By:Andy Beal, Published:2003-8-23

Inside Search Engine Strategies, San Jose 2003 Day 4

Day Four

While many attendees had decided to forego day four of Search Engine Strategies in order to catch flights home, those that did stay on were offered very diverse and interesting sessions.

Converting Visitors into Buyers

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, 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 more comprehensive service and higher pricing, it 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.

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 from Dell’s Website he backed up his theory by demonstrating that the computer manufacturer had increased conversion rates by 6% through simply enhancing the category structure of certain areas of their Website. He provided research from that 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 site 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, it was essential that marketers 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 argued that the conversion begins when you entice a search user to actually click on your listing. She implored marketers to ensure that Title tags and Descriptions were compelling to real, live humans and not just search engine friendly. She explained that a site that was ranked towards the bottom of a search result page could have higher click-throughs than the number one listed site if its listing were more enticing and strongly 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 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:

  • – software-based analytics starting at $895 with additional modules priced at $695. A 15 day trial is available at their Website.
  • – for the minimalist who’s looking for a cheap alternative. Focused on reporting PPC data, the service is priced “per click through” analyzed. A free trial is available. – the most well known and most popular Web analytics service on the market. Comprehensive stats can even show you which stage of a site’s checkout process causes the most aborted sales. – the newest, but arguably the most original Web analytics package around. ClickTracks displays Website visitor behavior directly on the pages of your site. 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.

Wrapping Up

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 evolving and adapting. With the successful launch of SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization), marketers now 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 article 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.

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