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Key Takeaways from SES SF

If you’re in the digital marketing space, you’ve probably heard of Avinash Kaushik, digital marketing evangelist for Google. Avinash opened SES SF with an incredibly engaging keynote and set the tone for the next three days. His emphasis on measuring more than just revenue was echoed frequently throughout the conference, as was his discussion of getting to know customers and adding value without the explicit call to buy, buy, buy. In another major highlight, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team, made a surprise appearance to kick off Day 2.

Beyond the 2%

The marketer’s dilemma, Avinash says, is “how to find people at the right time and give them the right message.” But that’s not the end of the story. A common failure in marketing is to focus exclusively on bringing people to our websites only to abandon them if they don’t immediately convert. This narrow mode of thinking prevents us from truly optimizing the customer experience, and by focusing only on the bottom line, we ultimately hinder our growth.

“In a very myopic way, we optimize our business for the 2% [of site visitors who convert right away],” he said. We should be focusing on 100% of the people who come to our site, as they are our most valuable audience.  By focusing on the sale, “we’re optimizing for the next day, when we should be optimizing for the next year.”

Instead, we should optimize for microconversions in addition to macroconversions (the big sale). Microconversions can include anything from an email newsletter sign-up to a completed lead form—something that isn’t quite a sale but is nonetheless beneficial. Optimizing for microconversions improves engagement with potential customers and offers an opportunity to guide people further down the funnel. Each action a potential customer takes tells us something about them and allows us to better target future interactions, ensuring each interaction is more relevant than the last.

Practice empathy

We talk about content marketing a lot, but how to you do it right? Lee Odden of TopRank argues that to be successful with content marketing, you need to understand who your customer is, how she finds content, how she consumes it and what types of content will motivate her to take action. Through a keen understanding of your customer and a strong sense of empathy, you can create content that truly resonates.

In an enlightening presentation on conversion optimization, Scott Brinker of Ion Interactive and Chris Goward of Wider Funnel urged marketers to focus on the customer’s experience when navigating your website or landing pages. Scott urged us to “stop thinking about landing pages; this is a marketer’s construct.” Site visitors don’t care about your landing page, they care about their experience. And so should you.

But…who is your audience?

Much has been said about identifying your customer, but how do you do it? Lee Odden recommends using a combination of keyword research to find out what people are looking for, social research using tools like Topsy or Social Mention to find what your audience is sharing, website analytics to deduce what your customers care about based on how they interact with your site, and finally customer surveys to get the answers straight from the source.

Jim Sterne, founder of the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, said when it comes to finding the right customer, think backward. According to Sterne, smart marketers will do the following:

  • Identify the desired result
  • Identify those who have done it
  • Identify what they have in common
  • How are they different from the rest?
  • How do we find more like them?
  • How do we get others to act like them?

What does success look like?

Measuring SEO success is one of the biggest challenges many marketers face. Nick Roshon, Senior SEO Strategist at iCrossing, recommends watching the trend line for branded versus non-branded search. While an increase in branded search could mean success for a goal like brand recognition, an increase in visits due to non-branded search demonstrates SEO success. Lauren Vaccarello, Director of Search, Display and Social Advertising at recommends share of conversation (whether people are talking about your brand or your competitors) as a metric for measuring SEO and social success.

Both Nick Roshon and Jim Sterne of stressed the importance of measuring microconversions like email sign-ups.  Garry Przyklenk of TD Bank Group notes that a microconversion could be anything that helps your business whether it’s a step toward driving revenue or decreasing costs. TD Bank for example, saves $4 per client per month with paperless statement. A paperless statement signup, though not a sale, does help the business through lower costs.

Most important of all, it’s key to have a framework upon which to judge success, to set goals, and to gather metrics that that matter. When it comes to building a framework, Roshon recommends beginning with broad goals like increased demand, and moving to more specific goals like rankings, traffic, and ultimately revenue.

TD Bank’s Przyklenk tells us in no uncertain terms that information and data that does not directly relate to business objectives is worthless. Sterne uses the same descriptor (worthless) to describe analytics without goals. Without specific goals, you have no means of measuring success.

A word from Google

To begin Day 2, Matt Cutts was interviewed by Mike Grehan, VP and Global Content Director for Incisive Media and was soon joined by Search Engine Land‘s Danny Sullivan and PubCon‘s Brett Tabke. Though much of the conversation revolved around news you might have heard before, there were some interesting insights and admissions.

While recognizing that links are an imperfect proxy for relevancy, Cutts ensures that they are still the primary way content is ranked and Google has no plans to alter that in the near future. Additionally, search plus your world has been recently de-emphasized. Right now, shares on Google+ are not a strong determination of success, though this could certainly change.

Echoing many of Google’s recent statements, Matt Cutts stressed that “we don’t want people to worry about Panda or Penguin or whatever. We just want people to build the best sites they can, and we want our ranking to reflect that.” Good SEO, Cutts said, means doing diligent keyword research to make sure you’re relevant to your audience, building faster, better, and more navigable websites, and making your site easier to crawl.

Ultimately, Google want it to be easier for sites “to be legit than to cheat,” and with anything and everything Google does the litmus test has and will always be “what is good for our users.”



Case Study – Watters

Watters Logo | ReTargeter

Watters is the brainchild of designer Vatana Watters. For over 30 years, it has been the leader in offering luxurious designer bridal gowns, innovative bridesmaids dresses, classic special occasion dresses for mothers of the wedding, and adorable dresses for flower girls and junior bridesmaids around the world. Selling primarily at trunk shows and in third-party […]

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