While many attendees had decided to forego day four of Search Engine Strategies, San Jose in order to catch a flight, those that did stay, were offered some very diverse and interesting sessions to choose from.

The most important topic of the day for any search engine marketer had to be Converting Visitors Into Buyers. While some marketers concentrate on simply obtaining top rankings in Google, Yahoo and other search engines, those more experienced SEM’s know the importance of actually converting that valuable traffic. An impressive panel of speakers provided the audience with ideas and solutions to increase a website’s conversion ratio.

While iProspect is known for its expensive service, their pricing does allow for extensive work in the area of visitor conversion. Conversion Product Manager, Larry Kerstein, shared with the attendees different factors that help ensure a website encourages conversions. While the natural thought process might lead a website owner to write text that screams “buy it now”, Kerstein suggested that in some instances your visitor may not yet know that they need your product or service. He suggested that the copy on a website should inform and educate a visitor so that they can ultimately decide what meets their needs. Once they know what it is you offer and why it is better than your competitor’s product, you can then encourage them to order. Talking to the buyer in the language of the buyer and using benefit statements rather than product specifications, were all conducive to increasing client conversion, according to Kerstein.

Michael Sack, Chief Product Officer for Inceptor offered similar advice but suggested that you “do not have to take apart your website to increase conversions”. Citing an example taken from Dell’s website he backed-up his theory by demonstrating that the computer manufacturer had increased conversion rates by 6% simply by enhancing the category structure of certain areas of their website. Sack provided research from Shop.org which suggested that the average conversion rate for the retail sector was just 1.8%.

Sack also gave attendees examples of questions a visitor may ask themselves when at your website:

• Why should I buy from you?

• Should I trust you?

• What is special about your company?

The most important part of Sack’s message was that website owners should simply “expose their content on the Internet”. By this he was suggesting that too few websites offer enough information about a product or service and with many people using the search engines to research a purchase, marketers needed to provide this valuable information. Finally, Sack told attendees to constantly “test, analyze and adjust”, giving a great example of how different types of pages tested on MSN yielded conversion rates from 1.75% to more than 3%.

Repeat speaker Heather Lloyd Martin took the conversion process to a different level when she challenged that the conversion begins with enticing a search user to actually click on your listing. She implored marketers to ensure that Title tags and Descriptions were compelling to humans and not just search engine friendly. She explained that a site ranked lower on a search results page, could have higher click-thrus than the number one listed site, if its listing were more enticing and targeted.

Of course, in order to accurately track all of these conversions, a website owner would need to ensure accurate reporting and tracking of visitors. The Measuring Tool Vendors session brought together different web analytics companies together in one room to tout the benefits of each of their respective products.

Representatives of all the major analytics tools were in attendance, each offering the benefits of their product and how it worked. The companies included:

• Urchin.com – software based analytics starting at $895 with additional modules priced at $695. A 15 day trial is available at their website.

• ConversionRuler.com – for the minimalist looking for a cheap alternative. Focused on reporting PPC data the service is priced “per click thru” analyzed with a free trial available.

• WebTrends.com – the most well known web analytics service and most popular. Comprehensive stats can even show you which stage of a website’s checkout process cause the most abortive sales.

• ClickTracks.com – the newest, but arguably the most original web analytics package around. ClickTracks displays website visitor behavior directly on the pages of your website. Different demos can be downloaded from the website.

John Marshall of ClickTracks was particularly entertaining when he decided to skip thru his entire presentation in about 30 seconds so that he could discuss a book that he felt would provide great insight for marketers looking to collect and present data. Marshall suggested that each attendee purchase Edward Tufte’s “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” as it would assist them in analyzing website data. While the unique abandonment of his own product to discuss a book may have seemed crazy, I suspect that Marshall knew that the findings of the book would lead marketers to conclude that ClickTracks unique display of website analytics was the perfect solution to their needs.

As the last day of the conference wound down, a wave of satisfaction appeared to be felt by all of those involved. The attendees, staff, exhibitors, speakers (and those of us who had agreed to write daily articles when they should have been relaxing) all agreed that the event had been the most successful and well received search engine conference yet. The industry is growing at a rapid rate. Not only is there change in the landscape for the search engines, but search engine marketers are also changing and adapting. With the successful launch of SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization), marketers even have a “trade union” in an industry that is expected to grow by billions of dollars each year.

If you were not able to attend the conference in San Jose, I hope this series has given you an insight into the developments taking place and maybe even encouraged you to attend the next conference in Chicago in December. If you were able to make it, I’m sure you will agree that the event was an outstanding success. One last thing, if you are interested in reading the funniest quote of the entire conference, head over to my search engine blog.

August 22, 2003

Internet marketing consultant Andy Beal has provided online marketing advice to thousands of companies including, Motorola, NBC, Lowes and Quicken Loans and is a trusted resource for The Washington Post, LA Times, Dow Jones, NPR and CNBC. Andy provides consulting services on search engine optimization, business blogging and online reputation management. Read his blog and request a free consultation at Marketing Pilgrim.

Search Engine Guide > Andy Beal > Inside Search Engine Strategies, San Jose – Day Four