Day 2 Recap

By: Doug Pace- Bayshore Solutions Executive Team

Welcome to the second day of SMX East in NYC. Today has a great lineup that includes a Keynote from the author of “The Filter Bubble,” the inherent conflicts between PPC and SEO, a presentation on Google +1, a technical discussion on solving SEO problems, and a hands on example of what the experts can do to rankings given three months. The second day looks to be exciting, so hang on…

Note—Why is it that the longer I was at SMX in San Jose the more laid back I felt (I think it was the 3rd day at SMX West when I bought a backpack for my laptop), whereas the longer I am at SMX East the more stressed I feel?


Keynote – Eli Pariser
The day began with a keynote from Eli Pariser, the author of “The Filter Bubble.” The session started with a quote from Mark Zuckerberg, “A squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to you than people dying in Africa.” The quote really got one to thinking about the personalization movement on the internet and what it is becoming. The author continued with his personal example that made him write his book—he confessed that he is left minded in his political views, but he enjoys seeing varying viewpoints and relies on this information to craft his opinions. One day he noticed that all of his conservative friends had disappeared from his Facebook feed and he wondered what happened. In short Facebook follows your posts and who you click on to personalize your feed. The thing is this leads to a very homogeneous view of the world with very little conflicting viewpoints.

This level of personalization plays into the search community as well. Google uses 57 signals (IP Address, Browser, Hardware, etc.) to build ones search return—there are even more even more if you a logged into a Google account. With this in mind the author asked 30 friends to perform a search for “Egypt”, he was surprised to learn the many received unique search returns ranging from travel related return sets to political related return sets. This makes one start to wonder—should computers make the decisions on what we should see without telling us why they have filtered results. The author related this to news broadcasting where gatekeepers decide on what is aired and not aired. Is this what we want, or should the best media give a balance of wants vs. new discovery – information retrieval vs. Information mapping. The real issue in all this is that we don’t get to see the filters that are applied to us and we have no way to toggle them on or off. Should the friends we keep, the sites we visit, the postings we make really determine what information we get to see in our search returns? Makes you think that one bad choice in life may drastically change your view on the search engines.

PPC & SEP – Can’t We All Just Get Along?
The main question addressed in my first session of the day was “Why should I pay if I already rank number one in organic search?” All panelists said the question was valid, but all depended on the company or search phrase. Some basic facts comparing click through rates of the mediums were presented (PPC – 12% CTR vs. SEO 60% CTR). The suggestion is that leveraging both PPC and organic SEO can increase traffic and conversion rate—yes I said conversion rate. They suggested that tracking conversion/ROAS was obsolete and that combining mediums can make other non-measured metrics increase. A specific case study was shown whereas when additional mediums we added to the mix, overall conversion (not click, but conversion) increased (SEO – 7%, SEO/PPC – 8.1%, SEO/PPC/Banner – 9.6%, SEO/PPC/Banner/Email/Social – 11.1%). The theory is that the additional impressions are seen as votes by users and they are more comfortable taking an action. The trick is balancing the cost of the media to ensure a positive ROI.

Throughout the conversation, many other benefits of mixing PPC with organic were mentioned—ability to test title tags, ability to test page templates, ability to promote events (use branded words—low cost and high discoverability), and the ability to test major site changes. One panelist mentioned that PPC placement ads could be used to increase link popularity and mentioned that Google Ad Planner is a great tool to help with link building strategies. The basis of the discussion is that there is no absolute answer; it all depends on the brand, the audience, and the competition. The reality is one need to test, tract, and modify to find out what works best for their particular instance. This was demonstrated by the fact Home Depot does not bid on their brand name and Chase does bid on their brand. The panelists assumed both had good reasons for each strategy, but both companies went about it differently.

Up Close with Google+ and Google+1
I have to admit that I was pretty excited about this session, although I have a Google+ account I have not done much with it to date. I am always leery of the next new thing, but I want to make sure I am educated. The session started with an overview of the functionality of Google+ including Circles—the ability to segment your friends so that all your feed post are not public; Hangouts—video conferencing for up to 10 people; Instant Upload—ability for Android phones to automatically upload your photos to the cloud and make them ready for sharing; and Sparks—the ability to search for a topic and start conversations on related articles (share, comment, add as interest). Google+ is only a few months old and is only consumer oriented at this time. Business or Brand pages are coming soon, once Google overcomes the issues with ensuring that the requesting user is a representative of the business. The future looks to be in the convergence of the business pages and the ability to segment customers who follow the brand. The presenter referenced a recent hangout hosted by Michael Dell for a segmentation of Dell’s clients.

The +1 button only covered a small part of the overall presentation. The button is currently on over one million sites and gets four million impressions on a daily basis. Google knows that family and friend endorsements play a huge role in our decision process (over 90% of Americans trust a friend’s recommendation)—the +1 button looks to bring this into the online world. Although other social media sites allow you to share or like an item, the +1 button allows for this information to be relevant to you when you need it. An example was in regards to buying a cell phone, although I have seen many of my friends endorse phones through social media I don’t have a way to search the endorsements—the +1 button allows for this. The presenter made it clear that +1 is not currently a ranking factor for site, but it does influence your personalized search returns when logged in. It is interesting to note that this influence continues within ads, so that your friends and family can influence what ads you may see. The celebrity factor has come into the +1 world with Kim Kardashian being the primary example. Measurement of the +1 button’s impact can be found in Webmaster tools (impact of +1’s on search results, Google Analytics (comparison of social channels), and Google Analytics (audience composition). The impact on ads and the ability to track audience composition make me believe there is a viable marketing channel within +1—this fact alone makes me believe that +1 is here to stay.

Real Answers for Technical SEO Problems
The real answers session was unique in the fact individuals could ask specific technical questions related to their website. The fact that the questions were so specific makes is difficult to discuss in this recap. One interesting items was the suggestion that individuals use straight log files for troubleshooting issues. It seems that Google webmaster tools and other SEO tools can give you false positive information (or not enough information) and the resulting troubleshooting path is to use the log files. Beyond log files one should consider the network configuration, HTTP response codes, and HTTP response headers in the troubleshooting process. Common questions to ask within the log files:

  • Is load balancing round robin?
  • How do you monitor?
  • Any reverse proxies or CDN?
  • Are you doing any URL rewriting?
  • Is there any network latency or packet loss?
  • Are Duplicate sites being detected by the search engines?
  • Who is crawling, how often, referral links, URL requested, and are you redirecting correctly?

Extreme Makeover, The SEO Edition
I was very excited about the promise of this session. Based on the program, individual marketers were to have three months to show results for chosen charity site. I guess the projects started late as the marketers had just started the process and they did not have results available for this conference. They did give backgrounds on the individual charities that they have chosen and gave insight on the methodology they have implemented to date.

The first charity chosen was Nazareth Housing located in New York. Nazareth focuses on helping the homeless and do not currently rank in the top 50 results for phrases with New York Charity and homeless. The goals for the Nazareth marketing project is to raise their brand profile, increase homelessness education, and increase donations. The project started off by really dissecting the question – “who is looking for charities online.” The result was that multiple large companies look online for local charities during cyclical periods of time. The team decided that the core design of the site was fine and did not redesign it. After defining the audience the team did keyword research and came up with 104 potential keywords. Major competitors were also identifies and a cross matrix of competitor keywords and rankings was created. This continued on to identify backlinks, anchor text, and linking URLs for the best ranking competitors (they also noted that press releases were a valuable source of links). The team used this information to identify potential linking relationships and deep linking URL strategies. When the team started on page optimization they focused on fixing any errors identified by webmaster tools, setting redirects, cleaning up any code issues, and improving the markup language (like H1 tags). Next action item on the list is to focus on improving conversion optimization and the calls to action within the site—but that will be discussed at SMX West when they have more time and data.

APS of Durham was the charity chosen by the second Extreme Makeover team. APS is a pet rescue/adoption charity in the North Carolina area. The assigned team started with keyword discovery and audience identification. They found that most searches relating to the purchase of a pet dog were breed specific—this set the stage for the strategy. Focusing on the breed, the team created breed specific content while purchasing geo-specific breed URLs. They created multiple puppy image widgets for inclusion on other sites. The widget displayed multiple images linking to multiple pages—thus giving multiple links. Paid search via Google grants is on the horizon, but has not been implemented yet.

On to Day 3!!!


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