Small Business SEM Takeaways from SES NY

I attended SES New York a few weeks ago – and although I went with my agency R&D hat on – I also had my small business SEM (define) hat on, and dug around looking for nuggets of information that would benefit small business owners with their Web sites and search.

International Marketing Tidbit

A question about domains and hosting when marketing internationally came up on Day 1 during the Organic Listings Forum – featuring Mike Grehan, Greg Boser, Dave Naylor, and Jill Whalen. International marketing can be highly profitable if done correctly. It was suggested using a dot-com or dot-org domain was fine, and that hosting your site in that country was beneficial.

Logistically, sometimes this isn't easy – we have a site hosted in Germany that we struggle to pay for every year with money transfers and exchange rates. My advice? Find a hosting company in the country you want to target and make sure they take credit cards.

Video Search and Advertising

Also on Day 1, I attended a Kelsey Group session, Video Made the SMB Star, and came away with some good information that can help with video paid search advertising, and with video distribution as a link-building exercise or for ranking purposes. With limited funds and time, simple and affordable is the name of the game. The products I saw in this session impressed me.

EZShowStudio.com lets you make your own video and voiceovers with stock photography. The end product is much nicer than whatever you've tried to put together with Windows Movie Maker. You're basically limited to using the video within their platform due to copyright issues with the stock photography, but they will push the end product out to the search engines and help optimize the video. They also provide embedded code so you can feature the video on your own Web site.

The same session featured Andrew Bennett of TurnHere.com. This was a clever business model – basically they'll pair a small business with a video production company in their general area and help negotiate the contract. They'll also help you distribute your video content across the Internet. You own this video – and can do endless things with it (including remixing) in an effort to make multiple videos.

Mixpo.com enhances videos you already have with on-video buttons and banners, among other things. This was a great way to tie the two video services together. It's also great way for a small business to get into the video arena the right way – with good quality images and messages.

SEM Small Business Blitz

I moderated a panel on SEM Small Business Blitz with some of the biggest names in small business online marketing. Takeaways were many, and I loved the approach each panelist took. Jennifer Laycock of SearchEngineGuide.com talked about small business marketing being in the attitude, not the budget.

The best thing a small business owner has going for them is the passion about what they do and what they're selling. Passion plus knowledge of your product can equal credibility online. Participate in your community and the traffic, rankings, and profit will follow. Be helpful without cramming the sale down people's throat.

Matt McGee of SmallBusinessSEM.com and Marchex talked about guerilla marketing, and how an unconventional approach can produce excellent results. There are rules, of course – participate, contribute, don't spam, don't hard sell, and don't alienate your followers. Act like a helpful authority and you'll be perceived as a helpful authority.

As we all know – authority on the Internet equals links, right? If you're a business that targets a specific area – join Flickr and post photos of your business and neighborhood, and comment on photos taken in your area. Answer questions on Yahoo Answers or LinkedIn. Be a member, not a used car salesman. It's the soft sell that matters here. Rankings and links will come if you play nice.

Stoney deGeyter of Pole Position Marketing talked about Strategies that Don't Suck (Money from Your Wallet), and his tips were helpful on many levels. I've talked before about keyword research – but organizing your keyword research can give you a leg up on making good ad buy decisions.

Group keywords based on the stage of the buying process your customer is in. Researchers, shoppers, and buyers should all be targeted on your Web site and in your paid advertising. Point shopper-focused keyword buys at pages that are optimized for shopper-focused keyword terms.

deGeyter also touched on a subject near and dear to my heart – title tags. They're ad copy – optimize them!

There has always been a debate as to the affordability and value of these conferences for small business owners. They're valuable if you plan your trip and make the most of it. I gave some reasons why at the SEOMom blog a few weeks ago, so I won't repeat those here.

If attending at least one good SEM conference a year isn't in your budget – you can glean a lot of information from the live bloggers who work hard to bring these conferences to the "masses." There are a lot of good ones out there, I recommend following SERoundtable.com and BruceClay.com around conference time – and, of course, the Search Engine Watch Blog.

About the author

Carrie Hill is the co-founder of IgnitorDigital.com, an online marketing agency dedicated to Small Businesses and Small Budgets. During those rare moment's she's not glued to her computer, you can find her spending time with her amazing kids and extremely tolerant husband, as well as cooking, reading, and managing her menagerie of 4 dogs and a cat.