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8 Search and Social Takeaways from Covario INFLECTIONPoint 2012

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searchin-safari-inflectionpointSEO agency and software firm Covario welcomed clients, non-profits and media to Huntington Beach for their 6th annual INFLECTIONPoint conference Feb. 6 to 8. The sessions and networking time were predictably abuzz about the convergence of search and social this year.

It's not a new topic, though the conversation has certainly grown and seems to have shifted from, "What are we going to do when this happens," to, "It's happening, what do we do now?"

There is no shortage of commentary and speculation, but little hard numbers or case studies to follow when it comes to finding the winning formula of search and social. And as we well know, that formula is going to look very different for one of America's largest banks when compared to a local, nonprofit animal shelter, for example.

I had the opportunity to speak with both of these types of organizations and many more this week, at INFLECTIONPoint. Sessions included a variety of keynotes, panels, and case studies that dove deep into a variety of online marketing topics, most notably the changing SEO landscape. Attendees ranging from e-tailers to NPOs to multinational corporations had the chance to participate in the discussion around how SEO and social work together now and will continue to do so in the coming months.

Some of these highlights of the event came out of the sessions. Participants also shared a few points that really hit home with them, or even set the wheels in motion for changes in their own strategy.

Build Pages With Future Products and Value Retention in Mind

Danny Crouch from Broadcom Corporation, shared an interesting tip on value retention, especially for companies with multi-generation products.

"If you have a product page or microsite with a lot of traction, take the old page that has value and credibility, update the content for your new product version and put the old content on a new page. Don't throw away your good pages for the next best flavor of ice cream," said Crouch. He explained further, "Better yet, think about this from the beginning so when you're creating new pages and URLs, you aren't version-specific and therefore limiting."

Infographics Drive Links and Shares When Relevant & Interesting

Intel's Cory Carrillo noted that the infographic session had been of particular importance for their company, as they're looking into using them more for B2C. They have been using them for B2B with success and are exploring the potential benefits of incorporating more imagery and potentially viral content in their search and social strategy.

Research and Planning Promote Buy-In within Sensitive Industries

Brent Bouldin, who oversees all facets of digital marketing for Bank of America, said their organization must carefully weigh risk and reward for the moves they know they want and need to make in the online space.

Bouldin said he believes the strategic direction they (conference speakers) recommend makes a lot of sense. In the regulated banking environment, there are governance issues and a vetting process to consider. “We want to be where our customers are, on the channels they’re using,” he said. “The strategies they’re presenting are sound and it’s more a matter of learning how to integrate it, with all factors accounted for.”

For an E-tailer, Everything is SEO

Content generation is harder than it looks, said Nick Scilingo of Campmor. He described the challenges his company faced when they decided to get social, including a YouTube name squatter and the reality of creating a steady stream of quality content for a blog. All the while, he said, they had to be mindful of how every tweak and effort on site and off affected their optimization strategy.

"Everything we do is SEO. The business has to revolve around SEO in that we have to think of every decision, how will this affect our SEO?" said Scilingo.

They approached their new blog with a Field of Dreams mentality (if you build it, they will come), he said, publishing to it but not promoting blog posts until the quirks were all worked out. After a period of internal review, feedback, and publishing, they were confident that their blog strategy and its effect on SEO were positive and began actively promoting it.

Industry Leaders and Innovators Don’t Get There by Following the Pack

Imelda Khoo, Online Marketing Manager at Tektronix, shared her perspective on the convergence of search and social after speaking in one of the panel discussions.

“We’ve been talking about search and social together for so long, all around relationships an correlations. We’re starting to see the stronger convergence now in how social affects organic search results,” she said. Khoo continued, “A lot of what we’re seeing is not necessarily proven; they’re more insights than proven facts. So we’re trying to predict and we need to be thinking ahead, rather than doing what everyone else has been doing already. If you’re doing that, you’ll get the same results they are and will always be trying to catch up.”

Content Marketing a Hot Topic

Content marketing was on everyones minds, as it has been at pretty much every event and on every marketing blog over the last year. Brian Gorman from Franchise Services said this was the theme that overwhelmingly came through for him and his colleagues. “The value of the written word in search continues to grow for us. It helps generate conversation and links that help our position in organic search,” he told us. “We’re thinking on the social strategies from the conference and ratcheting up those efforts with our blog.”

In Social, Take Advantage of Timing and Levity

Covario’s Jeff MacGurn shared a number of helpful insights into how and when users engage with and share content, based on their analysis of 50,000+ pieces of content over several months.

He showed that Thursday is the biggest day of the week for views, followed by Tuesday and Wednesday. Posts saw the most activity between 1pm and 7pm PST, peaking at 4pm. He noted that at that time of the day, people are looking for a bit of levity as the work day wraps up. Humorous posts do better later in the day. 4pm to 10pm PST are the best times for content to go viral, he said.

MacGurn shared a few other social sharing tips for marketers:

  • Hook lines tend to be more infectious than optimized titles. 
  • Humor and contention play well in viral content. 
  • Know when your audience are using the social platform and publish content at the optimal time. 
  • Know your influencers, develop relationships and leverage them to promote your content.

Organizations Lacking Budget Need to Learn From the Mistakes of Others

Covario sponsored a few of the non-profits they support to attend the event. I had a chance to chat with them about the unique challenges they face, given their strict budgets.

Marcie Grube from the Helen Woodward Animal Center said, “As a NPO, we don’t have budget at all for paid search. We need to lobby within the organization for capital for SEO and social and it’s tough, because that capital could otherwise be used to save the lives of the animals we help. However, if we invest in mobile-friendly, optimized changes, we’ve found that the payoff is exponential.”

Anna Glenn from the Arizona Humane Society agrees. “We learn a lot from companies like the ones here. We can then apply those lessons in our NPO. We don’t have to go through as much trial and error on our limited budget.” She also explained that it’s easier to get buy-in from decision makers after experiencing a few successes.

Other conference highlights included Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane talking analytics and Forrester Research’s Josh Bernoff on social amplification and positive disruption.

As for Covario CEO Russ Mann, he kept within the Searchin’ Safari theme, which was complete with an outdoor concert by the Surf City All Stars and a dolphin tour for the hardier souls in the crowd, in explaining what he would like participants to take away from the event. “There’s so much opportunity right now, so many waves; the surf’s up and search is up, too.”


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