10 Truths You Should Know About Search Marketing, Part 1
In a session at the Search Marketing Expo East conference held Oct. 6-8 in New York, a five-member panel explored "The Ten Truths Every CMO Must Know About Search Marketing." This week, we recap the group's first three truths; next week, we'll look into four more and the week after that, the final three.
1. Search Engine Optimization is an ongoing process. SEO is an integral part of an overall marketing strategy, the group concluded, with 360-degree communication among all involved.
"It's not a set it, forget it opportunity," said Jill Nortman, SEO and Web analytics specialist for Allegis Group, a Hanover, Md.-based staffing and recruitment firm. "When you think of optimization efforts, you have to see how things are being indexed. It's great to be in social media, but there's a reason why being there is so important."
As fellow panelist Jen Miller, manager of Delta.com's onsite content and marketing unit, explained, content and marketing "are one." Delta.com, she noted, has combined those organizations so it's not a back-end process anymore, but a front-end one. "It took us a long time," she noted, "but we were patient with it."
2. Being No. 1 isn't everything, and sometimes isn't even possible. This "truth" refers to bidding for a top position for a search word or phrase. In the cruise space, explained Willie Fernandez, director of marketing for World Travel Holdings, "we saw that being in the No. 1 spot was keeping us from meeting our budgets, and it wasn't converting as well."
So World Travel went through a four month exercise analyzing some 2,000 words, scaling them back to the point where it started to see positive ROI where it had previously been losing money.
Jennifer Doss, e-commerce marketing manager for Hat World & Lids, an Indianapolis-based online seller of sports-themed head gear, explained that her company has an extensive keyword list it works off of, ranking about 70 percent of keywords in the No. 1 position. "We look at a lot of multiple keyword phrases and concentrate on those that tend to rank higher," she said.
As Doss explained, the best strategy is to concentrate on getting on the first search page and work your way up. Getting all the way to the No. 1 position may not be as profitable. "Look at what you're spending," she said, "and maybe a No. 2 position is the better place to be."
Being in a second position can pay, but it depends on the competitive nature of your business, Nortman said. "You can get into a cyclical nature with your competitors," she noted, "and as long as you can remain on that Page 1 or above the fold, it's not always about being No. 1."
What's more, proper positioning is also about educating your chief marketing officer. "Directors in our company will ask why we aren't above, say, Dick's Sporting Goods or Sports Authority," Doss said, "and we'll explain our budgets" have a lot to do with that.
3. The long tail is your friend. Long-tail terms, which are less popular keywords, can yield positive ROI because there's less competition for them, the group explained. "You gain chances for higher visibility because there's less competition," explained Michelle Stern, client services director for Watertown, Mass.-based search engine marketing firm iProspect, which sponsored the session. "Find the right balance in the number of long-tail terms," she said.
In the cruise business, Fernandez pointed out, a common long-tail phrase is "Christmas cruises from New York." "We find our competitors aren't in that space," he noted. "It may only cost us a quarter, and it's a process to extend on long-tail terms that's been very successful for us."