SearchFest has definitely grown up a lot since the first one I attended in 2008; attendance was booming and there was a line-up of first-class speakers including, Rand Fishkin, Eric Peterson, Marty Weintraub, Matthew Inman, and Matt McGee (to name but a few); not to mention all of the Pacific Northwest talent.
My only disappointment was not unlocking the Swarm Badge on Foursquare. Only seven other people checked in out of an audience of about… 400 people? (at a guess). Maybe Foursquare uptake isn't as high as what I thought.
Anyway, here are my five key takeaways from the conference:
1. Bing Maps (cool, but creepy)
Stefan Weitz, Director at Bing, and all round funny presenter, brought big smiles to the early morning crowd. As part of his presentation he demo'd how Tweets can be overlaid onto Bing Maps. Thanks to the geo-location setting on Twitter mobile, you could see tweets coming out of different buildings, streets, parks, trains… all over the map, literally! As an example, here’s one tweet that came out of the Governor Hotel on SearchFest day. Bryan, I see yooouu…
As a lover of all things geeky, I find this very cool, but can also see how this could creep some folks out – people who are creeped out about Foursquare are likely to have a coronary over this one. But as the Social Media panel quite rightly observed, in order to get something (ie. better sharing and transparency of information and knowledge), you usually have to give something up in return (ie: your privacy… as with any social media).
Creeped or not, you should definitely go and check this out.
> Go to Bing Maps
> Download Bing Maps Beta (bottom left of page) and install Silverlight
> Click on "Map Apps" (bottom left of page)
> Click on "Bing Twitter Maps" button
2. SiteLinks are your friend
SiteLinks are those extra links (and sometimes images, plus extra links) that Google displays in search engine results. David Szetela, from Clix Marketing, provided a really useful overview of this.
SiteLinks give you almost 2x the real estate in search, and can take searchers deeper into your site to the page of relevance (great, especially when keyword intent is ambiguous). Google claims a 30% average increase in click-thru rate for SiteLinks, but David has seen double that for campaigns he has worked on.
Not everyone is eligible for SiteLinks. You need to be ranking in the top spot for the keyword you are targeting and have good domain authority, among other factors. To see if you are eligible, be sure to check in your Google Adwords Account (if you are, you will see a SiteLinks call out). Or if in doubt, speak with your Google rep.
3. Don’t put blogs in the corner
Jennifer Laycock won my vote for key takeaway at the Social Media Strategy session. Her winning statement: Blogs should be at the center of your social media strategy. There are a number of reasons why:
- Blogs provide an environment where people don't feel like they are being sold to (even if they are)
- In social media environments, people are more likely to link through to a blog than link through to a corporate site
- There are too many distractions in other social channels (think related video links on YouTube); and lost people lead to lost conversions
4. Facebook: Be there, or be on the dole
I always scrunched my nose up when it came to marketing on Facebook. Thanks to Marty Weintraub, I am now a convert (and luckily, still have my job).
You’ve probably heard that if Facebook was a country, it would be the third largest country in the world. Well, when you translate that to Internet use, Facebook is half of the Internet. Yes, half. HUGE. Therefore, in Marty’s wise words: “Not being in Facebook paid search is negligent”.
Now some of the B2B-ers out there may be rolling their eyes right now, but Marty is a smart guy. When he says things like "B2B rocks at Facebook and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise” we should listen to him. In his 12 minute presentation (which just blew the entire audience away), he served up 62 different Facebook segment examples – ranging from tree huggers to bio-medical engineers. And these weren’t piddly lists of people either; these numbers were in the hundreds of thousands, some in the millions.
Experiment and see how many of your customers you are missing out on in Facebook by going to http://www.facebook.com/advertising/
Bottom line: Facebook PPC is like Google SEO. You need to be there.
5. Drag your manager along
Sometimes your manager needs to hear things first hand, from the experts. In the web analytics session, Eric Peterson hit it on the nail for me:
"Data doesn't analyze itself. You need people. The question is not "Do we need…?", but "How many…?"
When smart people like Eric and Avinash say that you need to be equipped with a hoard of analytics ninjas, your manager has no excuse not to listen. I also overheard a similar Twitter comment from a social media session going on at the same time:
@ECdavies: Community Manager- It can't be done in an hour a day.
So if you didn't already, bring your manager along with you to the next conference so they can hear this first hand... and of course to see people’s reactions when you tell them how many staff you have (or rather, don't have). Just saying :)
My final takeaway (though it doesn't take a social media "expert" to figure this one out) is that Twitter is the bomb. It has given me the opportunity to connect with some amazing people in the search and social marketing field, which is so refreshing, especially when you work client-side and have few (or no) like-minded people to geek out with, or bounce ideas off of.
I met some top Twitter friends for the first time at SearchFest, and I can say hand-on-heart that although I use Facebook for the people I know, I use Twitter for the people I wish I knew.
You can catch up with all the action from SearchFest by using the event hashtag #searchfest