Tuesday, June 19th, 2007
The following post comes from search engine marketing consultant Karl Ribas of All Web Promotion. At the same time that the Yahoo! Merchant Solutions team was busy at Internet Retailer 2007, the elite of the search marketing world gathered at the first Search Marketing Expo conference. Karl provides an excellent recap of his experience in this full-length post. –Paul
As some of you may or may not know, last week in Seattle was the very first ever Search Marketing Expo (SMX) Advanced conference… a conference for the experienced and more advanced search engine marketer. Unlike other search marketing conferences that you may be familiar with, SMX is all about providing an atmosphere where sessions, exhibits, and after-conference networking events start and remain at an advanced level. In other words… the basics of SEO and PPC are thrown right out the window.
I was fortunate enough to have attended this conference, and so as a Yahoo! Store developer, I was asked to step in and share some of the sights and sounds of my experience. With this post, I am hoping to provide readers with a quick run-down of the conference itself, as well as some of the many tips and strategies (those that will be most beneficial in your marketing and development efforts) that were shared.
SMX Advanced kicked off strong on Monday morning with a Q&A session with the ever-so-popular Google engineer Matt Cutts. Members of the audience were able to pose search related questions directly at Matt, and he of course would attempt to answer them. I was actually impressed by this session. Going in, I thought Matt would be pleading the 5th on almost half of everything that was asked, but he didn’t. He did a tremendous job of addressing near every question.
The conference proceeded on with a 2-track schedule where attendees could choose to follow a track focused on organic SEO, or one on paid search advertising (Pay Per Click). Personally speaking, I was quite happy with only having two tracks to decide between. I’ve been to a couple of conferences in the past where the schedule had as many as four or more tracks going at one time… which makes it very difficult for attendees with interest in multiple areas to be able to catch all that they’d like to.
SMX Advanced ended on Tuesday late-afternoon with the “Give It Up” session that featured an all-star panel of search marketing professionals. During this session, speakers (including Matt Cutts) provided the audience with some of their better industry tips and tricks. Unfortunately, due to an embargo that was formed just before the session got underway (it was the only way the panel would share their goods) we, the members of the audience, are not able to share with you any of the details presented during that session. Sorry guys.
However, as I mentioned above, I do have a few other take-a-ways that should prove to be useful in your marketing efforts:
Duplicate Content Issues (SEO)
Duplicate content was a pretty big concern at SMX, as having non-unique content on your website is quickly becoming a bigger and bigger problem for online merchants. Website’s with duplicate or similar sets of content are often at times filtered out (ex: Google’s supplemental results) or, in some cases, may even be banned entirely from the search engines. And rightfully so.
From a search engine’s point-of-view, their one and only goal is to serve a variety of quality results per query, not multiple versions of the same content blasted across different websites. With that said, my suggestions for merchants (as backed from conversations at SMX), is to either write or hire a copywriter to write brand new, keyword-focused copy for each of your pages and products.
One of the bigger problems I see when optimizing a Yahoo! Store is that merchants will “borrow” product descriptions and such from the manufacturer’s website. This is among the worse things you can do for two reasons. One, the manufacturer is the originator of that content and Google, Yahoo!, and other engines are most likely going to rank them over you. Second, every other merchant that resells that product is no doubt “borrowing” the same product descriptions as you are… which in the end provides you with even less of chance to rank high in the search engines. The easiest way to overcome this is to just write your own product descriptions.
Quality Linking (SEO)
Linking is a big part of the search engine optimization process, as I assume most of you understand quite well. Search engines use links to help them understand what a website, more specifically each page within that site, is really about. Therefore it is in your best interest to encourage others to link to you.
However, what most people fail to realize is that it’s not the sheer number of backlinks pointing to your website that merits a boost is search engine rankings, rather it is the number of quality backlinks involved. A website with 1 or 2 quality backlinks can, and most likely will, out-rank a website with 1 or 2 hundred backlinks.
So now the question becomes “what constitutes a quality backlink”? Well, aside from being a relevant source, one thing that was mentioned at SMX was that the page linking to you should have several sources linking to it. This makes perfect sense, right? The stronger the page is that links to your page, the stronger that page will make your page. So the next time you go out and exchange links with a website, request a link on a popular page, such as an article or resource of some kind, rather than a website’s link page… which most likely has no links pointing to it.
Using Day Parting (PPC)
Day parting was also a pretty big topic of discussion at SMX Advanced. Day-Parting, for those of you who don’t know, is a Pay Per Click term which means limiting your PPC campaigns to only a few hours per day. For instance, depending on the target-audience that you’re trying to reach, you may find it worthwhile to have your PPC advertisements run only during morning hours, as opposed to the entire day. And vise versa for other markets and audiences.
The ultimate goal with day-parting is to decrease the amount of wasteful spending (times when clicks lead to little or no conversions) and re-focus that budget on times that are most valuable to you. The common suggestion at SMX was to review over your website’s stats (number of visitors, conversion data, etc.), and find out which hours of the day (or even days of the week) your visitors seem to click and convert most. Now knowing this data, you can test those measures and limit your ad campaigns to only those time periods.
On an extra note: most PPC platforms offer some type of Day Parting program which makes it easier for you to set and monitor.
Using the Keyword Insertion Tool (PPC)
The keyword insertion tool is a small little tool that resides within every major PPC platform (Google Adwords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, and MSN adCenter), and its sole function is to automatically implement your individual keywords into your ad copy. For instance, let’s say that you have an ad group with 100 or so keywords in it (quite common really), and let’s also say that you only have one ad running in that same group. Well instead of running just a general ad, the keyword insertion tool will automatically implement your keywords (when searched) into the ad’s title and description.
At SMX, there were quite a few discussions on whether or not using the tool might actually increase one’s quality score. I will say that it probably doesn’t influence your quality score directly; however, because of the nature of the tool, I’m thinking that it creates a much better ad, which in return boosts your quality score.
Elements of Quality Score
Quality score, which is the engine’s secret sauce for ranking a PPC advertisement, was probably the most talked about topic on the paid search track. It seemed like with every session, someone new was sharing their thoughts on what elements they believe make up the quality score algorithm… and you know, some of the theories were way far-out, while others could very well be dead-on. That’s the beauty of this whole thing… there’s no, nor will there be, validation from the engines.
However, some of the more common elements which are believed to affect your quality score are as follows:
- Click-Through Rate: The number of times your ad was clicked on vs. the number of times it was displayed. Tip: Create compelling ads that attract people’s attention… to the point where it is being clicked on regularly.
- Keyword Relevance: How well the keywords you’re bidding on reflect the products or services you’re selling. Tip: Use a combination of broad and specific terms that describe your products and services for each adgroup.
- Landing Page Relevance: How well the page that you’ve specified (via the destination URL) reflects the keywords (products and services) that you’re bidding on. Tip: Send traffic to the appropriate category pages and not just the home page. (Ex: the term “Nike hats” would do better if it sent search users to the “hats” page of your Nike store, rather than the home page).
- Ad-Text Relevance: How well your ad copy relates to the keywords (products and services) that you’re bidding Tip: Include keywords in your ad’s titles and descriptions.
And that’s that. Overall, I’m going to say that the conference was very successful. SMX provided an atmosphere where veteran search marketers could learn, share ideas, and even interact with others as proficient in the industry as they are. I was very pleased with how the conference was scheduled (location, time of year, times of sessions and breaks, etc.), and I very much enjoyed the smaller, close-knit atmosphere that was emitted.
Guest blogger for Yahoo! Small Business