Search Down Under – SEO Cafe Learnings

SEO Marketing

On Tuesday evening in a boardroom in Elizabeth Street MELBOURNE, 12 marketers / search professionals gathered for a roundtable discussion on organic search. This discussion was the first “trial” session for myself and my friends at internet retailing to facilitate a discussion around the topic of search in Australia.

The session was attended by marketers / search professionals from agencies and client side roles and were from all experience levels. What was great to see was the enthusiasm from those with expertise to share strategies and techniques and the thirst of knowledge from beginners. The session covered a range of discussion topics from social search through to algorithm changes, link building and measurement, and this article summarises the key learnings from the events discussion.

Googles Mayday Algorithm Changes

Google’s latest algorithm change in May termed “Mayday” has been dubbed the long tail game changer with many larger websites potentially feeling the effects of a loss in traffic from Google’s algorithm update. The session explored the impact of the Mayday change and the general consensus was that some had definitely seen a decline in traffic from long tail terms whilst others had seen steady month on month traffic.

Has your site been affected?

Through Google analytics advanced segmentation marketers / search pro’s can segment short tail and long tail terms into 2 categories and analyse the behaviour of each. For those wishing to utilise this segmentation technique refer to the following article which provides a quick link for the segment to be set up within your Google analytics profile – http://www.davidnaylor.co.uk/google-analytics-short-taillong-tail-segmentation.html

Twitter & Facebook Search

Twitter SearchThe group discussed the opportunity which lies within social search, however the discussion around “social search” being a search channel in its own right delivered some interesting insight. During the discussion statistics about the current volume of searches being conducted on some of the major social platforms and the growth potential in the future were shared.

Facebook Search; comScore said search queries on Facebook grew from 395 million in January 2010 to 436 million in February 2010, a growth of 10 percent. And by May 2010, search engine watch was quoting 600 million searches.

Twitter Search Statistics; According to statistics released at SMX Australia there are 500 million searches being conducted globally per month.

Leveraging This Opportunity

Viewing social channels as search platforms in their own right provides new opportunities for SEOs. By optimising content posted / shared on these platforms to maximise visibility for relevant searches, organisations can start to tap into the potential value derived from the many searches already occurring within the social space.

Measurement – Metrics To Measure Search Performance

Google AnalyticsThe discussion turned to how search pro’s and marketers are measuring organic search efforts. Whilst personalisation and localisation are playing an increasing role within SERPs it seems many still utilise ranking tools to measure performance alongside of other key indicators such as back links, indexed pages and of course traffic generated through search efforts and the engagement / conversion of that traffic.

However one of the most interesting comments regarding measurement surfaced around brand vs non brand related terms and how marketers should measure these as part of search performance. As search is an acquisition channel, should brand related searches count as a win for SEO traffic, or brand? Some within the group advised that brand terms are omitted from reporting the performance of search which is an interesting phenomenon. At the very least marketers need to consider if they should be segmenting organic search into 2 categories brand vs non brand search – as brand related searches could increase within any given month as a result of other marketing/brand initiatives and thus could skew general SEO performance.

Google’s Vertical Search Strategy & Implications

Vertical search has obviously been a key area of development / innovation for Google and Bing over the past year and it is interesting to see Google replicate a lot of filtering tools deployed by Bing in 2009. However one of the most interesting which was discussed during the session was the ramifications of the new “fewer shopping sites” filtering options on the search results page. Unfortunately for eCommerce sites, if a user selects this filtering option – it remains selected for subsequent searches – this may therefore result in many eCommerce sites dropping off page 1 of SERPs during an entire user browsing session – which could have significant ramifications on traffic.

It is difficult to quantify the impact these latest changes are having on sites. In addition it is also difficult to determine if Google have made this latest change to support the introduction of Google products into Australia and globally, however there is no doubt that this will be an topic that will be discussed in greater detail by local marketers / SEO’s over the coming months.

Thank you to all who attended the event. And for those that didn’t I hope the above summary provides some useful insight to further improve your organic search efforts.

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Are You a Little Channel Dependent?

Google Caffeine Update

In August 2009 it was reported that Webjet was cutting back on its paid search activity and was getting out of affiliate marketing because of its reliance on the channels. And whilst Webjet feels that its decision is also partly because of its brand maturity, I think this highlights an important consideration for brands in the online space – Is your online strategy too dependent on one online channel?

Google Caffeine UpdateChannel dependence is an issue that any online business should consider the ramifications of. Whilst Webjet has realised the potential issues before there have been serious consequences, other businesses have not been so lucky. A few years ago I stepped into an organisation operating in the classifieds sector that had a strong reliance on email marketing, so much so that it delivered 70% of their conversions. And tried as I might to change their mindset on singular channel reliance the powers at be were not bought in to increasing marketing spend to diversify. Only then, when site content dipped dramatically (which was the sole driver of the email program), did the organisation sit up and take note. The net effect resulted in a decline in site conversion of 30% in a 1 month period. Ouch!

And it seems in the world of the Google Behemoth that many businesses could be exposed to a similar issue. In a recent article in the Brisbane Times, Melbourne-based website publisher Joey Lee, who runs more than 15 websites, highlighted the impact a Google change had on his business in 2003. Mr Lee said “In 2003, with Google’s ‘Florida Update’ [a surprise new algorithm that dramatically changed search results and site listings] my traffic and revenue dropped 40 per cent.” So with a big Google update looming – Google Caffeine – could your online strategy be overexposed to organic search? Or with paid search inflation at spiralling out of control, can you business continue to compete in 12 months time?

The message here online marketers is simple. Whilst some online channels may appear to be more cost effective than others – consider the risks and costs associated with channel dependence, and channel proof your online strategy before your dealt a serious blow.

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