5 Key Takeaways from SES Chicago 2013

SES Chicago wrapped up last week and with it, the 2014 conference season is coming to a close. It’s been a whirlwind of a year for search marketing.

If you weren’t able to join us in the Windy City, or even if you did but couldn’t clone yourself to attend all of the great sessions, don’t fret: Here are five key takeaways from SES Chicago 2013 that you may have missed.

1. You Must Listen to Your Users

Everyone is searching for new ways to capture traffic and open up revenue possibilities, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by listening to your users and giving them what they want.

Every $1 invested in user experience (UX) yields a $100 return, and incorporating UX into your SEO tactics is easier than you may think. You don’t have to be a designer; you just have to know the questions to ask.

Start by understanding your users’ shopping habits: How and when do they buy this product or service? When do you use this product? What do you look for in these products? How would you search for this product if you didn’t know its name?

Follow up these questions with usability tests to better understand how people interact with your site. You’ll be able to see what frustrates them and what they expect to change. Give it to them, and they’ll be more likely to convert.

2. Good Content Isn’t Going Anywhere; Plan on it

I was fortunate to moderate a dream team lineup of speakers with Chris Boggs from Internet Marketing Ninjas and Jordan Slabaugh from Spreadfast where we dived into how to actually plan your content effectively.

Everyone knows content is important, but content isn’t one size fits all. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SERPs: All distribute content differently, and all have people absorb content differently.

While that does mean a unique message for every channel, it doesn’t mean unique content. Focus on rinsing, reusing, recycling and repackaging your content because every piece of content should have at least three uses.

Take your 40-page whitepaper download and condense it to a 1,000 word blog post with the high points. Then take that blog post, and create bite-sized nuggets that you can share as tips on your social media.

3. Paid Ads Help Amplify Your Content

Where Slabaugh wrapped up with how to plan across your channels, Boggs stepped in and focused on what to do with your content after it’s been produced. We fall victim to the “If you post it, they will come,” ideology, but unless you already have a steadfast following, you’re not going to get a lot of traction just by sharing it on your social networks.

Connecting your social, search, and content efforts centers around owning the SERP for that particular content query. Tweets and Google+ updates are getting indexed alongside your blog post, but one area with tons of growing room is paid search for your content, which will give you immediate visibility.

Oreo blackout

Oreo doesn’t own any of the SERP (content) for the brand-related query, and they’re missing out on a huge slice of traffic because of it. Furthermore, there isn’t anyone bidding on the query, which is still getting search interest 11 months later.

4. Use the Right Metrics for the Right People.

Search marketers are no strangers to fighting for budgets, but now that SEO has oozed its way into the boardroom, there’s more pressure on us to not only report, but analyze, all while tailoring our metrics to the right people.

Ryan Jones from SapientNitro and Alan K’necht from Digital Always Media broke it down. Basically, talking to C-suites is like talking to children. They don’t bog them down with SEO acronyms or jargon; cut to the chase, talk to them simply, and always focus on ROI.

“The only thing the C level cares about is ‘Am I spending my money effectively?'” Ryan said.

Furthermore, remember the critical difference between reporting and analytics. Reporting says what the number is, anyone can do that. Analytics tells you what that number means and what to do with it. For example:

Don’t just say visits increased 15 percent, forms submitted increased 10 percent, and bounce rate decreased 15 percent. Follow it up with why – “We launched a PPC campaign with a targeted landing page and one-click CTA for Product A” – and what you’re going to do about it – “We’re going to duplicate that success to Product B and expect to see similar results.”

5. Twitter Lead Generation Cards are serious business.

“Your content isn’t the problem. You are.”

That’s how John Lee from Webtrends kicked off in perhaps my favorite session from the week where he showed a case study on Twitter Lead Generation Cards and how B2B social media is done the right way.

We’re automatically assuming that the content is crappy if people aren’t engaging with us on social media, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, it’s us: the wording we use, the time of day we post, the overly self-promotion. You could have the best content in the world, but if you’re failing on implementation and execution then no one is going to see it.

Twitter’s Lead Generation Cards help you on the implementation by bringing rich experiences directly to a user’s Twitter stream. For example:


This takes the lead nurturing cycle down from two clicks – clicking on the Tweet to bring you to a landing page and clicking on the CTA on the landing page – down to one click. Everything the user needs to sign up, everything you need to capture their information, is right there in Twitter. Plus, it eliminates forms by prepopulating their username and email address. Brilliant.

Webtrends used this to promote their case studies and whitepapers and saw 50 to 200 percent higher open rate than other lead and 3-4 times improvement on click-through rates. Be sure to read more about the case study here.

Did I miss something? What were your biggest takeaways from SES Chicago 2013?

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