SES Sessions Provide Guidance on Search Engine Reputation Management

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On day two of Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo, I’ve had the opportunity to attend 3 more sessions and visit the expo floor. Highlights from the sessions and the expo are below. Look for a special Google Dance update tomorrow; it should be a no-holds-barred extravaganza.

Reputation Monitoring and Management
With increasing empowerment of consumers comes the awareness and need for reputation management. The panelists in this session provided both high level strategy and tactical guidance in implementing a reputation monitoring and management program. Nan Dawkins with RedBoots highlighted recent industry research, including these nuggets:

• 2/3 of consumers think blogs are a good resource for company or product info
• 1/3 of journalists use blogs to uncover breaking news
• 51% of journalists use blogs regularly
• 61.8% of US corporations do not monitor blogs

She also recommended that companies develop a response protocol, be honest when communicating and stay engaged through ongoing discussion. Andy Beal with MarketingPilgrim offered advice on implementing a monitoring program. The first step is to create RSS keyword feeds (feedster) and utilize an aggregator to track them (bloglines). Track variations of company and key employee names and competitors (Google Alerts) as well as industry feeds and blogs (technorati). Gauge visibility and credibility of bloggers to help determine the appropriate action (or inaction). Ideally, senior management should provide any response.

Landing Page Testing and Tuning
The best way to boost your bottom line is through implementation of a site conversion evaluation program. Tim Ash with SiteTuners shared common mistakes companies make when conducting A/B or multivariate testing. Those mistakes include ignoring your baseline (not factoring in seasonality, etc.), making decisions based on chance (roughly 33% of results) or incomplete/insufficient data. Ash also outlined test themes and elements, including “less is more,” grabbing attention, the offer, reinforcing the key message and personalization. Scott Miller with Vertster suggested these tips: focus on content above the fold, evaluating the landing page using a “blink of an eye” mentality, testing audio, value proposition, risk reversal, scarcity and price.

News Search SEO
I’m a big fan of search engine reputation management (SERM) as you may already know if you’ve read the latest issue of Search Marketing Standard. A complimentary skill set includes press release optimization and distribution via news search engines. Greg Jarboe with SEO-PR provided a helpful backdrop for the session with these statistics:

• 31% of Americans (50 million adults) use news search engines
• 75% of journalists research previous stories on subjects of interest
• Press releases have passed trade publications as top news source

Nan Dawkins with RedBoots discussed helpful tools for news search SEO, including BlogPulse (blog rankings/ratings), Topix.net (blog news search), Technorati (helps identify topics) and BlogPulse (identifies related blogs). Sally Falkow with Expansion Plus rounded out the discussion by suggesting that companies check Yahoo! News to see what sites cover the news in order to develop a list of relevant target media outlets and to incorporate an RSS feed for all press releases to enhance distribution.

Search Engines: Friend or Foe?
The last session of the day I attended included a laundry list of distinguished panelists discussing evidence that search engines are displaying anti-competitive tendencies, especially Google. The primary example was Google’s proposed API usage tax. Dana Todd voiced her frustration about lackluster reporting and access to data, as well as Google’s Quality Score adding a layer of complexity and frustration to PPC management. Additionally, Google took a beating for their ad sales team’s aggressive outreach to their largest advertisers, encouraging them to work directly with Google instead of working with an SEM agency. The audience and panel appreciated MSN participating on the panel, which I agree did bode well for the growing engine. In fact, the panel agreed that Google (now up to 60% market share) is acting very similarly to Microsoft in the 80s, and ironically, MSN is the anti-Google. The key takeaway seemed to be that the search engines are self-centered in their approach and would benefit from taking a step back and evaluating their core competencies, revenue models and their impact on the overall economy/ecosphere.

Off to Google Dance…

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