On Thursday and Friday this week, I attended SAScon in Manchester, which covered all areas of digital marketing. I have summarised day one in the post below. Lots was covered so if there is anything that I have missed then please feel free to leave a comment at the end of the post.
First up was a talk about the industry in numbers with James Murray from Experian Hitwise. He presented some amazing figures in regards to how the use of the Internet has changed over the last 3 years (2008-2011). Most notably is that social media website usage has grown from 8% to 13% in the UK with Facebook.com growing from 21% of that market to 54%. Most surprisingly, Twitter.com only accounts for around 3% of the UK market this year but it is important to note that many users connect to twitter through API based services and this data is not accounted for by Experian Hitwise in this report.
Facebook is now the UK’s second biggest website. 1 in every 6 page views on the Internet in the UK is a Facebook page, that accounts for 20 million hours per day in total.
A artistic presentation from Dan Lukas from Needle Insights then followed. Dan discussed the difference between commercial websites and free websites with the former operating a website purely for money and the latter doing it for the love. This division has long existed however it is starting to merge. The barriers of website monetisation are changing. These days the websites directed at not creating money are actually generating more revenue than some large commercial websites. This is through things like adsense and the social marketplaces such as Amazon Kindle Store, Steam Games, Apple App Store.
A quick Q and A session followed these talks with some useful pointers:
Paid Search Innovation
Duncan Fisher, Head of Paid Search at Latitude summarised the recent innovations in the sector. The paid search continues to grow at a fast pace, after all it is Googles key revenue generator. It was only a year ago the search results were just plain old text, these days it looks completely different with maps, videos, products and site links.
Many Google AdWords users have adopted these new services in good numbers: 64% use the site links extension, 49% use the location extensions, 37% use remarketing to target users on the content network, 22% use product extensions and 22% use the product list.
Guy Levine from Return on Digital presented an exciting insight into optimising Google’s remarketing feature. It is important to understand the difference between remarketing and retargeting. The former is based upon the Cost per Click (CPC) model and will receive less impressions and traffic then retargeting. Its is also important to note that your Google remarketing campaign will only go live after you have collected 500 customer page view cookies.
You can run remarketing text ads on the Display Network, however picture ads are a much better option. Be aware though that picture adverts can take up to two weeks to be approved, so plan your campaign in advance! A cookie lasts 365 days, so choose the best time to launch it, for example, you can create seasonal campaigns well before the actual time.
It is easy to get carried away with the remarketing model, if you run campaigns for a few days users with find your advert catchy, after a few weeks it could irritate many, after a few months it can have detrimental affect. Use lots of different designs to keep user interest through freshness, use the frequency capping option to avoid users being over exposed to adverts and add negative placements to stop your ad from showing on poor performing websites.
Guy had one last absolute killer tip on targeting your ads to a specific demographic, which is of course an option in Google AdWords, instead of just collecting a general audience list from your organic website visitors in which you can’t control who gets the cookie. Run a demographic targeted Facebook campaign and drive relevant traffic to specific landing page and create highly targeted ads designed for each demographic. Brilliant stuff.
Remarketing is not just about trying to capture sales from missed opportunities, try cross selling new products to existing customers who have already converted. You can set adverts to start showing for specific individuals at certain times: one week after cookie is collected, two weeks after and one month, very useful.
Enterprise Level SEO
Although unless you are an SEO for a large organisation, you are unlikely to experience the completely different world of enterprise level SEO. Asif Hassan from MSN Emea provided us all with an insight into the day to day running of a global network of websites with over one million pages of content to optimise.
The technical considerations of running such a network include developing an SEO friendly platform, prioritising website tasks, running A/B tests for a few weeks before updates are eventually rolled out. Asif’s time management is key to successful SEO campaigns. He spends 25% on managing his time, 25% on site reviews, 20% training others, 20% on email correspondence and 10% on reporting of company KPIs to senior members of the organisation.
Some of the challenges of enterprise SEO include: ROI justification, technical implementation, performance measuring, communication between different languages and broken link management. To succeed they need to find the right keywords and the best practices, but above all make sure everyone in the organisation is doing SEO as part of their job.
Martin MacDonald from OMD and SEOforums.org then presented a review on where most big brands are wasting money and missing out on easy, obvious and quick wins. The reality is that most big brand websites are out of date and behind the game and with some simple optimisation could make some big gains. According to Martin, who works with many big UK brands, is that getting stuff done is just a pain, it can take weeks even months for the simplest of changes to be signed off and the website updated.
The best way for SEOs to communicate to big brands is to forget about SEO itself and talk business at their level. Show the advantages of the SEO not what you will be doing. Incentivise everyone within an organisation to think about search on everything they do. There have been many high profile disasters where other marketing channel departments have based campaigns around search without first checking the results or even telling the SEO what they are planning on doing. For example, including marketing messages such as “search LED TV online” These companies wasted £millions and what’s worse is that their competitors got their traffic as a result because they didn’t rank for their messaging!
One of the biggest issues is that big brands are not targeting vertical keywords, only their brand names. They need to align their brand with more of their audience. Martin highlighted a couple of related keywords where the only pages ranking highly were sites like eHow and other content sites. If the brand name sites were to target these keywords with content on their own site they would easily rank highly. If they are capturing this relevant traffic then they are getting positive brand association for little cost or even for free.
Mobile marketing has been such a buzz word for the last few years and its always promised to make a big impact on the search market, but 2011 is finally the year of the mobile internet growth, Andrew Barke, Industry Head for Google’s Operations explains.
36% of mobiles in the UK are Smartphones and 15% of all Google UKs search queries are made through a mobile device. Impressive statistics and they are only likely to further increase more many years to come. Even if mobile optimised and mobile commerce websites are still few and far between, research shows that 54% of UK mobile users research a product online before buying in store, so there is a huge opportunity to give your brand extra presence.
Mobile users are constantly searching for information online, 50% of them start their browsing session with search. One in three of those focus on location based searches. Targeting ads to mobile users through Google Adwords creates better personal engagement with users and there are only five adverts per results page rather than the 10 on desktop browser results, so adverts get better exposure. Google’s research has shown that there is an 80% average increase in Click Through Rates when compared to desktop targeted adverts and there is an average increase in conversions of 43%.
In his second presentation of the day, Duncan Fisher added some more interesting statistics from their research. Google operates a 98.29% market share of mobile search and for advertisers, the average Cost Per Click is less then the equivalent advert on desktop results. For most markets it is half!
Some of Duncan’s tips for advertisers included: bid aggressively, use a mobile optimised landing page, use sitelinks, test click to call, click to download and location extensions depending on your market. It is important to note that you cannot use the word iPhone or Android in your creatives.
Regulation In Search
In the final session of the day I decided to listen to the arguments for and against regulation in the search industry. This is a really hot topic for those concerned and the talk ended in a great viewing of opinions from the audience. On the 1st March 2011 new Advertising Standard Authority (ASA) regulations came into practice. Malcolm Philips, Code Policy Manager at the Committee of Advertising Practice gave us all an explanation of the new rules. I won’t recite them all word by word here as they are well written legal codes of practice, but previously online media was covered under all non-broadcast code and was not always suitable.
The ASA introduced the extended digital online remit after receiving 3,500 complaints in 2008-2009. It states that marketing communications must not mislead consumers by hiding material or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible , ambiguous or untimely manner. It covers all website content, not just paid for advertising messages (which have been covered for the last 10 years already). The ASA is a relatively small team and they are unable to proactively police the internet, all investigations are made follow at least one submitted complaint.
Judith Lewis from Beyond then presented what is right and wrong with the SEO sector. Many see SEO as a cowboy industry, anyone can claim to be an SEO. At the moment there is no industry body to check standards of those working in SEO. Should there be one? Self regulation is not working, where as it does in some other industries. If there was regulation, it would help increase business for valid SEO’s and eventually weed out those practicing badly. On the other hand, there are already practices in place that make certain claims a criminal offence. In some respects, SEO is an immature industry and there are no clear set of skills, we don’t know what we are suppose to know. In summary, putting a industry body together will cost a lot of money and it’s sustainability will always be a factor.
The first day of SAScon provided some useful insight into the rapidly evolving industry of search. A great line up of speakers set the tone of the conference which was only to continue in to day two in the coming years. Stay tuned for my day two round up on the topics of Conversion Attribution, Analytics, Location based marketing, Search Technologies, merging Search and Public Relations.