Tales From SES San Jose

While I unfortunately had to fly back from San Jose a day earlier than the conference ended it was a truly enjoyable and enriching experience. Having the opportunity to speak at the conference was a pleasure and I would like to extend special thanks to Danny for the opportunity.

Of course there were many sessions to attend and much information gained and/or reinforced. No matter how much you might know there’s always a different take on what’s going on and the SES attendees were certainly a wealth of differing opinions, all of them valid in some way.

The main drawback I found at this conference was that there were 5 sessions going on at a time and I only have one body to attend them in. I supposes that’s why they hold more than one. :) I look forward to SES New York.

Here are the sessions I attended and the Coles-notes version of what I brought back:

Search Behaviour Research Update:
I attended this one primarily to hear David Williams of 360i. I am a big fan of much of the research they do into PPC conversion rates based on generic vs. branded keywords. I was pleased to find out that their second white paper of the subject is out and can be downloaded from their site at (link removed as the page no longer exists). Highly recommended reading.

Some interesting point from notes from the session:

  • Statistically searches linger briefly on the top sponsored listings prior to moving to the organic results. Properly worded this can be a powerful tool for traffic.
  • The human eye visits first the top sponsored spots, then the top natural listings followed by the top paid listing on the left and then the 7th or 8th sponsored listing! This means that you will get more visibility bidding to be number 7 than number 4 in that paid results.
  • MSN users search further down in the results than either of the other two major engines.
  • 44% of all conversions come from paid results for consumer good whereas B to B focus on the top organic listings (likely due to an increased awareness of the “highest bidder” nature the paid listings have).
  • 62% of searchers will only click on results from the first page and then either switch engines or phrases.
  • 36% of people believe that the top ranked companies are leaders in their field.

Branding And Search:

  • 79% of searchers will discover a new brand through search.
  • 56% of searchers will look at an unintended site provided it shows up in the search results.
  • 21% of searchers will consider a new brand if it shows up in the results.
  • Targeting “loosely related” phrases can be good for brand awareness but the cost must be low per click or easy to target organically.
  • People have “disposable time” and spend much of that online. Entertain them during this period and they will stay on your site and become for familiar with your brand.
  • Search holds power as it grabs people when they are looking to complete a task. The job of the online marketer is to determine the task and insure that it is fulfilled on your site.
  • As opposed to offline, online the user is in complete control of their experience. Make that experience helpful and/or entertaining and you will have their business. Fail in this and they will go to the next search result.
  • In the PPC world, unclicked impressions are a good thing. This is a free branding opportunity. (I have to admit that I never thought of it that way)
  • Increases in conversion from PPC ads tend to increase when combined with TV (and logically other) offline ads.
  • A sample site realized a 28% increase in conversion from organic SEO when PPC was added.

The Search Laboratories:

This session didn’t provide much in the way of specific useful insight however it was very entertaining and was the source of one of my favorite quotes by Google’s Peter Norvig.

One thing that was reinforced strongly was the need to utilize the Yahoo! social network such at Flickr and del.icio.us to insure that over time the site does well on Yahoo! search. Of course this wasn’t specifically indicated by the fine folks at Yahoo! but those of us that could read between the lines certainly could see it.

Successful Site Architecture:

The majority of what I got from this session was some great tools (highly recommended to check out by-the-way). They are:

And a FireFox extension I hadn’t yet installed (shocking): XRay

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