Notes from SES (Search Engine Strategies) NYC 2008
Thousands of people, dozens of sessions, workshops, keynotes, parties, and impromptu
encounters were jammed into the NY Hilton from last Monday through Friday. It's an
information onslaught that
leaves you feeling like a fully saturated sponge.
But first, before it all began, yours truly hosted a pre
SES Guru dinner, which many of
the presenters attended. There were the PPC gurus Andrew Goodman, Mona Elesseily
(she works with Andrew at
Page Zero Media
and is author of the Yahoo! search
Jon Myers of
Mediavest in the UK
would later moderate an intense PPC panel that I will cover further down in this article.
ClickZ VP and Executive Editor Rebecca Lieb
. Conversion expert
held court and such phrases as "Persuasion
Architecture," which he coined, were bandied about.
Wordtracker's Ken McGaffin and Mike Mindel
were in attendance. Ken would speak on
linking matters at
the conference later in the week.
Also part of the British invasion was my dear friend
, who would co
most spirited session I would see on the following Wednesday.
In that session on Universal SEO, Mike would describe how he made a video with a
cheap camera about his SES Lon
don event. He posted it to YouTube and Metacafe plus
other video venues.
Then he linked and tagged from StumbleUpon, Del.icio.us, Digg, and other social
sites. Within a few short hours, Google had found the video and featured it in search
e lesson is this: Google and other search engines are hungry for topical video.
Make your video now and link to it before everyone else gets on the video bandwagon.
Dana Todd was there. She's with
and just launched
(a new tool that
optimizes press releases for search engine crawlers).
Larry Jaffee, managing editor of
, found that quite intriguing.
Over appetizers, Eileen Shulock (managing editor for
Web Digest for Marketers
) and I
worked out a media extension to Twitter, called Fritter (as in how to fritter your time
While we say snarky things about Twitter, I heard in more than one session at the show to
follow how Twitter is a ver
y fast word
mouth medium because it is so easy to forward
In many ways it's a faster propagator than blogs or Facebook and the like. While little
applets like Twitter may not easily fit ads per se, it might well be a good medium for
e word out about events, content and the like.
Also present at the party was
SEO and social media guru Amanda Watlington
. She would
be a featured speaker on optimizing podcasts later in the week.
Her advice: Feature at least a sample of your podcast on the landing page with an
indication of how l
ong the sample is and what is in it. Make sure that landing page is rich
with the keywords mentioned in your podcast or video. Many people will just listen to the
podcast right off that landing page and won't bother to download it to an MP3 player.
ut lyrics from your songs into your tags. Makes sense because I have searched for
songs using fragments of lyrics I remember without having any idea who the artist is or
the name of the song itself.
In that same session with Amanda,
Webmaster Radio's Daron Babin
would give good
tips on how to opt
media files. All the programs featured on Webmaster
Radio have transcripts (which are not cheap to produce) but are very important to post
next to the podcast or video file as it helps the crawlers.
Also at my Sunday dinner party was
MarketingSherpa Research Director Stefan
While talking to me about favorite authors we have in common (Patrick
O'Brian, especially), he simultaneously counted the number of people who had arrived
against the number of empty chairs at the long table because people were milling about
He noticed there weren't enough seats at the table for all the people standing, all while
carrying on an impassioned conversation with me. What a guy. Later that evening, I
noticed he was deep in conversation with software develope
r, raconteur and old friend
Matt Lederman. These two seemed well matched to me: two brainiacs.
While I didn't get a chance to talk much to
Beyond Ink's Anne Kennedy
, she, too, showed
up and would present later in the week called "The Business Case for SEO Content
Development: Turning Words Into A
Also attending was respected high
tech journalist John Verity and Acronym Media
founder and CEO Anton Konikoff.
I was honored to host so many people at the top of their game at one time in one room.
What I also found fascinating is how so many of t
hem opened up and talked about things
other than SEO.
These are real people with real lives and altogether likable, even lovable. If you get a
chance to see or meet them, I encourage you to do so. These are deep people with rich,
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Orion Panel: Universal Search
Far and away, this was the most intriguing session I attended. First, what is universal
search? It's important to define it because I find many in
know people in internet
marketing but not search marketing don
't know what it is. Universal search (sometimes
called blended search) mixes into your results a lot more than just the usual 10 blue links
with snippets of copy. You get video freezeframes you can play right on the search
results page, pictures, audio fil
es, news releases and more.
and Mike Grehan, it featured
omScore's James Lamberti
uct manager for Universal Search Jack Menzel
managing director of Big Mouth Media
Federated Media's John Battelle
, author of
ComScore came out a couple weeks ago with a study showing that while search usage
was up significantly at Google, paid search click
throughs were off. Why is this?
Is it a
reflection of the economy? Is it because of universal search affecting click
throughs on paid listings? Or both? This was a spirited exploration of what is happening
at this early stage of USEO (Universal Search Engine Optimization).
he search engine results page (SERP) begins to act as a destination page, it
changes things for many people in search marketing.
With USEO, the user isn't clicking as often because much can be played or
displayed right on the SERP.
Consumers' actions wil
l dictate what they see in the future.
Kevin Ryan: Skeptical that the general public understands that the first listing
shown in a search is usually a sponsored listing.
James Lamberti: His firm has research showing 80% in a survey understood that.
truly also remains skeptical. USEO will put more emphasis on organic
search results because there will be less space and fewer pages for paid search
Jack Menzel: His firm is all about the user experience. The internet has a lot more
video and audio
and pictures to offer. The user wants this, so it gets mixed into
the search results.
host Mike Grehan said it will be very interesting to watch what happens with
PPC results in the near future.
We might see more "ad wrapping" as seen on YouTube; thus
, search marketing
could become more of a branding medium.
Google is interested in capturing the second click. This reminds me of direct
marketing's dictum that it's all about the second sale.
Next day, over lunch with a ChannelAdvisor executive: USEO wo
n't harm paid search in
the long run because, as often is the case with people who click on paid listings, they seek
out paid listings specifically.
Ads in a Quality Score World:
; panelists David Miller, product manager for
Joel Lapp, VP account services, Reprise Media
Jon Kelly, president,
; and Frederick Vallaeys, with the great title of
I took more notes at thi
s session than at any other, save for the USEO session mentioned
above. This session was stuffed with intriguing insights and tactics for paid search.
Below are my best takeaways from this session:
"Cheap" is an enticement word, but you better pa
y off with something really
You can have a good ad with an irrelevant term. So, try same copy with different
Don't go crazy with eight
word keyword strings. It's not how most people search.
The more specific
your ad text, the better your conversions.
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Make sure PPC ads match their landing page for higher conversions.
The landing page is more important than ever in quality scoring.
Landing pages sometimes take a while to
get included into the scoring process,
which is why scores can change over long stretches of time when nothing else
about your ads or those of your competitors seems to have changed.
through rate multiplied by conversion rate is a quic
k and good unit of
Historical performance plays a major role in indexing, assuming the ad has a
People who have written high
scoring ads in the past are apt to do so
Ratings and scores
Big mistake: Getting a high
lity user score, then freezing and changing
nothing. Keep growing and improving. This refers back to Google's USEO.
Audience question: Why did my ad show up in the North and not in the East?
Panel answer: Some ads work better in different parts of the cou
Panelist comment: His ad network shows only about a 10% difference between
major branded names and lesser
known names. So, there's hope for those without
Quality index is relative to your competitors.
Low privacy standards on your la
nding page will hurt your scoring.
Heavy graphics or interstitials slow page speed and lower your score.
User experience tips:
Google and Yahoo: Criteria are based primarily on user experience.
Example of bad user experience: Offer a free iPod, then ask
"Who do you like:
Obama or Hillary?," then on the landing page, ask visitors a bunch of personal
Don't make users search twice. When they get to your site, don't make them
search again for what they wanted to find. If they ask for roses, don't
give them a
page about flowers. Give them roses specifically.
Bottom line: Do the right thing for the user. That will get you a good quality
Ask yourself: If I had done that search, and I saw this ad, would it be relevant to
here were a couple of sessions concerning mobile search. My impression: It will hit like
a house afire, but not just yet. This field is changing fast. Getting stats and trend lines for
early usage is difficult. Here goes:
Statistic: Nielsen Mobile says 46
million U.S. mobile data consumers used mobile
search services in the third quarter of 2007.
Mobile searchers look for fun stuff mostly: entertainment, trivia. It's very viral,
very practical, very addictive.
34 demographic does way more text traffic
than voice traffic, like 3
eMarketer says mobile might be the most important new ecommerce interface
over the next few years.
It's hard for some users to enter ZIP codes because they don't know any other
besides their own.
Mobile evolution phases: Ev
angelism first, where we are now, then
crystallization, then finally monetization.
The media spend on mobile search marketing is not yet huge but it has attracted
the likes of Lexus, Amazon, State Farm Insurance and Edmunds.
Search box needs to be displa
yed more obviously on more phones to get used
Mobile search is all about preferences and portability.
Some students do research on the way home and send to their desktops from their
Check out AnswersOnTheGo.com
WDFM is spons
Searcher Behavior Research Update/Social Media
Panelist Robert Murray of iProspect: His company did a JupiterResearch survey that
showed 67% of all searches were inspired by offline messaging, such as TV
Also: Some competitors obs
erve what the competition is pushing via keywords and then
optimize for that to pull away some of that traffic.
USC research shows social communities are at the heart of the online experience
for ages 12
"Go native" before marketing t
o online communities. Learn the mores. Find the
community elders and what is acceptable behavior before plunging in.
Social media can help a marketer discern what is knowable. Gives you the ability
to say, "I have 8% of smartphone conversations, of which
62% is positive."
Conversation marketing allows you to find out better what members are saying,
which in turn can help you mold your messages to them.
Many social media platforms don't have room or don't tolerate marketing. Second
Life Liberation Army vo
ws to take revenge on marketing in their virtual world.
Hitwise Sponsored Session: Do You Know the Breakdown of Your Competitors'
Paid and Organic Traffic? Hitwise Does.
Hosted by Research Director Heather Dougherty and GM for General Research Bill
with Paul Hutton, Research Director, Interactive Research, Scripps Networks.
Hitwise data shows which of your competitors are paying for the greater share of
For JC Penney, branded search is very important.
tailers want to know which brands of shoes people are searching for most to
help ID trends and what to stock.
You can have a search term portfolio and track how and when people search for
your brand and if it trends up or down seasonally and annually.
terview with ComScore's Eli Goodman
I had a 30
minute interview session with ComScore's Eli Goodman. His company has 2
in panelists, of which 1 million are US
based. Eli shared with me that his
company research shows internet users typically wa
nt more media. To me this is why
Google has embraced universal search; it's giving more media options return in results.
On the Show Floor:
At some trade shows, I find the show floor more interesting than the sessions. This show
was the opposite. But the f
loor had its moments. I heard one paid search site say it filters
out 33% of the traffic they send and charge you for because they identify it as click
Best of Show Swag:
Orangesoda.com has a miniature beach chair that serves as a cell
floor branding. This agency for small and medium businesses also had a drawing
for a spiffy 1940s one
speed bike with coaster brakes and chrome fenders, painted the
company's orange color.
Box Lunch with a side of URLs:
I picked up three search
tools that come in handy when you want to search forums to see
what people are saying about your products:
Still in beta
Very Web 2.0
SES NYC 2008 was an intellectually stimulating and physically exhausting experience. If
you've never been to such an event, make it your bi
z to go, at least once. I've been going
to these since 1995, and I haven't been bored once.
Much thanks to Editor Janet Roberts for her help on turning this report around quickly.
I'm going to bed now. Good night. LC
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