Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo is one of those events that many in our professional circle flock to with glee. Last week was no exception, when online marketing pros from all walks of search—agency, in-house, consultant, tech– gathered at the luxurious Hilton Chicago for the latest installment of the SES conference series. They were eager to soak up the hottest new knowledge from top-notch industry visionaries, and #SESCHI packed in an agenda that was sure to please.

Our crew was there in force to learn, live-tweet, blog, present, & network in the brisk embrace of the Windy City. Read on for aimClear’s synopsis of #SESCHI, key session takeaways and links to comprehensive coverage of a variety of top-notch sessions.

Day 1

Opening Keynote
#SESCHI hit the ground running with an opening keynote by Avinash Kaushik– author, blogger, Analytics Evangelist @ Google & all-around awesomely energized speaker. Avinash took conference attendees through the 5 Main Components of Search Marketing as well as the subtler (though powerfully significant) sub-components marketers sometimes gloss over. aimClear live tweeted this kick-off event. If you missed it, check out full coverage in Avinash, Analytics & Making Love To Keywords That Matter.

Introduction to Search Engine Marketing
Ralph Wilson provided a terrific overview of SEM, following an introduction by Bryan Eisenberg. He offered a seven-step guide for optimizing web sites, and advised attendees that websites should be designed not for search engines, but for the humans that will visit. He also extolled the merits of paid search, reminding us that only 38% of searchers know there is a difference between organic and paid search results. He went through the phases of a PPC project and warned the audience that they could expect to invest some money learning how to conduct PPC campaigns correctly.

Remaining Agile Amidst Seismic Shifts in the Social Media Landscape
It’s no secret that technology is constantly evolving– staying abreast of updates made to social media channels, the seismic as well as the subtle, is essential for companies aiming to succeed online.  Kelly Cutler of Marcel Media shared some tactics for forging genuine connections with community members within the ever-changing social media landscape, such as:
  • Provide incentives.
  • Post content that inspires conversation. Don’t just push out status updates. Ask fans & followers for feedback, ask questions, start a conversation.
  • Generate interest & maintain it. Brands worry so much about getting negative feedback they can forget how to respond to positive feedback.
  • Drive interaction & engagement.
Introduction to Analytics
Tami Dalley shared some real gems for marketers just getting into the analytics game, chief among them:
  • “Set and Forget” doesn’t work, you need to consistently monitor your sites, profiles, and social presence
  • Methodology before reports: The reports can’t tell you much if your methodology sucks
  • Analyze internal search: Customers use internal search to tell you what they want from your site
  • 1st impressions matter (just look at your bounce rate)
  • Analyze conversion funnels
  • Find valuable geographics (“Dig where the gold is”)
  • Look @ revenue participation


Social Integration: Creating Interactive Conversations Across Channels
Sundeep Kapur of delivered an insightful solo presentation about seeding engaging social content across a variety of platforms. Sundeep explored the concept of “intercept” marketing using the following example:
  • If you sell water, stop someone as they walk by & ask them if they want water (rather than just trying to sell it to them water from the get-go). Ask whether they want flat or sparkling water, etc.
  • The two-fold advantage to “intercept” marketing, Sundeep explained, is that as a marketer you’ve (1) stopped someone – directly engaged them and (2) learned about their personal preferences, which can aid in delivering personalized content to that customer.
Introduction to Information Retrieval on the Web
Mike Grehan’s very informative presentation (teed up by Brent Payne) about information retrieval on the web covered the history of the World Wide Web and how search engines continue to evolve today. From a 1945 essay entitled “As we may think” by Vannevar Bush that concepts out a web-like collective memory machine, to the invention of the Web and evolution of Google, this session was a veritable history class for search engine geeks!


Meaningful SEO Metrics: Going Beyond the Numbers
Leading the audience beyond traditional metrics were Jim Yu & Jon Glick. Both had some great advice for search marketers looking to glean deeper insight from their SEO analytics.
Top tips from Jim included:
  • Identify 1 main metric (purchases, page views, signups, whatever)
  • When doing metrics always separate brand from non-brand
  • Use “share of voice’ to compare competition
  • Select high impact initiatives to report progress
  • Disseminate meaningful metrics to everyone in the company

Jon’s key takeaways included:

  • Pagerank, inlinks, # pages indexed, “top 10s” and time on site are overrated.
  • Crawl rate and landing page performance are underrated.
  • Use multiple reporting systems to be sure you have accurate data
Beyond Listening-Establishing & Hitting Metrics with Social Media
Loren Baker hit a home-run his a solo presentation about establishing, achieving & measuring social media KPIs. When companies are in the throws of Facebook or Twitter, it can be easy to forget that the purpose isn’t just to “make friends” but to translate engagement into some form of profit. Check out aimClear’s full session coverage, tactics & takeaways here in Beyond Friending: How to Hit the Social Media Marketing Bullyeye.


Link Building Basics
Debra Mastaler shared some savory linking building strategies as well as the four components of like popularity, including anchor text, relevance, quality and quantity. Debra also advised the audience to avoid linking red flags by controlling link acquisition speed, avoiding repetitive anchor text, and using deep linking as well as an array of linking tactics.


Deep Dive Into Analytics
For the more seasoned analytics folk, Tami Dalley & Andrea Fishman dished out their key tactics:
  • Deep dive process: create hypothesis, define scope, pull data, tease the information out, translate into action
  • Prioritize with low hanging fruit first
  • Remember to annotate data to remember related data (such as site maintenance causing low # visits, etc)
Optimizing the Socialized UX
Tim Ash is known for many things, perhaps chiefly that he’s not afraid to tell you your baby’s ugly (when discussing websites, of course…). His session about optimizing the socialized user experience was chock-full of trust-building tactics & the “updated Golden Rule” marketers should always bear in mind:  “Do unto others as THEY want done onto them.”


Developing Great Content
“Thinking outside the content creation box” was the name of the game for this session, delivered by Greg Jarboe, Michael DeHaven and Heather Lloyd-Martin, and moderated by Jonathan Allen. Key takeaways included:
  • Americans watch more videos a month on YouTube than they conduct searches on Google. (Read: Video should be part of a comprehensive content strategy.)
  • Websites with user-generated content generate more crawls and site traffic, and products with reviews convert better. Users can write what you, as a marketer, can’t (without sounding like a fool).
  • Write web copy to resonate with readers by offering customized landing pages with industry-specific benefit statements, making it sound more personal, and reducing the marketing speak
Read our full coverage for more insights into this content creation 3-way.


The Secret Formula To Boost Response
Wrapping up Day 1 at #SESCHI, Lee Odden introduced Bryan Eisenberg who shared insightful tips for enhancing ad performance with two overarching concepts:
  • The Holy Grail of PPC: align targeting with best ad copy, optimized landing page, and great CTR
  • Conversion Trinity: be relevant, be valuable, and make the next action obvious
Check out blog coverage of this session as well as the full scoop on Bryan’s secret formula for boosting response, CTR & conversion.

Day 2

Morning Keynote
Former Kodak CMO Jeffrey Hayzlett roused crowds at the start of day 2 at #SESCHI with an energetic keynote peppered with invigorating profanity. Among the top takeaways were the concept that the “new elevator pitch” is now 118 seconds- 8 of which you have to hook, & 110 are at your disposal to sell. Jeff also explored his popular “4 Es of Social” – Engage, Educate, Excite, Evangelize.


Local 2.0: The Evolution of Local Search
Curtis R. Curtis & David Rodecker teamed up to share insight on the evolution of local search over the last decade. Rodecker’s presentation was loaded with eye-popping stats… like how 97% of consumers use web to shop local. Yow. Curtis enthusiasically remarked that in the wide realm of search marketing, the most exciting evolution he’s seen in has been local. His preso was also brimming with stunning statistics… like how 25% of all businesses are inaccurately listed online or have no online listing at all.  Both panelists agree that one of the most important first steps for optimizing your biz for local search is to ensure that your company address is indexed the way it is standardized by official sources (like the post office) & is uniform across all online listings.


News Search Optimization
Jamie Smith gave a warm welcome to Brent Payne, whose presentation focused on SEO for news organizations (including bloggers). He offered multiple optimization tips, including these helpful hints for newsies and PR folks alike:
  • Be literal in headlines and subheads. Google news likes this; it doesn’t understand puns, jokes or cutesy lines
  • Use the following strategy for titling online stories: [Key phrase]: [Typical headline]
  • Compare search terms to determine how you should phrase something in your story. For example: movie times vs. show times vs. movie listings
  • Try the following formula to help your social content go viral: [Number] [Adjective/Superlative] [Key phrase] [Media type]. For example: 16 iPhone Finance Apps That Count; 10 Movies That Teach You How to Commit Crimes

Video Search Optimization
Greg Jarboe, Grant Crowell, & Paul Carff took turns sharing their top tips for enhanced video search optimization, which included:

  • Google uses text matching (text from headline, caption, description, etc) to find related videos in YouTube
  • Google looks at the # views and ratings to determine quality
  • Best practice to put search terms in headline (using “Beach in front of hotel in Aruba” instead of “Pretty Oceanfront” if you are a hotel in aruba)
  • YouTube favors new content, if you edit the headline/description you can trick YouTube into thinking you have new content

Get the full effect over at Rockstar Tips on How to Optimize Videos For Search

Getting Mobilized! Mobile Marketing Strategies
Michael Martin, a full-on “fandroid” (fan of Android smartphones), shared some surprising Android stats, like “people use andoid search twice as much as any other smart phone.” Also, demonstrating the popularity of mobile web surfing, Michael pointed out that ESPN gets more traffic on its mobile site than its wired site. Somethings to keep in mind about mobile user behavior (which can help marketers create & tailor content specifically for those users):

  • Mobile users are more about finding (immediate content, usually location based) than searching (learning things on Wikipedia)
  • Mobile users purchase based on location & impulse
  • Smartphone use is led by males 24-35 making over $100k/year  (the exact same demographic leads into mobile shopping & coupon use

Conversion Ninja Toolbox
Tim Ash took the stage again, this time to discuss landing page optimization. Here are some of the sites hge recommends for getting a leg up on conversions:

  • shows in-page analytics, heatmaps, click confetti, and link click overlay.  It also shows when people click on non-clickable images and how behavior changes with screen size
  • In-page analytics can record user sessions, offers heatmaps, form analytics (which fields take the longest to fill out, which ones get skipped, etc) and where/how long people hesitate over links
  • Tests your site on real people (pre-screened), offers quick feedback, and audio/video recording of sessions
  • shows usability/compatibility issues using different browsers, OS, add-ons
  • is a visual attention prediction tool which simulates where users looks first
  • will also show you how your site looks on various screen sizes
Search, PR and the Social Butterfly
“The silos are coming down,” Sally Falkow said as she introduced Lisa Buyer and Peter Liefer to talk about the intersection between search marketing, public relations and social media. Why should PR people care about search and social? Because the media is using it to find sources and research stories, and customers are using it to find product information. Why should search care about PR? Content, content, content. PR needs to be optimized, publicized and socialized, and Lisa and Peter did an awesome job of teaching attendees just how to do that.


Twitter Nation & Automation
Hollis Thomases, Michael Gray & Tracy Falke shared their top do’s & don’ts when it comes to automating elements of branded Twitter marketing campaigns. Here’s the ones that really stood out:
  • Use bots/automation to schedule future tweets, backup, and aggregating tweets.
  • Use tools to find people/communities, share information, and connect with people.
  • NEVER auto-dm a follower unless you are a customer service account.

B2B Search Marketing Tips
The key takeaway from this B2B-riffic session, presented by Mischa Stephens and Chris Long and moderated by Patricia Hursh, was the fact that online marketing isn’t just for B2C companies. B2Bs should absolutely be developing content, running PPC campaigns, doing some serious SEO and even considering mobile. For in-depth tips and inspiration, check out our full coverage of this session: B2B Marketing: Red-Headed Step-Child of SEM World?

Killer Facebook Marketing Tactics
Li Evans & our own Marty Weintraub did one of the many things they do great at search marketing conferences: get people totally revved up about Facebook. Li explored the more organic side of FB marketing– here’s some of the juicy nuggets of info & advice she shared:

  • Understand that marketing on Facebook is not like marketing on Google- Facebook marketing is about stickiness, engagement, giving value, distraction, & connecting.
    • Consider building a sticky game or app– you can build terrific brand influence by getting in front of your customer that way.
  • On FB, people tend to check out about 10-15 pages at time – unlike when they’re searching on a site& might only visit 1-2 pages.
  • Tip: provide exclusive content ONLY to people who “like” you on Facebook, such as exclusive coupons, swag, t-shirts..

Marty “deconstructed the Facebook universe” by exploring (at lightning-pace):

  • Who’s On Facebook via Paid Targeting
  • Paid Targeting as Analogy For Organic
  • Facebook Organic Ranking Factors
  • Naughty Organic Ranking Hacks

We’ll be publishing the meat of Marty’s presentation on aimClear blog later this week,but for now – allow this Facebook SEO Ranking Factors, 2010 Study Results post to whet your appetite.

Day 3

Morning Keynote
The final morningat #SESCHI ’10 brought Mike Grehan & Senior Developer Programs Engineer @ Google, Maile Ohye, to the stage for a candid discussion about some recent happenings over in Mountain View, CA. Here are some of the top-shelf gems shared during that chat:

  • User search queries getting longer and longer each year
  • According to Maile, Google Instant isn’t affecting ranking change but rather using Google “Suggest” to be more predictive.
  • Back in the day, if your website was hosting malware, you didn’t know unless you went to your site as if you were a visitor & saw that scary warning Google presents before clicking through. But now, Webmaster Central sends out alerts & warnings to site owners if their team notices something “phishy” going on.

PPC or SEO? The Ultimate Search Marketing Battle
Jamie Smith introduced Julie Batten and Stacie Susens to duke it out over whether SEO or PPC is the best online marketing tactic. Both presented the pros and cons of each, and in the end, agreed that an integrated approach to PPC and SEO was best, in part because it keeps costs in check while reducing risk. Check out the full coverage of this session: PPC & SEO Square off in the Battle of the SEM Heavyweights.

Advanced Keyword Research
Ron Jones delivered a tip-top solo-pres to those serious about gettin’ down & dirty with keyword research. It’s our responsibility as marketers, Ron emphasized, to deliver on the expectations searchers express by the keywords they use in a query. He then laid out a ridiculously simple formula for achieving on-site conversions (though as they say, easier said than done): picking the right keywords+ having relevant destination content = conversion.

Channel Surfing: Measuring Profit and ROI Across Channels
Bryan Eisenberg set the stage for another interesting discussion that confounds search marketers: attribution. Adam Goldberg and Mikel Chertudi demonstrated just how frustrating and difficult it can be, but offered the following tips to streamline the process:

  • Create one version of the truth (standardize tracking systems)
  • Critique your online attribution setting and type
  • Track marketing objectives separately
  • Many methods are better than the last click. None are 100% accurate, but simple models tend to be very effective.
Duplicate Content & Multiple Site Issues
Shar Thurow & Susan Moskwa shared valuable advice on this panel, namely:
  • Duplicate content isn’t a HUGE problem unless it is intentional and/or malicious
  • Susan maintains that google does NOT penalize sites that have a duplicate content issue unless it is clearly manipulation (and even then they rarely bother)
  • International sites with identical content (but translated in different languages) is not viewed as duplicate content
Shoes, Cupcakes and Social Media: Building an Army of Brand Ambassadors
SES’s Jackie Ortez introduced entrepreneur & “Cupcakeologist” Mari Luangrath, who then delivered a refreshingly energized solo presentation to an audience hungry for both social media strategies & ooey gooey chocolate cupcakes. Though she was essentially a social media n00b two years ago, Mari’s instinctual approach to social media marketing has gained her cupcake delivery company significant popularity, publicity and not to mention ample sales. Check out full coverage in Gain Loyal Brand Ambassadors: Tips from 1 Smart Cupcake.



The Trouble With Content Management Systems is…
Lee Odden introduced Stephan Spencer & Eric Enge who double-teamed the CMS session. Here’s a look at their top tips for smooth CMS sailing:
  • Great websites to go to to compare/demo CMS: and
  • Critical CMS features:
    • Title tag customization, static keyword urls, meta tag customization, custom HTML tags, internal anchor link flexability, intelligent categorization structure, pagination controls, 301 functionality, XML/RSS pinging, image handling, custom URL structures, and the option to remove session IDs
  • Desirable CMS features:
    • CSS exceptions, static cache options, tagging and tag clouds, Keyword-rich intro copy on category pages, custom anchor text on navigation (instead of just “home” and “next”), categorization, breadcrumbs, noindex tags, nofollow links for comments, sitemap generator, XHTML validation, and pingbacks on comments
Get Googley: How to Apply Lessons from SEM to Other Marketing Channels
Is his entertaining presentation, Aaron Goldman used Google as the shining example of effective marketing. Following the introduction by Stewart Quealy, Aaron asked, “Why Google?” It’s everywhere! It’s successful, innovative, inspirational, mysterious and fun. He offered 20 “Googley” lessons (and then rapped each of them at the end…seriously!) including the following gems:
  • Keep it simple, stupid (look at Google’s homepage)
  • Show off your assets (make them findable, digitize them)
  • Make your company the great story (think about all of Google’s great employee perks)
Local Search Ranking Factors
Local search has changed the game for local businesses, and Mike Belasco and Benu Aggarwal are on the cutting edge in helping companies get listed. Following an introduction by David Rodecker, the two offered a litany of best practices for local search. A few key pieces of advice include:
  • Get citations and reviews (the more the better)
  • Eliminate data confusion (business name, address and phone) by standardizing information everywhere and correcting old information
And that about does it! Big shout out & thank you to the#SESCHI crew & crowd for a sensational week filled with some serious brain-chow. See you at the next stop on our 2010 speaking & conference tour!