By Evan Carmichael on June 8th, 2009
Today was the first day of the Search Engine Strategies (SES) conference here in Toronto. I was invited to come as a guest blogger as part of the media. I did the same thing last year and it was a great experience. They have three streams of sessions going on at the same time so registrants have to pick which ones they most want to attend. The three streams are: Nuts & Bolts (practical how-to type of information), Geek (technical more advanced workshops), and Corporateville (for the attendees who are from large companies).
Today was an information filled day with a host of excellent speakers and lively discussion. I stayed mostly in the Geek track and thought I would share some of the valuable information from two of my favorite presentations of the day.
The first workshop I attended was Signals: What Relevancy Indicators Are Search Engineers Watching For Today? One of the panelists was Marios Alexandrou who is a SEO Manager for Acronym Media. The bulk of Marios’ talk was on universal search. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, universal search refers to search engines like Google showing more than 10 blue links when you do a query. Instead you get video results, news results, maps, images etc thrown in as well.
Here is an example using the key word “Paris”
As you can see from the Google search results, three out of the top six results are not the blue text links that we’re used to.
The top result is a Google Map of Paris, France. The #5 result shows videos about Paris from YouTube and the #6 result shows recent news about Paris from Google News.
If website owners were to try and rank for this keyword with a regular webpage, they would only have a one in three chance of doing so because half of the ranked pages are from universal search.
Marios provided the following suggestions for entrepreneurs who are trying to get on page 1 for their important keywords and what universal search can mean for them.
#1 – Can’t get the top spot with a website? Try video!
YouTube videos are frequently popping up into the search engine results and if you optimize the video titles they can often be far easier to rank for than a regular website. If you’re having a hard time getting to that coveted #1 ranking, consider using a video to try and knock off your competition.
#2 – Dominate the rankings – Push out competitors!
So you rank #1 and #2 for your important key words – why not take over another spot in the top 10 with a video and another spot with a Google Maps result and yet another with Google image results? The more your site is featured on that first page the less your competition is going to get. Don’t settle for just the top two spots.
“Page load time will likely be a future factor in search engine rankings – the faster your pages load, the more you will be rewarded with high rankings.”
#3 – Engage more with your users!
Some people love the text content while others prefer the videos, search, maps, and news. By optimizing for all the different universal search categories you can cater to all the different tastes of your potential customers.
Two other interesting thoughts that came out of Marios’ presentation and discussion:
- SearchWiki – Google wants your vote and they are paying attention to how people are using the SearchWiki rating mechanism
- Page load time will likely be a future factor in search engine rankings – the faster your pages load, the more you will be rewarded with high rankings
The other speaker who I really enjoyed hearing today was Mike McDerment. Mike is the CEO & Co-founder of FreshBooks, an online invoicing company that caters to professionals and entrepreneurs.
Mike’s talk was part of the workshop Beyond Linkbait: Getting Authoritative Online Mentions and was special because it was different – he focused on the importance of making your website a business. It’s great to rank well in the search engines but if it doesn’t lead to a lot of business, who cares? Mike shared his story about how his website was originally designed for search engines and he got traffic and did get some customers but he wasn’t where he wanted to be.
“Nobody expects the personal touch from a website and by reaching out FreshBooks generated media attention as well as earned customers for life.”
By switching the design to focus on the customer and not the search engines he was able to see a massive increase in business. Mike is heavily customer-service oriented and has managed to create a 30-person company which truly cares about their clients. He tries to go out of his way to make sure that his customers are happy, which is rare for an online business. His talk reminded me a lot of what Tony Hsieh from Zappos preaches about excellent customer service.
It was refreshing (no pun intended) to hear someone talk about buildling a business and not just how to rank in Google. Some of Mike’s advice included:
- We are all in service businesses, not technology businesses
- Giving outstanding customer experiences should be the main focus of your business
- Relationships with customers is the currency of your success
- Take care of your staff and they will take care of your customers who will take care of your business
- Follow the 4E Mantra of: Execute on Extraordinary Experiences Everyday
Mike also shared a story about a customer of theirs who was on Twitter and mentioned that she was stood up by a date that night. The FreshBooks team, which makes a regular habit of following their customers, responded by Tweeting that they would never stand her up and then sent her flowers. Nobody expects the personal touch from a website and by reaching out FreshBooks generated media attention as well as earned customers for life.
Mike’s session was a reminder that we all need to think about the business of our business, provide outstanding customer service and not just worry about ranking #1 in the search engines.
I’m looking forward to another great day tomorrow and I’ll keep you posted with another update!
Tags: Acronym Media, FreshBooks, Google, Google Map, Goole News, linkbait, Marios Alexandrou, Mike McDerment, Paris, Search Engine Strategies Toronto, SearchWiki, SEO University, SES Toronto, YouTube