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PubCon South 2010 Dallas–Day Two Highlights for Search Marketers

Here we go. It’s Day Two. April 15th. Happy Tax Day! Beautiful day in Dallas, and we’re all settling in to hear today’s keynote speaker, Rob Snell. He’s an e-commerce expert with Gun Dog Supply Company, and author of a new Dummies book on Yahoo! Stores.  I found two guys with an extension cord and they were kind enough to let me share their power. Making lots of new friends. Thank you, Mark from Ninjacops.com!

PubCon Search Marketing Conference

PubCon Search Marketing Conference

Rob Snell gave an awesome talk about his family business, Gun Dog Supply, with background of their trials and tribulations along the route to success.  He shared how one change he made, going online with a store, contributed to $10 million increase in sales. Rob emphasized the need for personalization of the online store with his brother’s expert and passionate advice and stories for customers. Creating content is hard work, and he gave us some tips for how they go about it. It sounds like they are always creating content of some sort. Rob and his brother, Steve, have learned to integrate creating content into their lives. They use an inexpensive digital audio recorder ($60 Olympus VN-6200PC) and tape interviews of Steve answering common questions from website users and customers. They use the record function on Google Voice to get instant MP3 files of phone conversations (with permission) that they post links to on the website and transcribe for the text version as well. They take photos of everything they can think of related to their hunting dogs, hunting, equipment, and family travels for hunting excursions. They shoot short video clips of equipment demos and other items. They “liberate” manufacturers’ brochure text or instructions or other materials for their website. Not recommending copyright infringements, but there’s good stuff there that’s not being utilized. It’s helping the manufacturer to sell their stuff.)

Next up, In House SEO In-Depth

Speakers:

Jessica L. Bowman, Founder & President, SEOinhouse.com

Laura Callow, Sr. Search Marketing Manager, Intuit Global Business Division

One thread that runs through both presentations:  SEO must be included in all phases of business and marketing planning, projects, and implementations. Sometimes as an SEO specialist you will need to put your ego aside and find ways to help the rest of the team be successful while making sure that SEO considerations are not neglected. You must be part evangelist, part diplomat, part detective.

Conversion Ninja Toolbox, with Tim Ash, CEO Site Tuners.com

Tim is an expert in landing page testing and optimization. Check out sitetuners.com website for a great example of an optimized site design. We’re not going to hear about testing in this session. It’s about optimization for conversions. We want to make it make money. Tim says we (online marketers) see our websites as rolling out the red carpet to our web visitors. Reality check just bounced. What our visitors really see is more like a crumbling stone wall that has to be scaled while being fired upon with arrows. He wants us to tear down the wall and use the right tool (shows us some wicked looking Ninja tools I wouldn’t want to mess with). The 5  tools  he’s recommending are:

1. Crazy Egg heat mapping tool–can show you where visitors are clicking on things that aren’t clickable, for example. Data may not be statistically valid, but it is good directional data for guiding your decisions for improvements. Did you know that on average, only 2% of people will scroll down beyond the first screen of text?

2. Clicktale customer experience analytics–you can actually watch user behavior online and optimize for conversions.

3. usertesting.com low-cost online usability testing–you can get a recording of a live user trying a specific task on your site while describing what they’re doing. You can also try it for a competitor’s site and see what they may be doing better or differently. You may be so involved in your site that you can’t see the challenges a typical visitor faces. Cost is $29/test. Run 5 tests and if you’re not satisfied, they’ll refund your money. Such a deal.

4. crossbrowsertesting.com to test different OS, browser, and applications combinations without paying for a room full of different equipment. You can rent it by the minute. For $49.99 per month, you can get 600 minutes of testing time on various combinations of hardware and applications.

5. attentionwizard.com helps you identify visual elements that detract from your conversion goals.This is going to sound harsh. Tim says,  “Keep your graphic designers on a short leash” on your projects. Tell them, “Leave your creativity at the door.” Do whatever seemingly boring graphic designs that testing demonstrates are best for conversions and business goals. Ouch. But so true. Use the “obvious” standard (or, as Tim says, the mother-in-law test) to find the best conversion elements. (disclosure:  this is Tim’s product) His example showed +84% in conversion information. You can get 1 free heatmap per day. Then if you want more, you can get the paid version.

Conversion Optimization

Moderator, Amanda Watlington, says conversion is the next frontier for search engine optimization. We drive more traffic to the site, now we need to convert it.

Speakers:

Tim Ash, CEO SiteTuners.com

Chris Goward,  Widerfunnel.com

Brian Massey, Conversion Scientist, ConversionScientist.com

Khalid Saleh, President and Co-Found, Invesp

Chris started us off. Remember this: Analyze, Hypothesize, Test. We focus more on test. Need to focus on first two. Your value proposition should be evaluated and analyzed. Look at relevance for users needs and expectations (e.g., do words on your landing page headline and check that they match exactly the PPC ad headline). Clarity of message is important. Remove anxiety-creating elements from the page. Then he takes us through several examples of conversion optimizations and asks us to guess which one makes the biggest improvements. Way to go, group! We’re pretty good guessers. But sometimes we’re flat out wrong. Ugly can be beautiful for conversions. We have to keep testing and making hypotheses about why things work better.

Tim is next up. I love Tim. He’s a great speaker and shows neat pictures in his presentations. This is not about details. It’s about the big concepts. He’s referencing Robert Cialdini’s work on Influence.  Tim asks, “Do you know your customers?” You may think you do, but you don’t. In person, you can get to know them, and they can get to know you. You need to build instant trust online. How do you do that?

1. Authority and expert opinions–you can borrow trust from media mentions, top client logos, security seals.

2.  Social proof–people care about the opinions of their peers. They don’t have to think too much, they can do what the others do. Use testimonials, reviews, add logos for associations you donate to, statistics on number of satisfied customers or number of software downloads. Anything over 1,000 is convincing.

Now Khalid is up. His company is an ecommerce optimization company. 14.56% conversion rate improvement is possible. He’s going to tell us about lessons learned from the relatively few failures his firm experienced. (How very forthcoming) The challenges of CRO (conversion rate optimization). Where should I start? They no longer focus on landing pages. Really? interesting. Visitors spend time on multiple pages, so they won’t just work on the landing page. No more brute force optimization. Test fewer than 100 combinations (not 32,000). There are costs involved in testing and optimization, so you need to make sure you’re selective. What should I change? No more random guessing games about what to change. Use a tool or tools to analyze first. Don’t let the executives or designers argue for a change without testing it.

Brian’s next. He’s wearing a lab coat. Looks very scientist-like. He’s also going to talk about what he learned from online disasters. For example, Newsday.com’s new $4 million dollar redesign for paid subscribers yielded 35 subscribers. He compares their landing page with the “best practice” for the WSJ’s online subscription. Too many options, not enough guidance on Newsday’s site.

Keyword selection

Speakers:

Michael Martin, SEO Director, Resource Nation

Amanda Watlington, Ph.D., Searching for Profit

Craig Paddock, Managing Partner, Boost Search Marketing

Mark Jackson, President/CEO, VIZION Interactive

Michael is talking to us about Money Keywords. Pitfalls:  ego keywords (C-level wants  but are extremely broad or non-business terms), shotgun term (one keyword with hundreds of variations). Money keywords are transactional keywords, the ones people type in when they want to buy something (not when they’re doing a school report on your topic).

Amanda is talking about the art and science of keywords. Keywords are the most important element of the site. They must connect to user to the intent of the site owner.  They must also conform to how searchers search, and how they form queries. There are some linguistic nuances, for example, her research showed that “all natural” was associated more with vitamins and laxatives, so she counseled her gourmet food client to use “gourmet” instead.  You have the data you need in your own data. Mine that data and mine it hard. She (obviously) loves data. Search is a quest. Search behaviors differ by sex, age, geographics, and other factors. Keywords can be a single word, but they may be many words. Multi-word phrases look like double-nouns or two nouns with an adjective for the most part. Verbs are not much used these days (buy, shop, find, use). Most propositions are unused, except for, by, of.  We search for things in plurals when we want comparisons and connections to selections for shopping or searching.  Personality type (e.g. MBTI) seems to influence the words we use to search. Each persona you are writing content for will have a different set of keywords. Look at your keywords actually used on your site and help visitors based on this direction, for example, if you see a lot of colors in the words, then help them shop by color.  She uses SpyFu.com for competitor information. She yanks down the data for one competitor, then pulls it out. Put in another competitor and yanks down the data. She ends up with a ton of data. (She loves data). Then go beyond the tools. Use knowledge from keyword analysis.  That is applying art to the science.

Craig is up now. Talking about organic keyphrase research. What problems do you solve? Use this and other questions to figure out what phrases to use. Sometimes you can use a paid search campaign for research and get quick data. Great idea. Another news flash: Google Webmaster Tools account data changed yesterday. Check your reports now! Click-through rate is now on your reports. Hurray! He shows a neat tool for visualizing keyphrase relationships– Google’s search-based keyword tool (SbKT) that Avinash writes about in his blog. Use your PPC data to guide your organic campaigns. Consider promoting content outside of your primary site (3rd-party sites) that has positive comments about your site.

Mark is talking about “ADD in SEO”. He asks the audience and finds that many of us agree that we get distracted by shiny objects and need to have processes to keep us on track. We are so busted. His process: 1) Brainstorm, use interviews with users, limit involvement from CEOs and ego keywords, talk to PR, customer service, Search Suggest, reach out or survey actual customers and prospects. Then go to your keyword tool of choice (e.g. Google keyword tool) and collect data on the keywords. If you have on-site search, that’s another good source for keywords. And don’t forget to look at historical data on keywords, and competitor site keywords. 2) Gather insights from data on relevancy to the site content (keywords may be relevant to the business, but if there’s no content about it you need to write content or not use it), competition’s keywords, use specialized search queries such as intitle:”keyword phrase” or inanchor:”keyword phrase” to look at competition data, visibility (set expectations to realistic improvements in rankings), CPC value (so you can see what words convert and focus on them) then you can put a value on organic search (in terms of money saved over paid search). 3) Filter, sort and select. Now that you have all this information you can slice and dice however you want. How many keywords to select? Aim for 1 – 3 phrases per page to focus on. So, if you have a 100-page website, with 30 “SEO-viable pages”, then you can have about 60 keyword phrases to target. 4) Review and refresh. Things change in the search industry constantly, so go back over your keywords 3 – 4 times per year, and also at any time you’re doing a redesign or update on your site. Give your copywriter keywords to include in new SEO-friendly pages.

Q & A Tips:

How to “push” competitors pages out of the top 10 ranking pages? It’s a battle for real estate on the SERPs (search engine results pages). You might get creative with keywords and add “image” or “video” or “pictures” and op[timize your content to match it to long-tail searches and universal search.

In working with e-commerce sites and competitors’ data feeds, test adding more attributes and see if that affects conversion.

In optimizing for local search, keywords are important, but it appears that reviews and popularity of click-throughs are also important. You can use microformats in coding to give you a slight edge. Google recently introduced rich snippets and these are becoming more popular in local search results.

Link Building

Links, links, and more links. What links count? Where do we get them? Is this the “Holy Grail” of SEO? Never fear, the Linkerati are here to tell us.

Speakers:

Rae Hoffman, CEO, Outspoken Media

Roger Montti, Founder and Owner, martinibuster.com

Wil Reynolds, Founder, SEER Interactive

Jordan Kasteler, Co-Founder, Search & Social

Dixon Jones, Managing Director, Majestic SEO

Wil’s tips–

Find broken links on an authority site, find or write related content on your site and send a note to the webmaster of the site with a personal note mentioning the broken link and suggesting they link to your content instead.

Fallacy of 301s–Bing and Yahoo! do not seem to pick up 301s as quickly as Google on major site changes (he showed data that indicated it took several weeks for them to catch up). This is critical sites with high-value inbound links (i.e., those that bring in lots of traffic with conversions). You should consider contacting the webmasters of these sites directly with new URLs for links prior to doing your site changes.

Dixon’s tips on mining the data in MajesticSEO (his product)–

Use TagCrowd.com to visualize anchor text as a tag cloud. Download your anchor text from links and copy and paste them into the tool.The visualization will give you insights into what the site should be about, and what content you may need for links.

Export all link URLs to a CSV file and ping them all to make sure they’re delivering a 200 response code or a 301 code. When you find one that doesn’t, you’ve found a link you can reclaim as a functioning link by correcting the redirect. Free link juice.

Find the golden links of your competitors sites. Deep links are good. A good ranking often comes down to just a handful of links.

Roger’s tips on competing against established sites–

It doesn’t have to come down to number of links vs. number of links. Relevance goes a long way (more valuable than PageRank in many cases). Link cliques of a competitor might be appealing, but you might be better off creating your own clique of different links. Established sites may not have taken the time or effort to get proper anchor text and you can do better and smarter.

Especially for e-commerce sites, focus links on related “hub” pages, rather than Home page so that your link ranking is not diluted down through so many pages. For example, use anchor text that relates to the product category  or subcategory page that is most relevant.

Find high-quality sites to submit good articles about your niche by searching on ‘article submission’ and restrict the search further to .org sites and even add your keyword phrase. He’s had good success with article submission in this way.

Limit your directory exposure to: DMOZ, Yahoo! Directory, BOTW.org. Run away from directories that say they are “SEO-friendly.”

Google’s director of research, Peter Norvig, comments that relevance is the key to competing against quantity. Google quietly got rid of PageRank in Webmaster tools last year.

Geocities is no more. Find sites linking to now non -functioning pages on Geocities in your niche and target them with link requests to appropriate content.

Jordan’s tips on link building with link bait–

Link bait is creating compelling content to get people to link to. You not only get links, but you get  branding, mindshare, subscriptions, and traffic.

The social media effect of link bait content is that it gets shared by bloggers, individuals, journalists. 24% of the people who read your content actually have the ability to link back to your content. About 34% of the visitors are “critics” who can share links to your content on forums and comments or reviews.

Types of link bait content: lists, news, rants, reports, quizzes, widgets, videso, comics, infographics. Top 10 lists were cool but now we’ve migrated to infographics.

Link bait hooks can be: news, humor, attacks, resources.

Linkability factors: Why would they care (emotional hook)? Research your audience and find out what they usually link to. Go to Digg.com and search on what’s been done. Don’t copy it, but get ideas. Don’t do the same topic that has already been done on Digg’s home page. Carefully consider the design and layout, and how people will digest and consume the content. Infographics must be clear and easy to “get”. Check out Cosmopolitan magazine, for example, for titles to capture emotional interest: “13 Things Your Bartender Won’t Tell You.” Check the page layout for link bait page and pull off any AdSense or other ads that could detract from linkability. Consider your timing of publishing your content to coincide with best timing of activity on Digg and other social media. Provide some link code at the bottom of your content with embed code and anchor text (maybe even swapping out anchor text for each visitor if you’re tech-savvy).  Cite research sources, further reading, look comprehensive and professional, use graphics to enhance the text, use clean URLs. Don’t use link code to unrelated sites, don’t use off-topic links, don’t use internal links until after you’ve promoted it and gotten links, don’t use sloppy Photoshop work (Digg users will bury it), don’t make the text hard to read. Use Linkbait Generator tool for ideas.

Rae’s tips on link building content promotion–

Take the time to resize your images appropriately and create great content.

Marketing the content is critical. Rae is going to talk about other ways to promote via “hard core”  channels, as opposed to using Digg and other common social media sites. So, you do your homework and research all the key influencers, their sites, their best contact person and contact info, the types of information that they tend to publish (e.g. breaking news). She uses a spreadsheet to collect all the information. Then you reach out to them. Don’t wait ’til you need something. Send a personal email first, ask for feedback and suggestions, “We just launched this site, we’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions”. Feed their egos (bloggers have huge egos).  When you see a really good post, email the blogger and build relationships. When you have the great content written and ready to publish, contact the key influencers and send them a link to the post or article and say they may be interested. Don’t ask for a link! Rinse and repeat with linkerati lists. Only contact them with something that is truly worth their time…otherwise they will not listen again. Be sure to write a personal thank you when someone links to your content. Build relationships in a natural way. This method is very often overlooked, but very effective.

That’s it for my near-live-blogging at PubCon folks! Hope you enjoyed these highlights and I’ve really enjoyed sharing them with you.

-by Sally Anne Dishong, SEO + Social Media Content Editor

CyberChimps