My Top Key Takeaways From SMX Advanced 2010

June 21st, 2010

search funnelJust two weeks ago I attended SMX Advanced in Seattle. It was my third year attending and it was an impressive conference on search engine marketing (it included tracks on  paid search, search engine optimization and social media).

There were a lot of  useful tactical tidbits that were refreshers for myself but the big takeaway this year for me was that it’s all about “the search funnel” and not just “search”. As online marketers, we need give credit to and spend more attention to attribution (online marketing tactics that “assist” conversions – not last clicks per se) and as service providers, you need to focus on tracking mechanisms to give us the proper data on those attributions.

Here’s some of my other key takeaways from SMX Advanced:

#1 Pay attention to Bing

If you are a online marketer within a small to mid-sized business, you may only be focused on Google in your search tactics and have not considered Bing yet. Bing has just reached it’s first birthday. You may want to reconsider Bing for two reasons: first, because Bing is growing in market share and secondly, it will be powering Yahoo by Fall/Winter 2010. Bing has grown 20 million users within a year. A good proof case that it is working, but still has a long way to go.

#2 Create video sitemaps if you have them on your site

It has been hinted by Matt Cutts to create video sitemaps if you have videos on your website (it’s similar to sitemap.xml – which is a “welcome mat” for the search engine robots). When Matt Cutts mentions something, it means that Google is going to pay extra attention to this within their search engine results page (FYI – Matt  is “the guy” at Google who knows how the search algorithm ranks our websites in Google results pages). Bing doesn’t read video sitemaps just yet, but I am sure they will in near future.

#3 The search engines concur when it comes to  SEO: “worry about the users”

Nicely said by Matt Cutts from Google at Smx advanced: “Stop chasing after the search engines – worry about the users”. It was also reiterated from Sasi from Bing “It is what is right for the user. The content, relevancy that matters.” There are some similarities to search algorithms when you compare Google to Bing. As a search marketer, just make sure you have relevant content (with keywords that your target audience uses),  great scent paths for the user, friendly design, inbound links and keyword density – and you should fair out fine in the results. Some marketers may not know, but Bing also has a webmaster area (not as great as Google Webmasters though).  Use both webmaster areas to your benefit to understand site errors and areas to optimize your SEO efforts (in both an user and search engine bot friendly manner).

#4 Open Site Explorer is Seomoz’s most popular tool

As a seomoz.org user, I was curious to what tool in their suites is used most. I visited the seomoz.og booth and asked what tool was their most popular on their site and I was told that the Open Site Explorer is the most trafficked tool (check it out at: http://www.seomoz.org/tools). Within this tool, I was also shown  that my employers website had many 302’s (temporary redirects) which should have been 301’s  (permanent redirects) so I opened a bug as soon as I got back to the office. Ouch, who did 302’s when I requested 301’s with our recent site redesign! Thank you SEOmoz.org!

#5 Focus on a mix of head and tail keywords

As an online marketer, you should understand your business search funnel and the matching keywords to where they fit under the stages (for example: initial brand awareness keywords, brand engagement / interaction keywords, product discovery, keywords consideration/ options keywords and product selection keywords). Head terms = top of funnel keyword phrases. Tail terms = closer to conversions keyword phrases. Don’t focus only on tail terms that show conversions (last click). The top of the funnel keywords may not show conversions but do actually attribute to the first stages of your sales funnel. Google Adwords Search Funnel report (track customers paths to conversions) is starting to show us the data finally (for those unlucky marketers who don’t have an enterprise analytics solution with attribution metrics)!

#6 – Retargeting is going to be mainstream and will be online marketers best friend

Remarketing or retargeting has been around for a while with the larger third party solutions and I am sure larger agencies have been using it for quite sometime (but they were keeping it a secret!). For the average online marketer (medium to small-sized accounts), retargeting is becoming more popular since Google Adwords has rolled out its beta in March 2010.  Retargeting is about advertising on content networks to audiences who visited your website and didn’t convert (you can define it by global visits, category or per page visits and also exclude audiences who are linked to actions/ conversions on your site). So what you are basically doing is following the audiences around (on external sites in the content network) and serving up banner ads, not letting them escape your brand, fully embracing it and trying to get them back to your site for the second, third or fourth time. I have recently ran some test campaigns with Google Retargeting for ActiveState and I am really impressed with the capabilities.  It definitely warrants a blog post on it’s own to get into the details on what I have learned so far.

#7  Mobile online sales conversions vs. regular search differs substantially

Interesting numbers were presented by Yusuf Mehdi from Microsoft. He said that with normal internet searches 40% become sales online 2+ weeks after first query, but when it comes to mobile – 65% happens within one hour. Wow, something to consider if you have an online store with impulse buy items! Make sure it is more mobile friendly and easy to add to cart.

#8 – Facebook advertising is a good tactic if you get it right

Most marketers have not been to successful with Facebok as an advertising medium. It may  feel like it is year 2000 with PPC, where a lot of people weren’t successful so they left. So it is not a slam dunk, but marketers are finding pockets of measurable success. Facebook plays well in the book ends (the funnel top and bottom). It is also recommended that you customize your Facebook fan page with custom tabs, and use your fan base to recruit their networks. You can do this by driving traffic to a campaign tab (never to your wall!) in Facebook and ask them to “like it” – then it will become more viral. Every user has an average of 135 friends.

If you went to SMX Advanced, feel free to share your key takeaways below.

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