SES 2007 explores latest trends in search engine strategies

By August 21, 2007

Several thousands attendees come to San Jose to learn how to draw visitors and customers to their sites using search strategies. Click fraud, video and social media are some of the hot topics at SES 2007 which continues through Au

gust 23 at the San Jose Convention Center.
Susan works for Google in Seattle. Ryan is a MBA student at Columbia. They have just met on a San Jose sidewalk while looking for the convention center. A car pulls up and the passenger asks them for directions to SES in a German accent. Seconds later, it is the turn of two Indian men to ask the same question. Finally, a San Jose municipal worker points the lost visitors in the right direction, a very offline solution for such online-savvy folks. It was a humorous introduction to a conference dedicated to search strategies.

Two key words heard over and over again at SES are organic and paid listings. Organic, or natural, results are what search engines crawlers bring back when you type “Barry Bonds home run” in the query box. Paid listings show up on the right of the screen and Internet users tend to treat them more cautiously because they are, well, paid for.

But as Danny Sullivan, an observer of search engines since 1995 and the editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, reminded attendees in the aptly-named “Introduction to Search Engine Marketing” session, a good marketer uses both types of searches. “You want to influence the organic listings in an appropriate way. When you understand how search engines work, you can improve your ranking. But nobody can guarantee you the #1 spot on Google. So you buy ads.”

“Search engines are textual creatures. Give them text and they will do better,” added Sullivan. “After designing your site for the two main browsers [Internet Explorer and Firefox], you have to design for the search engines with a unique title for each page and repetition of relevant words. Avoid Google because Google doesn’t do Flash.” In a cautionary tale, he recounted how Nike’s sites only draw 1% of the searches for “shoes”, mostly because of its intensive use of Flash and lack of that keyword on its pages, whereas shoe-site Zappos draws 21% of the searches with its not-so-pretty, but search-friendly site.

In another session entitled “Integrated Marketing”, Kelly Graziadei, senior director at Yahoo Search Marketing, told the audience about a successful integrated campaign: a New Year’s campaign where Special K and Yahoo led people who had made a resolution to lose weight to a site offering health tips and an online support group. “Search is a connection point for brand awareness,” she advised attendees. Her co-panelists broached the topic of video search. “Video is a daunting experience, but video SEO [search engine optimization] is the next frontier,” predicted Bob Heyman, chief search officer at MediaSmith.

Speakers were full of cautionary tales on the first day of the conference. James Lamberti, senior VP at, comScore Networks pointed out that Kellogg’s had spent millions of dollars marketing itself as a maker of organic cereal, yet failed to grab the “organic cereal” keyword on search engines. “Competitors can intercept that customer for 50 cents a click. That is a missed opportunity,” he regretted. In general, his research has shown him that GPC (consumer packaged goods) players are still failing to exploit the untapped benefits of search marketing to reach customers.

At SES San Jose and its sister editions around the world (New York, Paris, Milan, China and more), more marketers are getting educated about the techniques of SEM (search engine marketing) and SEO (search engine optimization), hoping to direct online searchers with zillions of choices to their sites.

Isabelle Boucq, for Atelier

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