Publisher's note: Andrew dashed off these notes as an internal memo for us. I thought you might enjoy them too.
The conference had a strong turnout and there was good energy. I found the content enlightening, both for what was being said and what was not being said ....
Search engines were typically reticent about fielding specific questions that they felt divulged too much information about their technologies, while the web designers, SEO’s, and marketers picked and prodded for answers to why their site was “blacklisted” or is not showing up properly on a organic search or why some link farms are detected while others are not. (This interaction was very entertaining.)
Fox in the hen house award went to Eric Ward. He was part of the “Link Building” session which included Google and Ask Jeeves. He essentially said not to really consider the ramifications of links on your search engine results because they often don’t find all the links on your site any way and that some of the most valued links are not tracked by the search engines. He was a breath of fresh air.
Other than that, the seven hot topics at the conference were:
This was the Large white elephant that was consistently walking around each room. A few people brought it up but no one really stayed on the topic. No one really wants to talk about it, but everyone knows it is an issue. Tuesday morning there was some buzz about the article in the “India Times” about companies that are hired in India to find specific keywords and click on them. This issue seems to be something that needs to be better addressed and considering the importance of this topic it seemed to be an overt omission that there were no sessions devoted to this topic.
#2 Local Search
– This is clearly going to be an area that is going to grow in the very near future. It seemed that Google is a bit behind in Local search and that there are search competitors who may have a bit better of a handle on it than they do. The technology for local search seemed to be falling short of the marketer demand…I anticipate some serious advances by search engines in the field of Local search.
Many local marketers were complaining to the Search Engines that they generate strong content about a local markets and their sites are being pushed well down the organic search listing by the Content Aggregators like Expedia, Hotels.com, and Travelocity which may just have better overall traffic. These aggregators may have better traffic numbers, but they are not the authorities regarding local markets.
#3 Greater Description of Keyword
– As I had mentioned in the IT Marketing Metrics Guidebook, the greater the number of words in a search, the more specific the end-user is in their search which is commensurate to higher conversion rates. The more words in a keyword search, the greater the conversion rate. In addition, it is generally less expensive to purchase 3,4 and 5 word keyword searches that 1-2 word searches. So not only is it better at conversion, it is cheaper to buy. Don’t expect this to remain true for too much longer—the genie is out of the bottle. Buy them while you can.
#4 Dayparts (aka Dayparting)
Google and others talked about the importance of looking at dayparts, both in measuring comparative usage between online and TV and how dayparts affect interest and intent. I think I heard the word “Dayparting” come out of about 5 different speakers mouths, (they said “Dayparting” and not “Daypart” because of the web’s insistence to think they are inventing something that has been around traditional media for the last 100 years). There is definitely something relevant to purchasing specific daypart that we may see coming up in the near future. Google seemed to be positioning themselves to look at this as a viable purchasing method.
#5 Rise of the web analytics tools
Out of the maturation of the search marketing category is the honing of Web Analytics tools. Finally, there is a business model online that is a foundation for data and research to base their software and tools around.
The metrics are clear. (Particularly BtoC -- BtoB is a bit more in the dark that’s what my book is for.) Clickthrough, conversions, Average Revenue per purchase, ROI of purchasing… These are very concrete tracking metrics and the new tools that have been created for both search and website conversion tracking are proving to be extremely helpful.
#6 More personalized search
In the same vein of local search, customized search was a big topic for marketers who don’t feel that their brands are being as well represented in queries that are really looking for their specific content. They all understand the parameters in paid search, but when it comes to organic, they feel like the larger aggregators are able to monopolize the listings and think it is in part due to the traffic on these sites.
While Yahoo was showing their “Shortcuts” (ability to just type in “Weather in Boston” and get a full weather report or “Yankee Scores” and get a score and schedule listing) this was again more of a topic being talked about by the marketers than implemented by the search engines. MSN was not at the conference and some think that they may be in development of a highly customized search interface that allows the user to really fine tune their search queries.
#7 Dynamic Pages are terrible for search engines
If at all possible, avoid dynamic URLs (I’m sure you know this already). These pages are very confusing to spiders and webcrawlers and are generally ignored. If you really want a page listed on an organic search engine, do not use a dynamic URL use a static html page.
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