New Tools and Tactics for the User-Driven Web: Search Engine Strategies 2011

Publishing Trends thanks marketing and content development consultant Rich Kelley for this report.

Which webpage headline converts better: “Sign up for a free account” or “Sign up in 60 seconds”? Is there a better way to check backlinks than by using Google? Should you hire an agency to retarget website visitors or can you do it yourself? Panelists at the 2011 Search Engine Strategies Conference grappled with exactly these questions—and many more—in three days of nonstop presentations in New York City in March.

Understanding what a user intends: Kicking off the first day with a dynamic Prezi presentation, Wpromote’s dueling Mikes Mothner and Stone stressed how a Facebook user differs from a Google searcher: “Facebook users have no intent to purchase. They’re not searching for your product.” This explains why Facebook ads get stale faster and need to be refreshed constantly. Facebook users also dislike ads that link to outside sites. The Mikes get better results when a Facebook ad links to a fan page inside Facebook—and then links to the outside site.  Wpromote discovers what works for users by split testing page elements: “Sign up in 60 seconds” converted 30% better than “Sign up for a free account.” Replacing a globe image with a lock for a global hosting site improved conversions by 200%!

Infographics draw traffic. Want to draw traffic to your site? Wpromote found that infographics are catnip for tweeters and bloggers. “The best infographics are educational, humorous, controversial, or newsworthy,” they said. Inspired by the popularity of  Flowtown’s “The Evolution of the Geek”—and its absence of women—Wpromote created their own variation: “Which female tech influencer are you?” and watched it go viral and garner major media attention.

Publishing and marketing infographics abound. How many of these are you familiar with?

“Why publishing a book is like playing lotto”

“Online publishing: small vs big brands”

“Top social media brands”

“The journey of Amazon”

“The Noob guide to online marketing”

“Google’s collateral damage”

“Social media maps for social media marketing“

Changes in search: Incisive Media VP Mike Grehan identified the biggest change of the past year as the shift toward information seeking on social media sites, which he calls “information seeking via a chain of trust.” Local, mobile, social and multimedia are all converging. “Digital communities now counterbalance one-sided branded messages” and apps allow users to sidestep Web browsers. Yet certain SEO principles don’t change. Some on Grehan’s list reappeared in other presentations:

  • The quality of your links is more important than the quantity (bad links can actually lower your quality score on search engines and lower your search traffic. One SEO clinic revealed that many publishers are inadvertently accruing bad links by posting press releases to generic PR sites.)
  • Images always trump text on search results page (make sure your images have alt tags so they get found)
  • Display ads improve search conversions (sometimes you have look beyond the last click to attribute conversion results accurately)

Social media tips: As social media evolves, its strengths can show up in surprising areas. Lisa Buyer from The Buyer Group cited some of the surprising findings from the 2010 PRWeek/PR Newswire Media Survey: 43% of journalists reported getting pitched through social media—and, amazingly, 70% of these pitches resulted in coverage (versus 0 to 20% through standard media). Buyer also provided a tip on how to keep your blog fresh on Facebook: rather than linking your blog posts to your Facebook feed (where they scroll down over time), set up your blog as a tab on your Facebook page: the most recent post will always be available to visitors.

The power of Like: Facebook’s extension of the “Like” button to websites outside Facebook has opened new targeting possibilities that marketers have just started to discover. As Harry J. Gold from Overdrive Interactive emphasized, every time you “like” a product anywhere on the Web, you are doing three things: “expressing what you like to your friends, telling Facebook what you’re interested in,” and, most importantly for marketers, “becoming a ‘fan’ of an object.” Last October Facebook released its admin interface to contact Likers. The owner of the Liked product now has the ability to contact the Liker about that product through Facebook. Levi’s, for instance, has put the Like button on every product on its website—and can now send targeted offers to anyone who has “liked” skinny jeans. Putting the Like button on your products costs nothing and gets you direct access to the Likers.  In July, 2010 Facebook reportedly served 3 billion Like buttons a day. Expect to start seeing a lot more everywhere.

Retargeting: Last year’s emergent theme became pervasive this year. Ever see an ad for a product moments after you almost bought it? That’s retargeting: the process by which a visitor gets a cookie on your site so that she sees your ads when she visits other sites. There are several agencies that specialize in collecting the data, doing the coding, and setting up the ad networks to enable you to do this (BlueKai, Chango, Criteo, AdRoll, FetchBack) but David Szetala from Clix Marketing explained how advertisers on the Google Display Network can do this inexpensively now using Google AdWords. Once you define in the new AdWords Audience tab the visitors you want to target (e.g., visitors who don’t convert or customers who abandon the shopping cart) and choose what ad group you want them to see, Google will supply you with javascript for the relevant pages on your website. Visitors to those pages will then see the ads you chose when they visit sites on the Google Display Network.  You pay only when someone clicks on the ad and, because you are retargeting qualified visitors, you can probably increase your CPC for those ads.

Content farms: Greg Jarboe of SEO-PR weighed in on the content farm debate by wondering whether “high cost” publishers are deliberately trying to confuse “low cost” content with “low quality” content. Stung by publishers’ charges that its search algorithms favored low quality content, Google changed its algorithms. Yet the evidence is that Demand Media, eHow, and other low cost content suppliers came through the algorithm change fine. “Usage is powering search,” said Jarboe. If you search for how to do a “bunny hop” on your dirt bike, four of the five top videos will be from Demand Media.

Cool tools: Jim Boykin of WeBuildPages returned with his popular talk on cool tools. We can’t cover all 28 but the ones he seemed most exciting about were the SpyFu SEO Recon Files (reports on how many clicks you should be getting from your organic placements on Google, how many you are getting, what that traffic would have cost if you had to pay for it; who your top organic competitors are; where you rank on the keywords you’re bidding on, what keywords you should be bidding on) and the rather scary Spokeo, which likely reveals much more about you than you believed the Web could possibly know. Finally, if you are using Google to check your backlinks, Boykin urges you to stop it, now. Google tracks backlinks to domains, not to sites. To check your backlinks properly (for now), go to and enter –

Leave a Comment


  1. Apr 3, 20118:12 am

    These tools were so helpful for me, as a writer. I’ll be paying more attention to that “like” button on Facebook, as well as, improving the quality of my links.

    Keep providing this valuable content – we are very appreciative. 🙂

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