15 Search & Social Takeaways from SES Toronto 2011 #sesto

SES Toronto 2011I had the pleasure of attending Search Engine Strategies (SES) Toronto 2011, June 13 to 15, at the Hyatt Regency downtown. Here are just a few search and social media highlights from the sessions, networking lunches, and after-hours events.

SES Speakers’ Social Media Tips

Canadian technology personality Amber McArthur opened the show Monday morning with her keynote presentation, featuring 10 tips to help businesses launch their social media presence the right way (sans-Weinergate). A few of her recommended guidelines:

1. Create a Social Media Policy

Amber Mac opened with the importance of creating a policy governing the actions of all those involved in an organization’s social media strategy. She points us to Policy Tool as a simple way to generate a social media policy by filling out their online questionnaire.

2. Choose the Right Tools

Sounds simple enough, but Mac’s example of the American Dental Association’s lengthy approval process for Twitter posts (up to 14 days) is a good reminder of why different platforms work for different companies.

3. Measure, Then Tailor Content to Your Audience

Again, this sounds like common sense, but it seems a reminder is in order. People and companies that connect all platforms and autopost simultaneously across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., are missing the point. Mac warned the audience to consider volume and other factors when posting.

Day 2 at SES Toronto featured several social media sessions such as Social Media Solutions on a Budget with Lisa Buyer & Jason Yormark (moderated by Greg Jarboe) and Killer Facebook Targeting Tactics by Marty Weintraub. A couple of good takeaways on social media:

4. Go Deeper in Facebook Marketing With Inferred Targeting

Weintraub called this the golden age of marketing, thanks in part to the tendency of Facebook users to self-identify to the extreme. Market to people based on their circumstances (i.e., a woman who identifies as pregnant or a new mother is almost certainly going to make certain purchases in the near future).

5. “I Don’t Believe That Blogging is Dead. I Believe it’s Dead if You’re Not Doing it Well.”

While in Toronto for SES, Yormark appeared on Amber Mac’s tech show Webnation to share social media brand building tips for small to medium-sized businesses. In response to Mac’s question, “Is blogging dead?” he pointed out that blog content often ranks higher in search engines thanks to its rich, relevant nature. Yormark recommends the reach multiplying tool Triberr to help bloggers connect with a larger, more targeted audience.

Post Panda-pocalype SEO Discussion

You had to expect that a panel discussion on Google’s Panda algorithm changes (and the then-upcoming, now just-released Panda 2.2) would draw a crowd. Surprisingly, many in the audience indicated they were either not affected or saw an increase in traffic after the February and April updates.

Terry Van Horne, Dave Davies, Garry Przyklenk, and Thom Craver sat on the panel, with Jonathan Allen moderating. A few of the highlights of their session:

6. No More Than 40% of Referred Traffic Should Come From Google

Przyklenk, especially, was amazed at the number of those in the audience who, when asked by the panel, indicated they receive more traffic from organic Google searches than other sources. In his post-SES article, “Top 5 Google Panda Update SEO Survival Tips,” Przyklenk reiterates the danger of relying too heavily on organic Google traffic and recommends better optimized paid search campaigns as one way to diversify traffic and increase conversion.

7. Content Farms May Have a Place After All

This one was surprising, as the content farm label became synonymous with crap content in the initial stages of Panda panic. EHow often has a place and deserves to rank where it is, according to Van Horne, who rightly pointed out that sometimes you just want to know the quickest, dirtiest way to get something done. We don’t always need the history behind it, the definition, the encyclopedia-esque story behind it all. Davies added that Google needs to get a better understanding of what the user wants to define authority.

8. Get Your Site Cleaned Up. Like Now.

Among the recommendations to help improve on-site optimization:

  • Go over your site as a user, make it cleaner and more accessible, dump duplicate content and get rid of keyword-stuffed junk, according to Craver.
  • Install both Google and Bing webmaster tools and analytics, validate all errors and improve site speed.
  • Make good use of canonical and rel=author tags.

As an aside, I’ve met and worked with quite a few website owners who, despite their best intentions, seem to have suffered the effects of constant growth, added features, new content, etc., without ever stopping to reorganize the site as a whole. They’re almost blinded to reality when it comes to their own site, much in the same way a hoarder grows accustomed to walking around the clutter.

Your new friend has come to visit, and they’re tripping all over your junk. They’re running out of the house like their hair is on fire and they’re not coming back. It might be painful and tedious and time consuming, but it has to be done.

9. Find Links and an Audience Through Social Media

Przyklenk recommended using social to find other sources of traffic; ones that will convert better than organic Google traffic. Social media helps build communities of engaged visitors and should also be part of your linking strategy.

10. Google +1 Could be a Factor… Maybe… Possibly?

The panel likened +1 to Facebook likes, created so Google wouldn’t have to rely on other sites for social signals. Its strength, both current and potential, is unknown; the panel identified a lack of user education as a potential stumbling block in +1’s path to popularity and regular use by the average reader.

More SEO Tips and Tricks from SES Toronto

11. Understand How Your Audience Uses Mobile to Develop a Strategy Before Building a Mobile Version of Your Site

In his Smart Mobile Marketing presentation, with co-presenter Deborah Hall of web2mobile, The Mobile Institute founder Michael J. O’Farell explained how to prioritize mobile efforts. He recommends using Google analytics to determine not only the volume of mobile use, but also the OS used by visitors to help develop specs for a mobile site.

12. Investigate Keywords That Imply User Action (and Identify Them as a Potential Consumer) to Find the “Low-Hanging Fruit”

In his session Keyword Forensics – Exploring the Hidden Keywords That Many SEOs Miss, Search Engine Workshops’ John Alexander explained the difference between straight up keyword research and keyword forensics. He suggests SEOs can avoid highly competitive and saturated keyword phrases by examining them as input by users rather than gathering data to decide on keywords already chosen to research.

13. Usability is Polite; Accessibility is the Law

So says Jim Hedger, from Digital Always Media and co-host (with Davies) of Webcology on Webmaster Radio. In the panel session SEO is Dead… No It’s Not, Hedger responded to an audience question on what to look for in the “new SEO,” with the suggestion that it’s time to get back to basics. Before links were commoditized by Google, content was king – and still is, alongside usability and accessibility as the most important “new” strategies.

14. Search Events That Occur Off-site Still Carry Powerful Signal of Purchase Intent and Can be Used in Retargeting

In Is Retargeting/Remarketing Right For You? Chris Sukornyk of Chango shared an excellent infographic on the seven types of search retargeting, only three of which actually occur on-site. The visual representation of intent and action, with the additional measure of strength of intent, is a great place for those new to the concept of retargeting to start.

15. Black Hat vs. White Hat Unconference is a ‘Can’t Miss’ Event

Yes, this is an important takeaway, as I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to hear black hats plied with free drink tickets spill their darkest, dirtiest secrets – none of which I can share, for fear I’ll be kicked out of Fight Club… erm, SES. Hedger did a fabulous job emceeing and getting people up to share. Can’t wait for the next one!

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