By: Doug Pace- Bayshore Solutions Executive Team
I wonder how many of you remember the Pace Picante commercial where a couple of cowboys are talking about salsa. One cowboy says that the Pace Picante they are eating is amazing and asks where they make it – the response is New York City which is met with a discouraging reply of “NEEEW YOOORK CIIITY?” Surprisingly, my trip to this year’s Search Marketing Expo started in a similar manner. I was meeting with a client the morning before the conference, they asked if I was excited about the conference and asked how long it would take to get to San Francisco. I responded by letting him know it was in New York and was met with a very similar response received by the cowboy—I guess San Fran still has the market cornered for internet marketing…
As many of you know, the Search Marketing Expo is one of the largest conferences in the world that specifically focuses on Internet Marketing and Search Engine Optimization. The conference is held at multiple locations during the year including London, Munich, San Jose, Paris, Sydney and New York. Since we have attended the conference in San Jose in the past, we came to New York looking for east coast SEO techniques. The conference spans three days and each day is full of breakout sessions and keynotes from industry experts.
The first day was a whirlwind of activity. After reviewing the agenda, I selected specific breakout sessions that had relevance for our clients. The day would include sessions focusing on Keyword Research, Enterprise SEO, Local SEO, Trends in Search/Social, ending with a keynote forum led by Danny Sullivan (The Godfather of SEO). Although I figured the current economy would have a negative influence on the conference, just the opposite was true—it was packed! Many of the sponsoring vendors had signs up stating they were hiring—providing me with new ideas for the President’s jobs bill.
The first session I attended was on Keyword Research and Copywriting. The session started with some standard information on keyword research—it’s an ongoing process, you should always be looking for new words that are relevant, you need to think like your client, don’t overuse industry jargon, don’t trust that your competitors know what they are doing, and brainstorming is not done often enough. It was suggested that everyone have a formal brainstorming process casting a wide net for keywords. The process should include a review of marketing collateral, press releases, customer interviews, and an analysis of support forum questions. I was surprised to learn that search phrases continue to get longer (one word searches account for 23%, two words – 23.5%, three words – 19.99%, 4 words – 13.7%, 5 words plus – 19.81%).
The session continued on to give a very high level introduction to multiple key word research tools and ideas for managing the selection process. The tools included Google Keyword Tool, Google Trends, Google Insights, Google Webmaster Tools, Trillion Keyword Discovery, Hitwise, Comscore, WordTracker, WordStream, Sooule, Ubersuggest, YouTube Keyword Suggestions, adCenter Lab tools, and Microsoft Ad Intelligence. Although it was nice to get an understanding of all the tools available, I was disappointed that more time was not spent diving into one or two of the tools. When using the tools in the selection process, it was pointed out that it is important to understand the context of a search in order to properly leverage it. There are three types of searches: Navigational – finding a specific site; Informational – answering a question; and Transactional – in the buying process. Knowing the terms and the context of each search type will allow one to serve the correct result.
The second session of the day was on Enterprise search with panelists from large companies including Gannett and Adobe. Much of the session revolved around the need to make SEO & SEM part of the culture of the organization. An organization must create a level of ownership across multiple functions—but also remain flexible and inject a level of chaos with new initiatives. Understanding the steps of the sale (Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Service and Loyalty) help to identify the areas touched by search, but far too often, SEO stops at the awareness phase. Within each of the phases tactical themes of Content, Linking and Architecture can be applied—resulting in a true SEO strategy. Although content is still king, many in attendance made it known that one strategic link was worth a million.
The third and best session of the day focused on local search and a recent study done by David Mihm entitled “Local Search Ranking Factors Report.” The session started with the results of a study that compared high and low ranking law firm sites within the Chicago area. The study looked at factors including the claiming of a places page, implementation of categories within places, Google reviews, Internet Yellow Page reviews, consistency of NAP Data, linking domains, linking anchor text, and citations. The research concluded that NAP Consistency, Local Landing pages, and Links were the most relevant factors within local search.
- NAP Consistency – The acronym NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number. In compiling local results Google looks to see if a business’s NAP information is consistent across citation sources. If the information is consistent and within strong citation sources the high local return is provided. The process of creating consistency can be difficult as there are many sites that contain NAP information and you must contact them all individually, make the entries match, and remove all duplicate entries. It was also pointed out that you should not use tracking numbers or 800 numbers within your NAP information – tracking numbers will be interpreted as non-consistent, 800 numbers can be interpreted as a duplicated entry. If you have moved locations you have a lot of work ahead. If you are a lawyer in a larger firm, you may want to apply a suite number for a unique places listing.
- Local Landing Page – The local landing page should be formatted to closely resemble the Google places page, including information and layout. If you are optimizing for a company with multiple units all units should have their own local page, each places listing should link to the unique pages, and you should also create/submit a KML sitemap (www.geositemapgenerator.com) through Google webmaster tools. The local landing page should have geo-targeted title and H1 tags. One example was referenced where just changing link within the places page to a local landing page increased rankings by 2 places within 15 minutes – increasing traffic by over 50%.
- Links – Domains with local relevance linking to a local landing page can do wonders for local listings. Local schools, chambers, and governments are extremely relevant to the local equation.
The fourth session of the day focused on the future of search and social media. Much of the discussion had to do with the value of Visibility vs. Discoverability. A user is more likely to discover a site within social media although that site may not be as visible as one found within a search for a solution to a problem. There is much debate on which silo provides more relevance in the decision making process and the consensus was that both channels needed to be embraced. The discussion continued on to question where opportunity exists in the future. Observations made on future trends included rising budgets for content creation, monetization of social media (how much is a Facebook user worth), and the convergence of social media and CRM (www.yourbuzz.com) were made, but with minor discussion to follow.
The day ended with an open forum keynote from Danny Sullivan. Danny was an interesting guy and provided a lot of comic relief as he made the floor available for questions. The questions ranged from basic (Can Google read image maps?) to advanced (How will the Panda release use bounce rate in the indexing of blog content?). No matter the question, the answer consistently came around to the same things—content, links, and architecture.