Microsoft Responds to Yahoo: a Micro, Who Cares?

Beneath the Internet cloud that blots out the sun in Redmond, two opposing camps face off on a virtual battlefield: humans, and the software and machines that serve them. Search engines now wage war in a brutal and hostile takeover bid in Silicon Valley.

The Microsoft-Yahoo-AOL war games, though, were not on the minds of the SuperPowers SEO Meetup group in New York last night. Who wins or loses the Microhoo battle won't change their mission: helping clients or employers acquire leads and customers, and generating online sales.

They're fighting a daily battle against algorithms (define) that change frequently and people in their own companies who don't.

Long Tail Search Analytics, Visual Sciences, HitTail

A good cross-section of new and veteran SEO (define) experts met at the Aspen Lounge, where Marshall Sponder of Monster.com gave a presentation on Google Analytics for search. He outlined some of the shortcomings of Google Analytics for large enterprise clients. After his talk, he caught a train to Maynard, Massachusetts for a couple days of Visual Sciences training.

His preso was complemented by Hachette Filipacchi's Mike Levin, who gave an excellent overview of HitTail analytics, then did a deep dive into referrer data -- the most overlooked element of site analytics. Mike recommended setting aside a couple hours one day -- not every day -- to save referrer data from human (not bots) in an Excel spreadsheet. Then, cut and paste the Google referrer data, for example, into a browser to see how visitors found your site.

The audience in any Manhattan meet-up reflects the diversity of the city. Last night was no exception. Bernie Crawley, a veteran of SES San Jose, was there. Bernie's a construction worker and a card-carrying member of his union. He's building another high-rise tower in Times Square, so he doesn't have the time he'd like to devote to SEO, the stuff he really likes to do.

Bernie built a Web site for his wife, who runs an online business, Discount Wedding Favors. Bernie grew up in the Bronx. You can meet him at SES New York. In a war against the search engines, you want Bernie on your side.

CyberSuds and St. John The Divine

At the opposite end of the SEO spectrum, Matt Mack, the event's organizer, introduced me to a Silicon Alley veteran. I remembered Connie Connors from her days leading NYNMA, the New York New Media Association, circa pre-Bubble 1.0. Connie's the CEO of her own firm now and a friend of SES New York keynote speaker Jason Calacanis, founder of human-powered search engine, Mahalo.

NYNMA was an early supporter of Jason's first venture, The Silicon Alley Reporter, as well as the conferences he produced in Manhattan. When I was with American Airlines, I bartered a deal with Jason to sponsor one of his wildest conferences, an all-day affair in stifling heat, held in a venue with no air conditioning, The Cathedral of St. John The Divine.

American Airlines also sponsored NYNMA "CyberSuds" happy hours for VCs and entrepreneurs, back in the day when VC's were the ones pursued, not the ones searching for the next big thing. Connie, though, may be on to the next big thing in marketing communications.

PR + XML = SEO PR

Connors Communications (her company) has more than 20 years marcomm experience helping companies reach their target markets. Online reputation management, of course, is a natural fit for marketing communications firms.

Recently, though, Connors has leveraged their knowledge and experience to gain further traction in the SEO market. The smart money's on PR firms that incorporate SEO tactics into their marketing communications strategies.

"Search has become the predominant means of introducing companies to potential customers," Connie noted. "Today, maximizing online visibility via natural listings and/or by influencing authoritative bloggers is as much a basic function of public relations as gaining an article in a newspaper."

It's hard to argue with that conclusion. Doesn't every agency, though, claim to use technology in SEO? Surprisingly not. Sure, global mega-agencies like Isobar's iProspect have the resources, deep pockets, and tech teams to build out sophisticated technology platforms.

Is there a tech solution for the rest of us?

Connors' proprietary XML technology platform can expand a site based on the data and media assets on hand, linking the disparate pieces together. Major corporations have long used XML to generate optimized pages. XML also provides flexibility to expand the longtail of keywords and target specific audiences.

The concept is simple: by matching the XML-generated page to an existing template, visitors won't notice the difference between an optimized page and a regular database query returned by an eCommerce site or content management system. Data is downloaded via XML feed and optimized static HTML pages are returned.

As one of the first public relations agencies to integrate online strategies, Connors has been providing SEM/SEO services to their clients for a number of years. They've developed a range of software tools that differentiates them from most PR and SEO firms. Recent SEO clients include National Geographic Society, Extended Stay Hotels, Hachette Filipacchi Media, and Evolution Robotics.

Using its proprietary software, Connors created HitTail, the world's first consumer product for SEO. Since its launch, HitTail has been translated into Dutch, French, German, and Italian to serve its global client base that numbers in the tens of thousands through partnerships worldwide.

In SEO, all the cool kids have an avatar or unconventional title tag.

Connie is "Chief HitTail Angel"; Avinash Kaushik is Google's "Analytics Evangelist"; and Marshall is Monster.com's "Analytics Artist." Bernie? He calls himself "Construction Worker."

They'll all be playing Search Engine WarGames at SES New York.

Join us for SES London February 19-21 and for training classes on February 22.