chertudi set the tone for many of the sessions with his focus on marketing accountability and real measures of attribution as they impact the bottom line. Invest, don’t “spend” and seek to quantify results with a constant focus on ROI. Do you know what percentage of sales you source vs. influence. Don’t make assumptions and simply “hope” for success. Don’t focus so much on tactics.  That was the key message.

While the sessions we attended focused mainly on search and social strategies; there was an overall resounding theme that SEO is no longer about high rankings and traffic but also about the user experience and conversion optimization. A secondary focus across the sessions was a reinforcement on search and social integration.

Some key takeaways from our favorite sessions:

Duplicate Content & Multiple Site Issues

Eric Enge and Shari Thurow

Eric Enge and Shari Thurow are two of the most respected professionals in the search industry and this was evidenced by a full conference room for their session on Duplicate Content and Multiple Site Issues. Shari led off with why you should care about duplicate content issues.  Besides lowering the index count, duplicate sites won’t get crawled as frequently and it results in a poor searcher experience, one of her main tenants. She used the example of printer pages that get filtered out. She also used the example of Google’s habit of auto-filling forms which further clutters the index and can penalize your site. She encouraged the audience to make sure internal site search results were not appearing in the index and resulting in duplicate content penalties. If they are, then the solution is to set up robots.txt on all search results page or do meta in header of all search results pages.

Thurow also talked about the gray area of “shingling” content, understanding your content fingerprint, and not simply changing page placement of like copy across two different pages. Eric Enge emphasized the need to provide valuable content that is unique and not similar to the copy of other pages. “Am I adding value with this content” is the key question he said. Enge also added that generally you should utilize the robots meta tag vs. a robots.txt file because Google always obeys robots.txt file so if someone links to it, it will be indexed. Don’t rely so much on 301 redirects. He suggested limiting the number of downloadable PDF’s to search engines as well. Finally, if you syndicate content, which is great for link building, Enge suggested changing up the articles you are syndicating, don’t do duplicates.

Information Architecture for the Modern Website

Shari Thurow

Thurow was excellent again. She put the put the challenge to the audience to return to the idea of organization and labeling in building web sites. Think about categorization, hierarchical taxonomy, and avoid practices like siloing and page rank sculpting. She provided many great points on building the structure of your site to be representative of your categorization and prioritization of your content. Analyze your content footprint. This is the human element to building the taxonomy of your site instead of just ensuring URLs are being indexed.

Additionally, be mindful of how you label navigation and how you provide supplemental navigation across the site i.e., footer, breadcrumb, etc. Search engines use these queues to understand the overall theme of your site. She also emphasized that only children and programmers “minesweep”, don’t require users to search for links. Make them obvious.

Metrics for SEO

Ben Bailey and Jon Morris

Morris and Bailey are both seasoned search marketing professionals running their own firms. Morris led off the session emphasizing the importance of web analytics when looking to generate the highest return for your interactive investment. In addition, to gain a competitive edge, marketers should be focusing on prioritizing keyword targets by category and ensuring content development is an ongoing process (aggregate and user generated).

In developing your SEO road map, Morris gave a good example of building out a plan based on the weight of factors like Coverage, Traffic, Content, Probability for Success, Relevance, and Estimated ROI. It all starts with Category Analysis. Bailey described the challenges that most often occur with measuring the search channel. Paid search is easier to measure as compared to SEO, that is why in most cases, 90% of search channel budgets go to paid media (while it supplies 20% of returns) and a meager 10% of budget goes to SEO (which supplies huge returns from search marketing). Yet, poor analytics can also be a reason behind companies questioning SEO effectiveness. Often the people delegating budget on search marketing, know little about it.

Just like with PPC conversion tracking, investing in SEO requires a through understanding of how you identify, track and value goals which requires an in-depth understanding of your page index value. He advocated a three phased approach to tracking: Performance, Opportunity, and Prioritization. Bailey ended by emphasizing the need to assign a dollar value to every goal, no matter how small the action on your site. Even if it is just a dollar. Tie everything to investment.

Crossing the Digital Divide: The Leap from Search to Display

Allen Chappel and Dax Hamman

This was one of our favorite sessions. The moderator, Jon Myers of the SES Advisory Board and Yahoo! UK and Ireland, was terrific. A packed room heard about new optimization technologies, next-generation ad exchanges, and a fresh perspective on retargeting from Dax Hamman. Attorney Allen Chappel spoke first about online behavioral advertising as “the process by which someone’s usage of interactive media is collected over time and across websites used to deliver a more tailored or relevant advertisement downstream.” Chappel emphasized the positives of advertisers using tools and data to tailor content for advertising purposes. The data is becoming widely available and marketers you use their new found “power” to take advantage of these options.

Hamman spoke to the misconceptions of retargeting and the increase accountability advertisers now have based on technologies and data. He pointed out that there are two types of retargeting:

  1. Retargeting on-site events
  2. Retargeting off-site events

To clarify, retargeting or “leadback,” is a form of online advertising that enables brands to re-market to users who have previously demonstrated interest in their product or service from one the above events, off-site (i.e. search), or on-site “event.” Search and site retargeting are both talking to markers of intent and site retargeting is not about prospecting. Hamman emphasized that while site retargeting is very easy to set up, search retargeting doesn’t require any pixels to be placed on your site, it is often the quickest and easiest retargeting technique to push live. These visitors have “risen their hand” and have expressed intent with a keyword search. Also, search retargeting can “plug” a leaky PPC funnel for users who did a search but did not click on your ad at that moment. As such, PPC campaigns are more effective when supported with search retargeting. But, he noted, site retargeting works quite well. By using exclusion pixels on pages like “Jobs” or “About Us,” and by including more marketing pages, you can increase the likelihood of conversions. The display ads users see as a result of search retargeting are tailored to these marketing pages. It should be noted that you should quantify the affinity between specific display ads/variations and the keyword or keywords that were subsequently searched by users after exposure to those ads.

You can see video testimonials and interviews with speakers at SES’s YouTube Channel.

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