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SESConference.com

September 2011

Five Digital Shops in the Heartland  8

Five Reasons Google+ Is Not a   Facebook Killer  4 Do You Know What Your Social Media   Marketing Really Costs?  6

Sneak Preview

SES Chicago

November 14–18, 2011

Getting a Speaking Gig at SES  10 People Want to Connect with You,   Not Be Marketed To  17


8

Follow SES at twitter.com/SESConf

contents

COME A SPEAKER AT SES? 10

Features

8 12

Five digital shops in the heartland Interactive agencies ply their crafts between the coasts. sneak preview: SES CHICAGO Find out why our sessions, workshops, and speakers make SES Chicago a must-attend event.

16 17

Columns

20

4

Five Reasons Google+ Is Not a Facebook Killer Why non-tech users won’t be persuaded to make the switch

6

Do you know what your social media marketing really costs? Five major social business expenses, plus a detailed break out of hidden and not-so-hidden costs.

10

Getting a speaking gig at SES An insider’s guide to submitting proposals and pitching sessions.

18

Beyond search engine marketing SES has expanded from a one-day conference to an annual series of expos held around the world. People want to connect with you, not be marketed to Don’t fall into the “push the message” trap when using social media as part of an integrated marketing strategy. “Social media agency”: fad or revolution? More brands are taking social media seriously because they are seeking to connect more closely with their consumers.

20

SEO techniques for large sites How to maximize product visibility in organic search.

24

Five reasons PPC search beats PPC social Social media advertising shows a lot of potential to influence demand and build awareness, but there’s no place like search.

To learn more about SES Chicago, visit www.SESChicago.com or download the SES Chicago Conference & Expo mobile app to your iPhone, Android, or BlackBerry.

September 2011


staff Matt McGowan MD, North America

about SES Mike Grehan Global VP, Content

Effective January 2012, SES Magazine will be purely digital, like its sister publications ClickZ and Search Engine Watch. The magazine will continue to provide the latest news and how to’s in search, social, and mobile. More information on the digital magazine will be forthcoming. To access the SES conference agenda, you can always download the SES Conference & Expo mobile app: • iPhone, iPad, and iPod users can go to the App Store and search for “SES Chicago.” • All smartphone users can access the app via http://www.searchenginestrategies.com/ chicago/mobile-app.php.

Program Development Senior Program Director Conference Program manager

Marilyn Crafts Laura Roth

Operations director of U.S. Operations Michele McDermott Operations Manager Dan Hoskins Registration Associate Charisse Rosales ClickZ & Search Engine Watch Executive Editor, ClickZ Director, SEW Managing Editor, News Senior Editor, News Staff Writer Staff Writer Copy Editor Asia Desk Editor Editor, SES Magazine

Anna Maria Virzi Jonathan Allen Zach Rodgers Kate Kaye Christopher Heine Jack Marshall Caitlin Rossman Adaline Lau Dawn Cavalieri

If you are interested in attending a first-rate educational program that explores search and social marketing trends, you have three opportunities coming up: • SES Latino, October 7, Time Inc., New York, NY (www.seslatino.com). • SES Chicago, November 14–18, Hyatt Regency (www.seschicago.com). • SES Singapore, November 22–23, Grand Hyatt Singapore (www.sessingapore.com). We look forward to seeing you at an upcoming SES event!

Sales & Marketing Sales Directors

Account Executive Director, Client Services Marketing Director Marketing Manager Web Designer Online Operations manager Online Operations associate

Anna Maria Virzi executive Editor CLICKZ

Andrew Katz Elaine Mershon Elaine Romeo Peter Westerholm Elizabeth Huston JoAnn Simonelli Angela Man Amy Xu Rebecca Holz Louise Laberge Aleksey Gershin

SES Advisory Board

Comprised of both industry thought leaders and real-world practitioners, the Search Engine Strategies advisory board brings together top players in the field of interactive media and search. The team works to deliver continually cutting-edge search techniques, more integrated and relevant content, and professional development resources to SES attendees.

Magazine Contributors

Adam Audette Heidi Cohen Dave Davies Liana Evans Danny Goodwin Christopher Heine Kevin Lee Laura Roth Gary Stein

Corporate Chief Executive Group Managing Director

Tim Weller James Hanbury

SES: Volume 5, Issue 8 | September 2011 © 2011 Incisive Media plc To advertise, subscribe, contribute, or view past issues: www.sesconference.com/ses-magazine Comments? Want to unsubscribe? E-mail us: magazine@sesconference.com Incisive Media, U.S. 55 Broad Street, 22nd fl. New York, NY 10004-2501 tel (646) 736-1888 fax (646) 390-6612 Please recycle this magazine!

Incisive Media, head office 28-29 Haymarket House London SW1Y 4RX, UK tel +44 (0)20 7316 9609 fax +44 (0)20 7930 2238

Mike Grehan, Chair Global VP Content SES/Search Engine Watch/ ClickZ

Marilyn Crafts Senior Program Director SES Advisory Board Coordinator SES Conference & Expo

Anne F. Kennedy International Search Strategist Beyond Ink USA

Jonathan Allen Director SearchEngineWatch

Bryan Eisenberg Bestselling Author bryaneisenberg.com

Jon Myers Head of Account Management Yahoo! UK & Ireland

Matthew Bailey President Site Logic Marketing

Paul Fegan Head of e-Learning Incisive Media

Lee Odden CEO TopRank Online Marketing

Chris Boggs Director, SEO, Rosetta

Andrew Goodman President Page Zero Media

Laura Roth Conference Program & Training Manager SES Conference & Expo

Mikel Chertudi Sr. Director, Online & Demand Marketing Adobe

Bill Hunt President Back Azimuth Consulting

Crispin Sheridan Sr. Director of Search Marketing Strategy SAP

Eddie Choi Managing Director Frontiers Digital

Aaron Kahlow Chairman & Founder, Online Marketing SummiT

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Is Not a Google+ Five Reasons Killer  Facebook Social Media What Your  Do You Know Really Costs? Marketing

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 Gig at SES Speaking Getting a with You, to Connect  To People Want Not Be Marketed

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Advertiser Page iProspect....................................................................... 3 Marin Software....................................................... C4 Submit Edge...............................................................C3

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focus: SOCIAL MEDIA

Five reasons Google+ is not a Facebook killer Why non-tech users won't be persuaded to make the switch. by Dave Davies

F

or weeks, a select gathering of us have been playing with Google+. It’s an interesting social media experiment by Google, but it is likely to remain that— another “almost ran” in the social media game, another Google property that just won’t quite make it. Here are five reasons why.

1. Usability

A huge problem Google will face here is that we all know how we use our social media tools and why. Let’s look back to May 2010, when Facebook had the audacity to force a layout change on its users—a change that garnered 1.7 million protests and many more complaints. If people are this opposed to simply adjusting how they use a single social media site, who’s going to want to learn an entirely new layout and way to communicate to do … the same things you can do on Facebook. The overall layout of Google+ is similar to that of Facebook (coincidence?) but the subtle differences are going to be problematic in a world where you have the user’s attention for a whopping five seconds. If they can’t find what they’re looking for, they’re gone.

3. Usefulness

Google+ has some awesome features. My personal favorite is Circles. That one may want to share something publicly but differently is a concept well grasped by Google. The friends I went to the pub with and listened to the song I completely “plus one” are different from my coworkers. And goodness knows my SEO friends are different from anyone else I know. Google created Circles to allow the easy filtering of messages by grouping friends and the easy sharing of images, status updates, etc. to and from these same groups. Unfortunately, my dad doesn’t have this problem, nor does my sister, nor does my grandmother; in fact, about 80 percent of the people I know are OK with one level of sharing. And if it is a bit of a bother to them, it’s less of a bother to put on the personal filter every now and then than to try to adopt yet another communications medium. Sure, we geeks love new toys and we like to try new things, so we were happy to create a new account, figure out how to use it, play around in the settings, upload our photos again, etc. But how many of your relatives would? 4. Purpose

2. Verbiage

Let’s say I tell you I “beige” something.… What does that mean to you? Not a whole lot I’d imagine, because you don’t have a base of reference for the word “beige” as a vote of support or opposition. Now let’s say I tell you I “like” something.… What does that mean to you? Fortunately, we’ve all gone through our lives “liking” things so we have an easy reference. None of us have a pre-exposed reference to “+1” as any type of support point. People like what they know, and from the outset the idea of +1 as a rating of support has been a point of head scratching and mild snickering. This additional lack of intuitive use is another point against Google in the battle for users’ hearts and minds.

4   SES • September 2011 {Chicago preview}

Sometimes the simple question needs to be asked: Why? We know why Google wants the project to be successful. If Google+ became even half as successful as Facebook, the information on relationships they could collect and what that could mean to them as far as feeding advertising in our direction more accurately would be incredible. But we’re not Google. The problem Google is up against is that Facebook really isn’t bad. Plus, it’s already got virtually everyone you likely know signed up and connected, with profiles, comments, and history built. Why would anyone give that up when there isn’t a problem? So you can drop people in Circles as you attempt to rebuild your full friends list and convince your parents to join Google+?

And for those of you thinking, why not use both, I would ask … why? Do we really want to waste more time updating our statuses—now on multiple websites? 5. Convenience

I, like many, am busy. The number of draws on my time increases almost daily, many of these draws from the online world. I’ve got Facebook, Twitter, Skype, AIM, MSN, forums, a blog, email, the phone and (here comes the shocker) live human interaction. Why on Earth would I want another? The single biggest problem that Google may be up against right now is that they’re fighting a battle from behind. While I anticipate very solid growth early on, once users realize that many of their friends haven’t moved over, rather than have to access yet another social media resource to communicate, they’ll slowly move back to just the one. The one where all their friends and contacts already are, where they can communicate in one location: Facebook. Conclusion

Will Google+ die? Maybe not. It’s possible the folks at Google will adapt and focus it more against LinkedIn than Facebook; that battle they could win, as it’s the same audience. But Google+ is not set to become the Facebook killer it’s hyped to be. It just doesn’t solve any problems worth solving for the majority of people. Dave Davies is the CEO of Beanstalk SEO Services, an organic SEO firm in Victoria, BC. He writes with over a decade of experience in SEO and internet marketing. He is an industry writer, reporter, and speaker who wrote the second edition of SitePoint's SEM Kit. He hosts a weekly radio show on Webmaster Radio and has spoken at a number of SES conferences.


focus: actionable analysis

Do you know what your social media marketing really costs? Five major social business expenses, plus a detailed break out of hidden and not-so-hidden costs. by Heidi Cohen

I

n 2011, social media advertising is projected to be $3.08 billion, or roughly 10 percent of the $31.3 billion total online advertising spend, according to eMarketer. As a marketer, your social media marketing expense doesn't stop there! You need additional resources beyond social media advertising. Research shows that as businesses use social media more, their social media marketing investment increases. Consider the results of a Brandon Hall Group-Covario survey, courtesy of eMarketer (Figure 1). Closer examination of the major social business expenses shows that the largest increases are staff, advertising spend, influencer/blogger programs, custom technology, and social customer relationship management (CRM), according to an Altimeter survey shared by eMarketer (Figure 2). Intuitively, this makes sense since the more involved a firm is in social media, the more staff are involved, more supporting marketing is needed, and more technology support is required to ensure that the firm's systems integrate with social media, especially for tracking customers and sales. How Does a Marketer Develop a Realistic Social Media Marketing Budget?

To develop a realistic social media marketing budget, marketers must take a broader corporate perspective to understand what’s truly involved and where the resources reside. Therefore, examine your social media as part of a larger corporate plan. An integrated approach is useful because other people’s budgets are needed. Further, it’s a good guess that there may not be any social media marketing tracking. Here's how social media expenses break out across five budget categories:

Staff involved in social media marketing and execution include the following. While some of these employees may not be dedicated to social media full time, they do need to be on top of relevant issues. A. Social media specialists. These employees represent the firm on a variety of social media platforms. B. Marketing/PR. Because social media is integrated into marketing strategy, it’s critical to have one or more people actively participating and managing your firm’s participation. C. Creative. These resources may be internal or outsourced in terms of consultants or agencies. They’re responsible for creating content, internal marketing, and social media–related marketing. D. Product. Depending on your offering, it may be important to have a product specialist who can interact with your customers and the public. E. Technology. This includes resources to set up social media platforms and keep them going. Further, they ensure that social media platforms are integrated into established company systems and provide sufficient bandwidth. F. Analysts. Examine the information collected including the brand monitoring and assess the company’s position and progress. G. Customer service. Due to the fact that social media creates another customer communication channel, involve customer service representatives who can communicate in written format. H. Legal/compliance. With social media’s ability to stir up a variety of issues, have dedicated legal resources who can provide answers quickly rather than wait weeks or months for an answer.

1. Head count

2. Content development

Social media can be a manpower hog since it requires real-time response from real people. For businesses, this often translates to more than just a social media manager.

While it’s optimal to have internal resources create your content, you may need additional head count and/or editorial support.

6   SES • September 2011 {Chicago preview}

Figure 1

Figure 2

A. Editorial support. They develop an editorial calendar and provide guidance as to the type of social media content that’s needed across the purchase process. B. Content creation. If employees aren’t able to handle content development, then outsource this function. You can use a combination of employee, customer, and freelance content creators. C. Copy editing. Regardless of who creates your content, use professional copy editors to ensure your content is well written and has a consistent voice. continues on page 9


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focus: cover story / trends

Five digital shops in the heartland Interactive agencies ply their crafts between the coasts. by Christopher Heine

N

ot every aspiring agency founder in land-locked states packs up a U-Haul and moves to the Big Apple, SF, or LA. Some stay put, raise funds, and start their own shops. While that was certainly true pre-Internet, the digital age seems to have opened up opportunities for heartland agencies to gain the attention of big-time clients with quality creative and technology solutions. Sometimes you wouldn’t know it, but there’s a digital advertising world out there that doesn’t involve names like Razorfish, AKQA, Deep Focus, SapientNitro, or 360i. Archrival—Lincoln, NE

To compete with those coastal entities, ad men and women between Appalachia and the Rockies tend to shoot their campaign pitches with proverbial guns locked and loaded. And every once in a while, explains Charles Hull, managing director at Archrival, client relations can literally mean bringing out the bullets. “A few weeks ago, we had a big project meeting with client reps coming in from Europe and Los Angeles for a three-day strategy session,” Hull told ClickZ News. “To have some fun, we took them out in the country to fire semi-automatic assault rifles at a huge assortment of fruit. It was the highlight of their trip, and something they still talk about. [It’s] tough to do that in Los Angeles or New York City.” Archrival is a Facebook-preferred developer and social media/youth marketing shop purchased by Dachis Group last November. (The 14-year-old company’s official name is now Archrival Dachis Group.) During the past year, Archrival’s 20-odd staffers have run campaigns for Red Bull, Colt 45, Harper Collins, Foursquare, and other brands. “In the early days,” Hull said, “we thought we needed to open up a Los Angeles or New

8   SES • September 2011 {Chicago preview}

York office for business development and image purposes. But as we got bigger and our clients got bigger, the less we felt that need. Today, we actually use our [low-key] Nebraska location to our advantage—many of our clients who are from Los Angeles and large urban markets enjoy getting out of the grind and coming to visit us for days at a time.” Rockfish Interactive—Rogers, AR

Dave Knox, chief marketing officer at Rockfish Interactive, said there are numerous advantages to being located more than 1,000 miles from either the East or West Coast. “For starters, when you look at the top national advertisers, an overwhelming number of them are located in the Midwest,” he said. “This proximity becomes increasingly important given the speed of digital marketing. Second, there is access to incredible talent in the heartland, especially people with deep backgrounds in brand building and retail marketing. And this talent doesn’t have to make sacrifices between their personal and professional lives given the more affordable cost of living. Finally, these agencies have the ability to see firsthand the digital behavior of consumers, avoiding the echo chamber sometimes created by early adopters on the coasts.” To Knox’s first point, Rockfish’s brand clients include the Arkansas-based Sam’s Club, Walmart, White Cloud, and Tyson Foods, as well as other noncoastal names like The Nutro Company (Tennessee), UnitedHealth Group (Minnesota), and P.F. Chang’s (Arizona). It also counts Los Angeles-based EA Sports as a customer, as well as Cisco in San Jose, CA. Since the beginning of 2009, Rockfish has opened offices in Dallas, San Francisco, Cincinnati, and Little Rock, AR, while building a staff of 150-plus. (WPP Digital acquired Rockfish last month.) Its Rogers

employees enjoy the perk of having a Silver Joe’s coffee shop on campus. “There are pros and cons no matter where you are located,” Knox said. “There are no significant disadvantages [to being in the heartland], especially given the geographic location of so many large brands and companies.” VML—Kansas City, MO

VML is one of the larger and more wellknown centrally located shops, boasting dozens of name-brand clients like Microsoft, ESPN, Kellogg’s, Southwest Airlines, and Colgate. But as one competitor admitted to ClickZ, the agency “doesn’t get as much credit as they should.” A recent example of VML’s creativity: For Colgate, its London division orchestrated an effort that entailed uploaded photos by Facebook likers being randomly displayed on digital billboards across London, Birmingham, and Liverpool. Tocquigny—Austin, TX

Long before its Texas state capital hometown became a technology hub, Tocquigny was helping Dell achieve juggernaut status in the computer hardware space. And it certainly doesn’t appear to have fallen behind the times, also calling Jeep, Caterpillar, IDG, The Washington Times, and Teradata clients. For a Teradata effort, Tocquigny was nominated this year for a South by Southwest Interactive award in the “Kiosk/Installation” category. The installation featured a videoed wall utilizing 52 LED monitors and three large LCD panels, which pulled information from YouTube,


The digital age seems to have opened up opportunities for heartland agencies to gain the attention of big-time clients with quality creative and technology solutions. Sometimes you wouldn’t know it, but there’s a digital advertising world out there that doesn’t involve names like Razorfish, AKQA, Deep Focus, SapientNitro, or 360i.

Flickr, Twitter, stock market indices, and 20 other crowdsourcing points of interest. Electric Pulp—Sioux Falls, SD

Electric Pulp, a web design, iPhone/iPad marketing, and e-commerce agency, has more in common with Archrival than the other examples, employing a skeleton crew of 10 staffers that work on an eclectic mix of brands. They include Ford, Justin Bieber, Comedy Central (book sites for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert), New York’s Apollo Theatre, and Incase, an iPhone accessories manufacturer.

Stefan Hartwig, a partner at Electric Pulp, said brands that want to keep innovative campaigns hush-hush appreciate the fact that his company is located “from a lot of people’s perspective, in the middle of nowhere.” And the Sioux Falls native described the satisfaction of being able to build an advertising firm that attracts national clients in the small city he knows intimately. “It’s more than we ever expected we could do from here,” Hartwig said. “It’s cool knowing you don’t have to take that huge jump, that you don’t need that address. Your track

record of being able to deliver is more important than being from San Francisco or New York.” Christopher Heine is a staff writer for ClickZ News. His beats include social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, CPGs, and e-mail. Heine has been covering digital marketing since graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1999.

Do you know what your social media marketing really costs? from page 6

This marketing helps your social media execution to achieve branding, traffic, and sales targets. A. Social media branding. Depending on the platform, you may need additional creative and support to represent your brand effectively. B. Advertising. To drive people to social media executions, options include traditional mass media, online advertising, social network advertising, and search. C. Support marketing. This includes internal marketing such as the website, emailings, and offline promotion as well as landing pages and other internal media.

commerce system to ensure product delivery and related tracking. B. Content management systems or blogging software. Depending on your business’ social media execution, you may need specialized systems to manage your content. C. Website integration. It’s critical to ensure that social media participants can seamlessly reach the appropriate page of your website. D. Systems integration. As with any technology project, getting the different pieces to work together can be challenging, especially with legacy systems. E. Server support. You need to be able to handle traffic spikes when there’s a promotion or event.

4. Technology

5. Analytics

Technology is the glue that ensures that your firm’s website and systems connect where appropriate with social media platforms. A. Social media platforms. Some networks may require additional fees or technical support. Additionally, you may need to be integrated with a platform’s tailored

If you don’t track your social media marketing back to your goals, it’s certain that your management team will think that social media has no ROI. A. Brand monitoring. You must track what’s being said about your company, your brands, your senior executives, and your

3. Marketing support

competitors. To this end, have a crisis management plan ready in case you uncover early indicators of a problem. B. Ongoing analysis. At a minimum, ensure that your current tracking and systems can accommodate your social media activity. C. Social CRM. Depending on your customer tracking, you may consider incorporating your social media touch points. Regardless of what you expect to spend on social media marketing, it’s likely to be higher. As a marketer, the benefit is that there’s a good likelihood that your social media expense will be spread across several departments. Happy marketing. Heidi Cohen is the president of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years of experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics.

sesconference.com • SES   9


focus: SES Conference

Getting a speaking gig at SES An insider’s guide to submitting proposals and pitching sessions. by Laura Roth

H

ave you ever wondered how a conference comes together? Ever considered submitting a proposal to speak at SES? At SES headquarters, the content team is busy all year researching the hottest and most popular topics in the search and social marketing space, to ensure that every SES conference is on the cutting edge and delivers the highest-quality content. Let’s take a look at where it all begins:

Whether you are submitting a proposal for a new or existing session, don’t forget to include both an abstract and a bio.

SUBMISSION FORM

When you are ready to make your submission, remember to include as much information as you can. Your abstract should be focused on education and learning, with real-life examples. CONFERENCE CYCLE Product pitches are not allowed, so don’t use Three to four months prior to an event, we this as a place for promoting your product. post an overview of the agenda on our web- You may include links to recent videos of site (go to www.sesconference.com to see all your speaking engagements or, if you preupcoming conferences). This gives you an fer, you may pitch your entire session using idea of how the conference will look in terms video. In this case, simply put the link in of track names, session titles, and your abstract and bio document for abstracts as well as networkthe team to review. ing events. Check the Take a look at the relNEXT STEPS deadlines for evant agenda (accessible Once you’ve completed proposing sessions via the “Program” nav on your submission, you’ll and submitting speaking the left-hand side of each receive an automated proposals on the speaker conference page). If there response to let you know page on our website. The is a panel that you would that we’ve received your earlier you submit, like to be a part of, comproposal. The content team the better! plete our submission form will review your submission (click on the “Speakers” nav, then and get back to you as soon as “Speaking at SES”). possible to let you know if it has been If you have an idea for a new session, pro- accepted into the agenda. If it has been pose the session using the submission form accepted, we will be in regular contact with as early as possible so that it has the best you until the event takes place. chance of being incorporated into the agenda. Remember to include a title and detailed abstract with your proposal.

If you have any questions along the way, be sure to get in touch with us. You can contact our global VP of content Mike Grehan, senior program director Marilyn Crafts, or me via email, phone, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. We also post regular updates regarding speaker submission deadlines and agendas on the SES blog and on our community sites on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Check us out there to stay up-to-date with the latest information from the SES content team. We’re looking forward to hearing from you! Laura Roth is conference and program manager for the SES Conference and Expo series, responsible for programming the SES agendas and speaker acquisition with the content team. She is also a resident blogger for SES. Before joining SES, Laura worked for 3 years in Incisive Media’s London office, programming content for conferences, exhibitions, and seminars across various portfolios including information, publishing, HR, and legal events. She has also managed social media marketing campaigns for several event brands.

HOW DO YOU BECOME A SPEAKER AT SES?

SPEAKER ALGORITHM

Once you’ve decided on a session, the next step is to ensure that you stand out to us as a speaker who will add the greatest value to our event. We have developed an algorithm for ranking speakers that you can use as a cheat sheet to guarantee that you receive the highest possible rating on the speaker scale (see graphic, right). The more elements you have in your submission, the higher your chances will be of speaking at an SES event.

10   SES • September 2011 {Chicago preview}


SES GOES GREEN!

Visit the iTunes App Store this month for the SES Chicago Conference & Expo mobile app.

SES Chicago Conference & Expo | The Hyatt Regency窶年ovember 14-18, 2011


sneak preview: SES Chicago Day 1: Tuesday, November 15 SEO track

Paid Search Track

SOCIAL MEDIA TRACK

accelerator track

kick start track

7:00a–6:30p

Registration

7:30a–9:30a

Morning Coffee

7:45a–8:45a

Introduction to Search Engine Marketing Speaker: Dr. Ralph Wilson, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Web Marketing Today®

9:00a–10:00a

Conference Welcome & Opening Keynote: Guilty Marketers—Wasted & Wishful Multi-Channel Marketing Spend Speaker: Mikel Chertudi, SES Advisory Board & Senior Director of Marketing, Adobe

10:00a–10:30a

Grand Opening of the Expo Hall Analytics for Paid Search

sponsored session

11:30a–11:45a

Session Interval

11:45a–12:45p

The Tools of the Trade for Paid Search

Automating Social Media: Creating & Distributing the Message

10:30a–11:30a

The Tools of the Trade for SEO

Information Architecture for the Modern Website

12:45p–2:00p 2:00p–3:00p

Introduction to SEO

sponsored session

Introduction to Paid Search

Advanced Keyword Modeling

Introduction to Analytics

Conversion Tools of the Master Craftsman

Introduction to Social Media

Networking Lunch Metrics for SEO

Paid Search Competitive Analysis

3:00p–3:30p 3:30p–4:30p

Duplicate Content & Multiple Site Issues

Audience Choice Afternoon Break in the Expo Hall

Reserved for LateBreaking Topic

sponsored session

Social Media Solutions on a Budget

4:30p–5:30p

Meet the Experts: Round Table Forum

5:30p–6:30p

Networking Cocktail Reception in the Expo Hall

Day 2: Wednesday, November 16 SEO track

Paid Search Track

SOCIAL MEDIA TRACK

8:00a–6:00p

Registration

8:30a–9:30a

Morning Coffee

9:30a–10:30a

The Basics of Link Building

sponsored session

10:30a–11:o0a 11:00a–12:00p

Landing Page Optimization

sponsored session

Reserved for LateBreaking Topic

Reserved for LateBreaking Topic

The Convergence of Search, Social, & Content Marketing

Reserved for LateBreaking Topic

Content Marketing Optimization

Reserved for LateBreaking Topic

Channel Surfing: Measuring Profit & ROI Across Channels

Reserved for LateBreaking Topic

Is Retargeting / Remarketing Right for You?

Reserved for LateBreaking Topic

Networking Lunch in the Expo Hall SEO 2.0: Less is More

Reserved for LateBreaking Topic

3:30p–3:45p

Killer Facebook Targeting Tactics Session Interval

Bringing SEO In House: The Pros & Cons

Ads in a Quality Score World

4:45p–5:00p 5:00p–6:00p

Crossing the Digital Divide: The Leap from Search to Display

Meet the Experts: Round Table Forum

1:00p–2:30p

3:45p–4:45p

E-Commerce track

Morning Coffee Break in the Expo Hall

12:00p–1:o0p

2:30p–3:30p

Social Media Signals in Search

accelerator track

Social Media Metrics Session Interval

SEO Is Dead. Long live SEO!

Reserved for LateBreaking Topic

6:00p–7:00p

12   SES • September 2011 {Chicago preview}

Next Gen YouTube Marketing

Open Mic: SEW Black Hat, White Hat Unconferenced


www.SESChicago.com Day 3: Thursday, November 17 SEO track

Paid Search Track

local/mobile TRACK

8:00a–4:00p

Registration

8:30a–9:30a

Morning Coffee

9:30a–10:30a

SEO Competitive Analysis

Reserved for LateBreaking Topic

Local 2.0: The Evolution of Local Search

10:30a–10:45a PPC Beyond Search: New Ad Formats, Display, & Social

Reserved for LateBreaking Topic

Reserved for LateBreaking Topic

Smart Mobile Marketing

1:45p–2:00p

Session Interval

2:00p–3:00p

Insider Tips for Ad Optimization

Search on Mobile Devices: The Next Frontier

11:45a–12:45p 12:15p–1:45p

Exchange Traded Media track

Advanced Paid Search Tactics

Getting More from Google+ & the +1 Button

Protecting Your Brand Online

Search: Where to Next?

HTML5: A Cow Path on a Cliff

Reserved for LateBreaking Topic

Reserved for LateBreaking Topic

B2B Lead Generation Management & CRM Integration

Session Interval Audience Choice

10:45a–11:45a

accelerator track

Local + Social: The Future of Promotion Meet the Authors: Networking Lunch

Enterprise Level SEO

3:00p–3:15p

Session Interval

3:15p–4:15p

Afternoon Keynote Panel

4:15p–5:00p

Wrap-up Session

sample sessions Conference Day 1: Tuesday, November 15 10:30–11:30a SEO Track The Tools of the Trade for SEO If you are responsible for your company’s search engine optimization, then you know that you need all of the various tools of your trade close at hand. This session will describe the tools that can help you accomplish your tasks, including indexing, competitive analysis, site ranking, diagnosing and remedying problems, page-level information, site-level information, and on-page optimization.

11:45–12:45P Social Media Track Automating Social Media: Creating & Distributing the Message If you’ve been experimenting with social media and want access to advanced tactics for identifying influentials, effective messaging strategy, integration with other social media, and operationalizing message distribution and measurement, then this is the session for you.

2:00–3:00P paid Search track Paid Search Competitive Analysis In this session, we take a close look at what tricks you can use with search engines to analyze your competitors’ game and what free and premium tools are available to dive deeply into their strategy.

Conference Day 2: Wednesday, November 16 9:30–10:30a Social Media Track Social Media Signals in Search The winds of change are blowing. Both Google and Bing are making rapid moves to integrate social elements into their search results. Bing has a strong deal in place with Facebook and is leveraging that as much as it can. Google has launched its +1 button for web sites and is likely to make more significant moves. How are all these changes going to affect you as a publisher? This can’t-miss session will give you insight into what is happening and how it affects your web site publishing strategy.

exhibitors Brafton, Inc. Compete Covario, Inc. Deluxe for Business iContact iProspect Kenshoo Marin Software Online Marketing Institute Page One Power SEOhosting.co.uk SEOmoz 7Search.com Sitecore Slingshot SEO SubmitEdge Symantec—VeriSign Authentication Services topseos.com Visibility Magazine Website Magazine Wpromote Inc.

sesconference.com • SES   13


sneak preview: SES Chicago 11:00–12:00P

12:45–1:45P

Accelerator Track The Convergence of Search, Social, & Content Marketing

Accelerator Track HTML5: A Cowpath on a Cliff

Social media is grabbing all the headlines. Search gets more powerful every year. But how do they play together? How do you increase your odds of being found both in search and social media? Join this panel as they provide case studies and walk you through a step-by-step approach.

5:00–6:00P Social Media Track Next Gen YouTube Marketing The Internet’s second most popular search engine can be a tough Tube to crack, but not with this advanced team of video SEOs and marketers. This session will share successful video marketing case studies, advanced optimization tactics, and YouTube networking advice that can help boost your video marketing projects to the next level.

Conference Day 3: Thursday, November 17 9:30–10:30a Exchange Traded Media Track Getting More from Google+ & the +1 Button In this session we’ll look at the many ways Google is improving by focusing on people. We’ll review how the Google+ project is adding the richness of real-life sharing to software, combining the casual meetup with live multi-person video, and much more.

10:45–11:45A Accelerator Track Protecting Your Brand Online World-renowned online reputation management expert Andy Beal will open his playbook for managing your online reputation. What SEO tactics will push your pages to the top? How do you occupy all of the first ten Google results? You’ll leave this session with proven tactics that you can use to clean up your online reputation or, even better, ensure that it never gets dirty in the first place!

14   SES • September 2011 {Chicago preview}

HTML has reached the age of maturity. A lot of implementations have now solidified best practices and implementations. For the last few years, a major effort has been made to describe the web cowpath with the additions of cutting edge technologies. This session will present an overview of the Open Web technologies stack (HTML5, CSS3, SVG, HTTP, etc.) and the consequences for your organization, clients, and Web development team.

2:00–3:00P Local/Mobile Track Search on Mobile Devices: The Next Frontier This session envisions a scenario for mobile that provides more robust search for each app—with instant results and real-time indexing of cloud-based content and ondevice content—and that learns from users’ past behavior. It also explores ways to use mobile and social together to drive the message more efficiently.

ClickZ Academy Onsite Training: Monday, November 14 8:00–12:00P B2B Online Marketing Training Let’s face it, B2B marketing is different from B2C. The sales process is complex, the ultimate decision maker is hard to find, and there is no place to enter your credit card online. This training session will teach you the tools and tips that will get your B2B company ahead of the curve. We will show you not only how to build the right metrics and exceed your goals, but also how to make yourself an irreplaceable asset.

Online Marketing Foundation—SEO This no-nonsense, intimidation-free training is a wonderful way to kick off the SES conference, and ensure that you walk away from this session with actionable information on how to perform keyword research, evaluate site structure for SEO friendliness, review

the competitive landscape, incorporate social channels, write effective title/meta tags, incorporate linking into your programs, and measure success.

Local Online Marketing 101 to 411 This session is designed for the beginner and advanced marketer, as we will provide a solid background of the local opportunity based on research and move through to advanced local online and offline integration strategies. Session participants will emerge with a better understanding of the local landscape and be better equipped to develop strategy and action plans to tap into this important lead and sales source.

1:00–5:00P Public Relations and Optimized Copywriting Public relations can be one of the most influential SEO dynamics with the right mix of optimizing, publicizing, and socializing. Once you have learned about the fundamentals of public relations, the next step is to optimize your copywriting to help maximize the online PR strategies. In the workshop we will cover: • The fundamentals of online PR and optimized copywriting; • Best practices and how to apply them; • Tips to maximize online PR strategies; • Tips on headline, subhead, and description writing; and • Many more topics.

Social Media Marketing for Your Business More people check Facebook each day than listen to the radio or read a newspaper. If you aren’t harnessing the power of social media you are missing out on a tremendous opportunity. Learn how to approach social media strategically, as well as best practices and case studies that will put you on the path to success. In this session we will cover: • The steps to building a successful social media marketing plan; • An overview of over 20 social media tools that you can use for your business; • A deep dive into the 5 power social media tools; • How to measure results; and • Best practices and examples of success.


www.SESChicago.com How to Architect a SearchEngine Friendly Website A search-engine friendly website is a userfriendly, search-friendly, and persuasive site that converts visitors into buyers. In order for a site to be search-engine friendly, it must meet the needs of crawler-based search engines and your site’s visitors. Ultimately, the site must be profitable for the website owner. Can a single site satisfy all of these groups? Yes it can … if you have the right architecture, navigation design, and page layouts. In this 4-hour training session, attendees will learn the whys, whats, and hows of architecting a user-friendly, searchfriendly, and persuasive site that converts visitors into buyers.

Partnered Training Workshops: Friday, November 18 8:30–5:30P Search Engine Optimization Training Bruce Clay, an industry recognized expert on SEO, will offer strategies and tactics necessary in today’s fast changing search world. The course, which covers SEO methodology, concepts, and strategies, will provide the process needed to achieve significant traffic. Focusing on white-hat search engine–compliant SEO methods, the course covers techniques allowing you to change your sites while staying away from the techniques that will get you in trouble.

4 Easy Ways to Register: Online: www.SESchicago.com Phone: 1-800-955-2719 Mail: Incisive Media 55 Broad Street, 22nd Floor New York, NY 10004 Email: registration@sesconference.com

Conference and Exp0 Pass All-Access Pass

Dates

aimClear® Facebook Marketing Intensive Workshop With nearly a billion registered users, Facebook represents a seriously fertile playground for cutting-edge marketers ready to sink their teeth in the social landscape. Deadeye targeting capabilities and relatively cheap CPCs make for a dynamic advertising channel and exciting branding opportunities. Join our panel of accomplished international Facebook marketers at aimClear’s Facebook Marketing Intensive workshop, and saddle up for all the tips, tactics and best practices you can handle. Each student receives a FREE copy of Killer Facebook Ads: Master Cutting Edge Facebook Advertising Techniques.

Register today

Save 20% when you enter CHPV20.

Download the SES mobile app for the latest information.

Early Bird (rates expire October 21 )

Pre-Show (rates expire November 14)

On-Site Rates

November 14–17

$2,295

$2,495

$2,695

Platinum Pass

All 3 days

$1,695

$1,895

$1,995

Two-Day Pass

Any 2 days

$1,195

$1,395

$1,495

Any 1 day

$795

$895

$995

November 15–16

Free in advance

$25

$50

One-Day Pass Expo-Only Pass ClickZ Academy Training

November 14 (1/2 day)

$795

$895

$995

ClickZ Academy Training

November 14 (full day)

$1,195

$1,295

$1,395

Bruce Clay Training*

November 18

$1,245

aimClear® Training*

November 18

$795

$895

$1,000

*Not included in the All-Access Pass.

sesconference.com • SES   15


focus: SES Conference

Beyond search engine marketing SES has expanded from a one-day conference to an annual series of expos held around the world. by Danny Goodwin

S

earch Engine Strategies began in San search-result spam, and chronicled how webFrancisco on November 18, 1999, as a sites can drive traffic from RSS, news, forums, unique one-day event covering the ins and blogs. and outs of search engine marketing, with Link building has been on the SES the assistance of top experts in the field. It agenda since 2000. Beyond introductory and turned out to be quite valuable for webmas- advanced tracks, SES has followed trends ters, marketers, and representatives of the including paid links, link spam, link baiting, top search engines of the day: Excite, Info- and how to create linkable content. seek, Google, Inktomi, and AltaVista. Now Google’s increasing power and market known as the SES Conference & Expo, the share have caused quite a few headaches series continues to be an essential resource for SEOs and webmasters through the years, for professionals who navigate the increas- usually through major algorithmic changes ingly complex and fast-changing world of such as Florida, Austin, Big Daddy, Vince, search marketing. May Day, Caffeine, and Panda. Google is “Social,” now a key component of every constantly tweaking the search experience SES event, was nowhere to be found on the itself: it has rolled out universal search, first agenda. This is just incorporated social sigone example of how the nals, launched Google search marketing landInstant, and created the On November 14, scape has been trans+1 button and the Google+ formed. In response to social project. SES arrives the changes, SES has SES’s focus on PPC in Chicago for evolved to become the advertising even prethe ninth leading international ceded Google’s debut of search and social marketAdWords. Google introconsecutive year. ing event for webmasters, duced its cost-per-click digital agencies, online model with AdWords marketers, and corporate Select in 2002 (though decision makers. the technology existed since 1998, thanks to In 1999, marketers were just beginning to GoTo.com, later known as Overture). learn how search engines work. SES, the first Beyond PPC, in its first years SES taught search event of its kind, used the opportunity marketers about banner ads, paid placement, to educate marketers about buying banner ad paid inclusion, and paid listings, later offerplacements, writing meta tags, cloaking, sub- ing bidding, writing, and optimization stratemitting to directories, and other hot topics. gies for PPC. SEO tactics, whether for small business Analytics have evolved from the early owners or large brands, have always been days of counting clicks, incorporating such at the core of SES events. SES has taught tools as log file analysis, position checkers, the fundamentals for newbies as well as page analyzers, and traffic analysis. SES has advanced topics for seasoned SEO pros look- provided in-depth coverage of all aspects of ing to rank at the top of search engines. measuring and tracking, including usabilInternational SEO, keyword research ity, landing page optimization, testing, and (or “search term research,” as it was known tuning. in 2001), and advice on designing search Social search gained a lot of attention engine–friendly sites remain part of the SEO in 2006, and social media optimization was mix today. Over the years, SES has looked born. Long before Facebook and Twitter at optimizing Flash and other non-HTML would make their impact on Google’s organic content, addressed the ever-present issue of and real-time results, there was Flickr,

16   SES • September 2011 {Chicago preview}

del.icio.us, Yahoo Answers, and Wikipedia. SES showed marketers how search engines were beginning to use social tagging, clickthrough tracking, voting, bookmarking, and search history. Local audiences became a target for search engines in 2003, as Google and others sought ways to tie local searches to geography. SES demonstrated how marketers could benefit from online yellow pages and other sources. Mobile search was just about ready to mature in 2005, though we were still a few years away from the first iPhone. SES was on hand to help marketers get their content in front of users on the move. SES was also there at the dawn of video search, offering strategies to be found in video search engines in the days before there were billions of video views per day and millions of hours of video uploaded daily. Marketers took notice of video in 2005, but video marketing has gotten immense in the years since Google acquired YouTube. Born in San Francisco, SES has grown every year, expanding globally to hold events in London, Toronto, Berlin, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore, in addition to regular stops in New York City, San Francisco, and right here in Chicago. Always at the heart of SES is the future of search. Where is search headed in 2012 and beyond? Wherever it ends up, the SES Conference & Expo will help get you there. Danny Goodwin is associate editor for Search Engine Watch, where he also covers the latest search marketing and industry news. He joined Incisive Media in October 2007, in charge of copy editing columns that appeared on both Search Engine Watch and ClickZ. Prior to a life in the search industry, he worked in numerous newsroom positions and as a freelance copy editor.


focus: social media

People want to connect with you, not be marketed to Don’t fall into the “push the message” trap when using social media as part of an integrated marketing strategy. by Liana Evans

T

he lure of using social media as part of an integrated marketing strategy is very tempting. However, efficiently and successfully implementing that strategy takes a lot more than just building a Facebook fan page or opening a Twitter account. A lot of companies don’t understand or are prepared for the fact that implementing a true social media strategy takes resources, time, and effort beyond merely hooking up your blog’s feed to your Twitter account. Social media marketing has brought an evolution to advertising that many ad executives and agencies weren’t prepared for. In the old world of advertising, it was all about pushing the message to the masses so that they would buy. There was never a second thought in this type of environment that the customer didn’t want to hear the message. What’s worse is that the advertisers never listened because they didn’t have to. Now the advertising world has been turned upside down because of the engagement opportunities that social media offers its community members. The mistake advertisers make in not understanding social media is in thinking that it’s just another channel to push messages out to. When the marketing message is just pushed out, it will most likely get ignored. People in social media communities have become accustomed to engaging with like-minded people, making real connections, and sharing their experiences, and they tend to bristle, ignore, and shun the marketing person who doesn’t get that. So what are steps that you can take so you don’t fall into the “push the message” trap? Research the conversations

Before you jump in head first, make sure that you understand what the community is saying about a particular conversation. Sit back and lurk a little; get a feel for what makes the community tick. Are the conversations seasonal, do they have hot or cooling points, do they really mean what they are saying? Buzz monitoring tools like Trackur or Viralheat

can point you in the right direction, but you need to research into the true nature of what drives the conversation. Listen, don’t just hear

Don’t just look for mentions of your keywords; dig deeper. Don’t just count the times a community mentions you or your brand. Understand what triggers the community’s passions, both love and hate. Don’t always assume your company has the answers either; be humble enough to recommend other resources to help out the community. When you show that you aren’t there just to hear about you, you’ll gain a lot more respect with the community influencers and members.

Don’t just count followers; count the engagement

Don’t be focused on just acquiring followers, fans, or friends. Counting up followers, just like focusing on “hits” or visitors to a website, can be very misleading. Instead, focus on the engagement with your established base. How many times did you engage with your fans this week? Did they share your content, did they like something you did, did they answer a question or share their opinion with you? These social actions that engage your community are much more valuable to your efforts than just counting how many followers you have acquired in a certain amount of time. Acknowledge the experiences

Be real and transparent

From the moment you make your first tweet, post in a community, comment on a blog, or answer a question a community member has asked, be transparent about who you are and what your intentions are. Fill out your profile about who you are, who you work for, and how someone can contact you. The worst thing you can do is build a relationship upon a fake profile for the sole intention of pushing a message or manipulating a community. When the community figures out that game, all trust is destroyed and all your efforts will have been wasted. Give them what they want and what they need

A lot of insight can be derived from engaging the community and listening to them share their experiences. If you listen closely, you can figure out what your community both wants and needs. They may want a special gadget, tool, feature, or even content, but in reality what they need is the time that the gadget, tool, feature, or content saves them in their day-to-day lives. That time can help improve their lives and, by providing both what they need and want, you’ve started building a solid foundation for great relationships.

People do not have to share their experiences; in fact, they probably have a lot of other things they could be doing that might be more important in their everyday life. That’s why it’s important to acknowledge shared experiences. Saying thank you is important to establishing trust in a relationship. It lets the person know, first, that you are really listening to them and, second, that you appreciate them. Being acknowledged for taking time out lets them know you find them very valuable, and at the end of the day, everyone wants to feel valuable. Liana “Li” Evans is the author of the social media marketing book Social Media Marketing: Engaging Strategies for Facebook, Twitter & Other Social Media, and she is the co-founder and CEO of LiBeck Integrated Marketing. Li is an established online marketing industry veteran with over 15 years of experience in search marketing and social media marketing. Her deep technical background combined with a public relations background enables her to partner with clients for establishing successful online marketing campaigns that combine cross-channel tactics cohesively.

sesconference.com • SES   17


focus: marketing

“Social media agency”: fad or revolution? More brands are taking social media seriously because they are seeking to connect more closely with their consumers. by Gary Stein

H

ave you noticed a growing number of companies hiring “social media” agencies? I certainly have. In fact, I’ve been responding to calls from companies for social media agencies for at least two years or so, and some of these calls have been for pretty lucrative projects and long-term engagements. I’ve wondered if this was a fad that would hit hard but quick, or if we were experiencing something new. That is, were we actually experiencing the formation of a different sort of agency being brought to life through a new kind of need? Whatever the case was at that point, we (meaning me and many others in this industry) certainly jumped on the opportunity, responding back to those requests for proposals and carefully crafting new agency raps extolling our abilities. I don’t mean to say that we were merely opportunists, but rather that we responded to the current need that our clients had and (the best of us) saw this as a new but unique channel through which we could drive business and achieve goals. That is to say, none of us really knew in 2008 if we would be getting social media request for proposals (RFPs) in 2011. Well, guess what: we are. In fact, the pace of this line of business seems to be picking up. The agency Big Fuel (which has modern advertising legend Jon Bond as its CEO) recently won what was reported to be a seven-figure engagement to perform social media duties for T-Mobile. This assignment from T-Mobile is not to replace its interactive, creative, or media agency. This is a net-new piece of work, and a significant one at that. Our industry has expanded. It’s time to figure out what it means. Social Media Services

The problem with social media (and therefore, the problem with hiring a company to do social media for you) is that social media is not so much a thing as it is a way. What we generally call social is really a collection of business practices from advertising to support to retention services to satisfaction

18   SES • September 2011 {Chicago preview}

and advocacy. While consumers have a solid and clear understanding of the difference between a commercial on television and a call to customer service, the same can’t necessarily be said of their concept of a Twitter feed. When the calls go out for a social media agency, there tend to be at least five big areas of services that a brand is looking for: • Acquisition (brands want help increasing their audience in social media) • Engagement (brands want help getting fans involved in the conversation) • Advocacy (brands want help having messages spread through the network) • Governance (brands want clear rules on operating in social media) • Creative (brands want content that can be used in social media) The best RFPs and the most serious brands are going to look for a strategy to underpin all of this. I’d love to say that, over the years, social media RFPs have evolved away from simple tactics (“we want a Facebook page”) and gotten more sophisticated. But the RFPs that ask for social media services to serve a particular goal remain in the minority. Of course, those are also the ones that produce the best work. The reason is simple: if you can get smart marketing people to think about a goal, and then give them a tool, you’ll get success. How to Send Out/Respond to a Social Media RFP

Not considering strategy, which should be a consistent element through all work, we should think of social media services as a mashup of a few other, more familiar services. If you are on either end of a social media RFP (sending or receiving), you should think about these core practices first. The first service is creative development. There are certainly new formats and guidelines for building content to go on social media. But don’t think about it as just some

tweet or set of images. These are impressions that you are placing upon your audience and they should be of the best quality you can muster. The other is media placement. I have long used the language of media to describe the work done within a social campaign. For example, we don’t “post” content, we “traffic” it, just like we would with an ad. That means it is planned, placed, and measured. The last big one is community management. This is tricky. I’ve had community managers working on projects for a long, long time. But we always thought of their work based on their title: they managed a community. They kept it focused on the topic, kicked off the bad people, and provided topics for discussion. Now, we want them to do all that, but the goal is not to manage the community; it is to manage the community to grow value for our clients. These people are now the most front-facing component of a campaign. They can’t just be there to manage the community, because “the community” is the entire point of the campaign. And that, I suppose, is the bottom line on all of this. There are more social media RFPs coming because more brands are taking social media very seriously. And they are taking it very seriously because they are not just seeking to fill a new channel with their message. They are not thinking about social media as a thing, but as a way—a way to connect more closely with their consumers. Which is really a good thing for all of us. Let’s agree to make sure that we take the opportunity to either bring in an agency or be the agency brought in to social media to make sure that this isn’t just a trend, but in fact a revolution. Gary Stein is SVP, strategy and planning, in iCrossing’s San Francisco office. He has been working in marketing for more than a decade.


focus: SEO

SEO techniques for large sites How to maximize product visibility in organic search. by Adam Audette

L

arge, complex websites often face a challenging scenario: getting product-level (or item-level) URLs to rank. This problem is most acute on enterpriselevel websites with hundreds of thousands of unique product SKUs. Good examples of sites doing this well include Amazon, Zappos, and Target on the e-commerce side, and Wolters-Kluwer (LWW.com), Trulia, and Wikipedia (but they don’t really count, do they?) on the information side. News sites such as the New York Times are altogether a different animal. QDF scenarios demand unique strategies. Throughout this article I’ll refer to “items” and “products” interchangeably. While there absolutely are differences between what tactics a WebMD or Trulia will undergo, and an Amazon or Zappos, the ultimate strategy of ranking individual listings or products is inherently similar. But, in the interest of keeping things simple, I’ll mix terminology rather liberally. Why it’s so Dang Hard

It seems like most large websites have acute pain (sometimes terminal) at the product level. URL structure often presents challenges for large sites, especially the deeper into the architecture one navigates. While major categories are often static and canonical, products and items are usually mutable, expiring, revolving URLs, often appended with session information. Sites that handle this well, such as Amazon, use a wide variety of techniques. In the case of Amazon, canonical standards for product URLs are retained by means of cloaking: users are given URLs with session data in the query string, and spiders such as Googlebot and Bingbot are given base URLs only. There are other ways to accomplish the same thing, via rel canonical meta tags and URL normalization and parameter handling in the Bing and Google webmaster toolsets, respectively. However, and almost without exception, there is opportunity to improve

20   SES • September 2011 {Chicago preview}

product-level canonicalization signals on enterprise sites. Even for massive brands. Every large site struggles with canonicalization, even Apple. However, even with strong canonicalization of item-level URLs, problems can surface. Pagination is a common struggle. While there are certainly specific SEO techniques that can help pagination, it seems to

Without disciplined user testing and information architecture experience, the end result—despite pure intentions—will be short of the mark, leaving both sides lacking. Unless you’re working with a team versed in site architecture, usability, and SEO, it’s best to work with experts in each discipline. Yes, it can be done! With that out of the way, let’s explore the

be a moving target. See below for a detailed breakdown. Product life cycles are always a pain point. Some products expire or go out of stock and will never come back, while others will return in a set period of time. Still others are “evergreen” and always in stock. How each need be handled from the SEO side depends on several factors. The overarching challenge that presents itself here is ensuring sufficient link equity flows down from the home page and major category pages to the products themselves. This can be accomplished in multifarious ways depending on the site, market, design goals, business goals, etc. One can’t really throw pointed remarks at this problem and have them make sense in every situation, every time. Like most areas of SEO, itemlevel work demands scenario-specific, fluid thinking.

actionable stuff.

What Techniques Work?

Rather than focus on a definitive set of techniques, the problems inherent in productlevel SEO demand a holistic approach. This work is reflective of the challenges inherent in SEO as a whole. Indeed, maximizing product visibility in organic search truly distills our work under a lens. However, taken holistically, there are certainly best practices to be found. I will cover each of them in turn below. What About Users?

No treatment of SEO should focus on search engines at the expense of users (and neither should it focus on users at the expense of SEO). However, this is dangerous ground.

Orders of the Work: The Home Page

The home page naturally holds the lion’s share of a website’s SEO value. This is the first area to focus on when thinking about primary navigation elements and internal links. Since the home page (and, by progression, major category pages) represent a site’s overall authority and equity, this is valuable territory to carefully position links to the most important portions of the site. My general philosophy for pushing equity to product pages (on big sites) comes down to this one idea: focus on your primary categories, then sub-categories, then product URLs themselves. It’s a mistake to focus offpage links on product-level URLs because it’s not scalable. Product-level URLs only make sense as they relate to the site hierarchy as a whole. I’ll run through each aspect of that below. There will always be at least some internal links from the home page to products. Normally, these are centered on specific promotions, seasonal pushes, and the like. Some sites may consider linking permanently from the home page to a select few products that are extremely important from the business point of view (e.g., the Amazon Kindle). However, linking to many products isn’t usually possible on the home page. Additionally, this valuable real estate isn’t normally controlled by SEO teams, and tends to change often. For these reasons, it makes more sense to focus on category pages for the meat of your internal linking. The global navigation is normally going to include links to each of the primary


focus: SEO

Products link to their category parent and to other closely related products.

categories on the site. These pages, in turn, feed into sub-categories and individual items. Therefore, ensure the global navigation doesn’t leave behind any important category URLs. More importantly, ensure primary category URLs are given prominence, as opposed to secondary URLs. For example, if an e-commerce site has products cross-categorized in both brand and activity sections, and they have end-state URLs that are being referenced by canonical tags elsewhere, you’ll want to ensure the actual canonical parent category is listed in the global navigation. This creates a clear navigation and crawling pathway to the canonical product URLs, rather than the duplicates that are referencing canonical products. Sound confusing? It can sure get that way! Make sure global navigations don’t contain links to everything under the sun. These things can get big, quickly. On a site with 100 distinct categories, consider featuring the top 50 most popular and important categories in the global navigation, with “more…” links to the remaining inventory. For category-level URLs, it is valuable to have category-specific navigations. Amazon is a company that does this quite well. Finally, ensure items are no more than three or four clicks at most from the home page. This can often be problematic, but is important enough to start thinking creatively about. To recapture our notes for the home page:

Related product links can be powerful for SEO.

4. Ensure item-level URLs can be reached in four clicks or less from the home page. Orders of the Work: Internal Linking on Product Pages

The next order of business is to focus on product-level URLs. Here is the place to organize tight, relevant links across the site. This has the effect of relating products with each other, as well as flattening the architecture and bridging products across categories. Related linking is especially powerful and, sadly, under-utilized. Sites that employ smart, thematic related links have a strong SEO advantage. Additionally, these links can drive user interaction and greatly increase time on site, pages per visit, and conversion 1. The home page has the most authority rate metrics. and equity to share with other URLs. Most solutions around this area focus on 2. Consider linking to a few important “recommendation engines” normally built in products if it makes business sense. JavaScript and invisible to crawlers. While Otherwise, focus on linking into cat- these tools can drive revenue for e-commerce egory pages. sites, most of them are disappointingly SEO3. The global navigation is key. Ensure unfriendly. It’s by necessity, partly, because canonical pathways are given. Try to these engines require session information feature contextual sub-navigations to inform their on-the-fly recommendations. deeper in the site. Quality is important here, and less can be more. Four to eight relevant, topical links on product pages can really move the needle

when dealing with a large site. But it’s quite hard to do this well, as it requires quality data and lots of it. One of the best sites to do this early on was Shopping.com. While related linking between products can be powerful, it is normally inadvisable to link from product URLs to multiple different categories. Some aspect of this upward and downward linking across categories is likely to occur, but it should be de-emphasized in order to keep the most tight and narrow crawl path for search engines. Also, from the user perspective, links to different categories from the product-level are not likely to be useful, unless they’re highly relevant. Cross-category links can be valuable, however, when a user and search engine is presented with pertinent, relevant links. Keep them on point, as far as possible. (Certainly, links to primary categories and sub-categories will always be available in navigations. I’m speaking only to links featured prominently as modules on product pages.) To recapture our notes for product pages: 1. Related product links are powerful. 2. Less is more, and quality is more important than quantity.

sesconference.com • SES   21


focus: SEO

Products link to their category parent and to other closely related products.

3. Quality data, and lots of it, are required to do this well. 4. Focus related links across the product level. 5. Always link prominently to the category parent. Relevant cross-category linking can be used with success, too.

Use care when linking to multiple categories.

One final bit of advice: since features such as related links can take a lot of company cycles, it’s often smart to seek outside support. Bloomreach is a company that helps support internal linking initiatives (Note: We aren’t affiliated with Bloomreach in any way). Orders of the Work: Category Pages

As I’ve illustrated, building equity into category and sub-category pages, which then flow to item-level pages, is essentially the secret to giving items maximum visibility in search. On large sites, it simply isn’t scalable to attempt to link (internally or externally) to product pages on their own. They have to form a part of the site as a whole. In so doing, they will naturally benefit from many internal links provided the architecture is well established and the taxonomy concise. Adding a “top products” section to each category is recommended here. Therein products can be showcased that are especially important from a business or search competition and volume standpoint. These will have more prominent internal linking and therefore should benefit by receiving more of the site’s equity. Consider building external links into the primary category pages. Unless you have a selection of products or items that are largely evergreen, don’t bother with external link efforts at the deeper product level. Concentrate a level or two higher, and use those “hubs” as focal points that can then pass equity further downstream to products. However, leveraging social media at the product-level can be a powerful technique and is quite scalable.

22   SES • September 2011 {Chicago preview}

To recapture our notes for category pages: 1. Focus on categories as your primary “hub” to obtain, and pass, equity further down to products. 2. Consider adding a “top products” section to each major category. 3. Build external links (and social mentions) at the category level, unless a single or set of product(s) is so important it rationalizes its own link development. Orders of the Work: XML sitemaps

XML sitemaps are essential URL lists. It’s an odd feeling to submit lists of URLs to search engines in 2011, but ironically, it can be quite effective. Bing, especially, seems to respond to high-quality sitemaps, and these have become more valuable for Google over the years. The most essential thing to keep in mind with XML sitemaps is quality: these files should be very clean and precise, without redirects, errors, or duplicate URLs. Secondly, they should be well organized and broken out by category or page type. Sites doing a good job with this have the advantage of knowing exactly what indexing looks like for the type of page or category the URL belongs.

URLs at the item level should ideally be separated into their own sitemap, or set of sitemaps. This way SEO teams can see how indexing for these hierarchically low-level URLs is faring relative to the rest of the site. To recapture our notes for XML files: 1. Segment XML files by page type, category, or another business taxonomy. 2. Product- or item-level URLs should have dedicated XML sitemaps. 3. All URLs should be “end state” and clean of redirects or duplicate content. 4. Consider separating XML files specifically for pagination (more on that later). Orders of the Work: Pagination

First, a word of caution: SEO techniques for pagination seem to be a moving target. We have traditionally operated on the assumption that URLs annotated with rel canonical wouldn’t be fully crawled. In other words, links within pages wouldn’t be followed, anchor text and PageRank would not be passed, and the URL would simply be “soft 301’d” to its canonical target. However, that may change based on the latest information from Google’s Matt Cutts. At least, you can bet we’ll be testing it!


focus: SEO

Cutts recently said that links on pages annotated with rel canonical would still be crawled, based on the overall PageRank of the URL, among other factors. From this information, it appears rel canonical is a totally separate (i.e., distinct) process from crawling. This likely has ramifications for how Google handles ‘noindex, follow’ and canonical meta tags in concert, as well.

a relevant category. In others, the page may return a 200 and have messaging and a callto-action prominently displayed, upselling or recommending other close matches. This is potentially dangerous ground, however, and companies should proceed cautiously to ensure visitors aren’t turned off or perceive a bait-and-switch technique. Here are some strategies for expired

There is a fairly big ramification of this in how pagination is treated. Our methods for handling it typically employ ‘noindex, follow’ on paginated URLs (2, 3, 4, etc), and no use of rel canonical except to self-reference in cases of duplicate URLs; certainly, no use of rel canonical to reference page 1, since that would prevent links on deeper pages to get crawled. However, that may now change and it’s something we’ll be testing. An additional technique is to create XML sitemaps specifically for pagination. That is, XML files that only contain deeper pages handled via ‘noindex, follow’ and/or other techniques. The benefit of this is to isolate factors and get a clearer picture of how products or items on paginated URLs are being crawled.

products that may be helpful:

Orders of the Work: Expired Pages

How expiring products are handled is absolutely key, and can sometimes present large opportunities for SEO teams. There are likely going to be different rules based on the type of product and its life cycle. Here are some common scenarios: 1. Products expire or sellout and are never re-stocked. 2. Products expire or sellout and are restocked again. 3. Products are strictly seasonal and totally unique. Each one requires its own approach. Products or items that will never come back can be handled in multiple ways. Many e-commerce sites will simply 404 or 410 the URL. In some cases, it may be 301’d to

1. For products that will never come back, return a 200 response code and add prominent messaging and a callto-action for relevant recommendations. Zappos does this with their Dead Products. 2. For those items that will someday return, consider using a 302 redirect to point them at the relevant category. When the item returns, the 302 can be removed. 3. As an alternative to upselling on expired product pages, consider using a 301 to permanently redirect that URL to the closest (lowest-level) category parent. 4. Consider putting old expired inventory on an entirely different section of the site, like a subdomain. You can then control the presentation to ensure it doesn’t offend or alter your visitors’ perception of the site. And, while it’s more of a second-order concern, you can also limit potential issues that may incur from bounces from expired products in SERPs. Orders of the Work: Search Presentation

The page title and meta description (normally presented in search results as titles and snippet text, respectively) are quite valuable and can strongly influence a listing’s click-through rate (CTR). As such, they may also play into the rankings of a page. Visibility and CTR for products and items in search can be influenced in part through

smart use of microformats. Rich snippets can really make a listing jump off the page. Other Important Stuff

We’re at the end of this article, and have barely covered the surface. For example, we haven’t explored how social media sharing tools can help productlevel URLs gain social mentions. Ensure your products and items have prominent, easy to use social buttons. But also be aware of the overall load time of those pages. Speed, at scale, is of paramount importance. We also haven’t discussed faceted and guided navigations. This is always a big SEO problem to surmount. Unfortunately, treating this topic definitively would take writing a small book. Alas, that’s both the curse and blessing of SEO, isn’t it? It’s always more complicated, and simpler, than we want it to be. In writing this article, the paradox of SEO struck me as it has many times before. All the stuff we strive to accomplish, it’s easy to say and hard to do. It’s easy to make recommendations, and they can be so hard to execute well. The simplicity of getting SEO right requires a great deal of complexity to accomplish. And therein lies the challenge, and unique opportunity, for the smart people working in our young but maturing industry. Adam Audette is CEO and president of the organic search marketing boutique AudetteMedia, Inc., whose clients include Zappos, University of Phoenix, Charming Shoppes, Kroger, Rockler, and Primedia. AudetteMedia specializes in advanced SEO and works discretely with some of the largest brands in the world. A frequent speaker at search conferences nationwide, Adam has been active in the search marketing industry since 1996.

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focus: Paid Search

Five reasons PPC search beats PPC social Social media advertising shows a lot of potential to influence demand and build awareness, but there’s no place like search. by Kevin Lee

P

PC social media is oh so hot and sexy, and growing like a weed. And yes, PPC Facebook and LinkedIn ads have their place in marketing, advertising, and media plans. But before you get too caught up by shiny-object syndrome and start moving search budgets to social PPC (instead of carving out new PPC social media budgets), it’s appropriate to outline five reasons PPC search beats social media PPC advertising.

1. “Social media fatigue”

Recent research from Gartner demonstrated that “users in certain segments are showing ‘social media fatigue.’” Brian Blau, research director at Gartner, said, “The trend shows some social media fatigue among early adopters, and the fact that 31 percent of Aspirers [younger, more mobile, brand-conscious consumers] indicated that they were getting bored with their social network is a situation that social media providers should monitor, as they will need to innovate and diversify to keep consumer attention.” The Gartner study referenced and measured users’ enthusiasm for social media, but the more pressing “fatigue” issue for PPC marketers is ad burnout. Because social media ads are targeted based on profile, not behavior (searching or contextual surfing), there is a high likelihood that your target audience will see advertising from you many times. This causes banner burnout on top of dismally low click-through rates, dragging those rates further down and causing social media publishers to run your ads less often (unless those ads are freshened up and rotated regularly). Is all of this extra work really worth it? You’ll have to answer that question while you watch your optimized search creative bring in customers day after day. Why? Because there’s no such thing as “search fatigue.”

stores, and service providers they want. Lift in awareness and influence within the buying cycle is generally considered to be a byproduct of PPC search campaigns. However, PPC search is unparalleled at intercepting the user right at that point in time just before they are ready to transact, register, or make a phone call. With PPC search, you can be assured of hitting your direct response objec-

rare cases when—due to some combination of targeting, great ad creative, and sheer luck—the ad finally breaks through the clutter, the only thing marketers will often get out of it is a like. It’s unclear how a like will accrue benefits to marketers in the future. A like doesn’t guarantee that our updates show up in a feed, and if the profile user is inactive (or barely active), they won’t see our com-

tive while simultaneously delivering influence, awareness, and recall among all searchers—both those who convert proximally to the click and those who simply arrive at your site and engage with your brand.

munications, even if we have been so lucky (and skilled in understanding edge-rank) as to make it into their feed.

3. Profiles are underpopulated

Many profiles in Facebook (and even in LinkedIn) are incomplete and underpopulated with the kind of information that might give advertisers a fighting chance of properly targeting our advertising toward someone who gives a damn and might actually have an interest in what we have to offer. The social networks have each embarked on strategies to get users—particularly active users that generate the lion’s share of impression volume and click volume—to fill out important profile information that we, as advertisers, want. 4. Profiles lie!

Well, actually profiles don’t lie—people do. By many estimates, either millions of profiles on social media sites are entirely fake or there are significant untruths and embellishments made within them. What are we to do as marketers when all we have to target on is profile data and the profile data is often wrong? That means our ads are being shown to the wrong people. At least we are generally paying on a CPC basis and so the presumption is that those who click are in fact interested. I certainly hope this is the case.

2. Harvesting demand is easier than creating or influencing demand

5. Likes are terrible success metrics

Search engine marketing can influence demand and build brand awareness as searchers make decisions about the brands,

The most exciting thing about a page in a social media site is rarely the ad; it’s the content going on in your social network. In those

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Conclusion

Social media advertising shows a lot of potential for brand advertisers looking for ways to influence demand and build awareness. It has some potential as a direct-response medium (particularly when it is used within a media mix model framework where the influence can be properly attributed). This potential particularly applies to large spenders where this impact can be measured. If your paid search inventory is hyper-expensive and clicks from social media are cheap enough, then sure, buy social media ad clicks as needed, along with display and contextually-targeted clicks. Now click your mouse three times and repeat: “There’s no place like Search! There’s no place like Search! There’s no place like Search!” Kevin Lee, Didit cofounder and executive chairman, has been an acknowledged search engine marketing expert since 1995. His years of SEM expertise provide the foundation for Didit’s proprietary Maestro search campaign technology. The company’s unparalleled results, custom strategies, and client growth have earned it recognition not only among marketers but also as part of the 2007 Inc 500 (No. 137), as well as three-time Deloitte’s Fast 500 placement. Kevin’s latest book, Search Engine Advertising, has been widely praised.


SES Magazine September 2011  

Search Engine Strategies September 2011 Chicago Preview Issue