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Search Engine Watch Forums Live – Disneyland

Search Engine Watch Forums Live! Live Up to Title – Involving the Audience

Search Engine Watch Forums Live! was promoted on the Jupiter Media site like this:

“This informal, half-day event offers attendees the opportunity to meet several moderators of the SearchEngineWatch Discussion Forums in person, network with local peers, discuss the hottest topics and latest news in the search industry”

Before attending, I wondered whether the audience would be made up more of local SEO consultant or in-house corporate – it turned out that it was pretty evenly split among the represented (approximately) 150 to 200 attendees based on a show of hands.

Search Engine Watch Forums Editor, Elisabeth Osmeloski asked for that show of hands as she opened the event. That proved to be a common theme among each of the moderators as they made presentations, to check in with the audience by asking for a show of hands to measure representation for their opinion or status. Osmeloski turned it over to Nacho Hernandez and he immediately checked in with the audience asking them “How many of you are marketing in just one language?” That intro lead to the segue, “one segment is not enough.” Hernandez will lead the first Search Engine Strategies Latino conference in Miami next July.

Hernandez’ presentation was titled “Where can you apply Multilingual tactics? Opportunities for SEM/SEO” and of course he strongly recommends marketing to multiple international markets, his specialty is in Hispanic markets. He showed powerpoint slides representing worldwide language, ethnic market segmentation, and reach, penetration and growth stats for each. He moved on to show comparative pay-per-click rates showing bids for popular and competitive English language search terms that were ten-times the cost of Spanish language bids.

Hernandez is a proponent of local search markets as well as international and suggests optimizing for each of those markets in organic SEO as well as the PPC campaigns. He wrapped up and passed the podium to Joseph Morin, moderator of the SEW Google Search Rankings forum and enterprise SEO specialist who emphasized the dramatic importance and value of careful web analytics study.

Morin opened by asking the audience how many have attended other Search marketing events, most had, and a majority of those had been to Search Engine Strategies conferences. He asked who were members of the forums, and while few raised hands to that, he continued with, “What is your reason for optimization and SEM?” Typical reasons were listed, ROI, increased sales, increased traffic. He continued with more questions asking how many audience members represented enterprise vs. medium vs. small sites. The majority seemed to be working on medium to large enterprise site SEO and SEM.

Morin used examples of major enterprise search clients to illustrate how best to interpret and analyze log files to determine additional income streams for web sites based on visitor behavior in both organic and PPC situations. He listed vendors of analytics software and gave examples of how he had done research to increase value and ROI of client site traffic. He several times indicated the use of analytics to determine where to find additional income streams for client sites based on highly saleable leads generation for external partners.

Alex Bennet of Beyond Ink was next to present “Getting the second click”. Analytics were again recommended to increase usability and conversion. Single access page views entry page views were emphasized as powerful clues to improvement of any site based on search terms used to find a site as well as PPC ad clickthroughs that brought other visitors. She recommended backtracking organic search phrases used to find pages by doing a little forensic detective work on those pages getting single access with immediate departures.

Bennet recommended doing those same searches as visitors did to land there, looking at the text snippet displayed by the search engines on the search results pages and trying to understand what made them click on your result before landing on and quickly leaving your page. The suggestion was that they may have arrived expecting something you can actually deliver to convert them to sales by offering appropriate services or products to match the phrases used to find your pages. She emphasized the critical importance of site navigation, site search, and custom 404 pages with links to sitemap and major sections of a web property.

Final presentation was made by Jennifer Slegg of with Google Adsense vs. Yahoo Publisher Network (YPN) comparisons. (Yahoo Publisher Network was a sponsor of the follow-up cocktail session and networking event.) She mentioned that YPN has made a recent change to make their ads appearance very similar to Google Adsense ads. Probably the most important comparison to content publishers was that YPN is reportedly earning more, something that got many audience members’ interest, so she duly noted that YPN representatives were in the audience, asked them to stand and suggested everyone interested in trying the alternate to Adsense see them after the presentation.

Slegg further compared the two networks by pointing out that Google offers “Smart Pricing” on Adsense ads which sometimes means that poorly performing sites get lower priced ads displayed on their sites. Public Service Ads on Adsense publisher sites mean that those publishers don’t earn anything if those ads are clicked on – but not on YPN as they have NO PSA’s on their network. She then expanded on increasing value of ads by emphasizing the importance of ad placement. Proximity of ads to body text and what is around the ad units affects clickthrough ratios. She counseled publishers to remove borders, place ads front and center, integrate them into site design, never to use default colors, and to use channels for tracking and reporting.

Elisabeth Osmeloski then resumed as moderator and reassured the audience that even though she had not asked anything of Search Engine Watch editor Danny Sullivan who was sitting on the panel, that she was not ignoring him, but rather that he was vacationing here and had decided to attend the event while he was in town. Sullivan had no prepared presentation, but was happy to speak and opened asking, once again, by quizzing the audience, “How many of you are here to discuss the latest Google Update, Jagger?” No hands immediately went up, so Sullivan quipped “Good we don’t have to talk about it.” (Although it did come up later, raised in the question and answer session.)

Sullivan did have other things to address though. He lamented how often financial analysts are asked by major media and newspapers to discuss the search engines stock value, performance, future and their strategies – when those analysts understand very little about the search industry, competition or how search works. He pointed out the dramatic disparity between the Google stock price of $340 per share versus Yahoo at about $40 per share and that he didn’t see the reason for that difference, but that the two companies were very different and difficult to compare beyond them both being “media companies”.

Sullivan also discussed recent developments in the industry, such as Google Base and how it might affect the industry and other players in the classified industry such as Craigslist. Ultimately we’ll just have to wait until true launch of that service to see what it brings, he suggested.

With that, questions were solicited from the audience by moderator Osmeloski.

Audience questions included
Q. Where to find a “Best practices document” for SEO
A. Thread SEM101 at Search EngineWatch and

Q. Best forum when you have no time to read forums?
A. SERoundtable

Q. What to do about 301 redirects that seemed to have gotten the site dropped entirely from the Google index?
A. Contact Google. Try Google sitemaps or Yahoo Site Explorer

Although I’m not big on forum participation, the next SEW Forums Live event to come to my home turf will probably see me in attendance again. There is plenty to be learned from Forums whether participating or analyzing and reporting.

Mike Banks Valentine blogs on Search Engine news developments from RealitySEO and operates a small business ecommerce tutorial from WebSite101