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A $100k Bet and the Million Dollar Question: Key Takeaways from INFLECTIONPoint Conference

February 25, 2013
covario-inflectionpoint

Jeff Ma presenting at the 2013 INFLECTIONPoint conference

The seventh annual Covario INFLECTIONPoint client conference took place this month. The theme of the conference was focused very much on how search is no longer just about search. Rather, it is about search (getting found), social (getting shared) and content. Ignore the integration of these disciplines at your peril!

Here are the key lessons I took away from the various presentations, discussions, and keynotes.

1. Brands need to become publishers 

If brands are to get ahead and flourish, then they need to crank up the content creation machine. However, putting together a bunch of crappy, spammy content will not work. It needs to be interesting, engaging content that people actually want to spend time reading, and ultimately share. Content can’t be plain or just interesting for your particular set of niche customers. It needs to be pee-your-pants interesting on a much wider scale (more on this later).

Part of achieving such success is addressing the myth that anyone can write (just like how anyone can do marketing, or anyone can do social media, or anyone can design a website). True that anyone may be able to do these things, but doing it well is the important distinction. Jeff MacGurn put it best: “ Great content isn’t written by experts, it’s written by great writers” and great writers are rarely people who have a full-time job, unrelated to writing, who all of a sudden are told to write something when they have a spare moment. The trick is getting your experts and writers to work together. Great content may be written by great writers, but writers still need information that comes from experts.

Some examples of good brand publishers include Whole Foods (for their recipes and healthy eating tips), mint.com (for their savvy use of ordinarily boring financial data), and of course, Amazon (for their customer reviews).

2. Content is not king, it is a democracy

Developing good, quality content is all fine and dandy, but it is only one piece of the larger puzzle. Afterall, there’s no point writing great content if no one is reading it.

What helps your content to succeed is the wider community getting it out to the masses. For example, when Majestic launched Flow Metrics, they did what is becoming a lot more common amongst smart companies these days: they specifically targeted key search industry influencers (such as Danny Sullivan and Barry Schwartz) ahead of the launch, giving them special beta access to the new tool as well as supporting content and press releases. Targeting these influencers really helped Majestic get the word out to the wider search community.

So when developing content, it is important to think bigger — develop content for readers and influencers, not customers because most content is shared by readers and influencers, not customers.

3. Believe in maths, data and statistics to make decisions

As search marketers, data plays a central role in the decisions we make every day. Understandably data was an important talking point at the conference. Jeff Ma (member of the MIT blackjack team, and inspiration behind Bringing Down the House and 21) presented a keynote on using mind-bending data in making card playing decisions.

Other than being an entertaining presentation with stories of losing $100k one day and winning $900k the next, there were some other interesting data points from Covario studies.

Content Sharing Platforms — The most used content sharing platforms:

  • 52% Facebook
  • 15% Twitter
  • 8% Email
  • 8% Hard copy print outs (!!!)

Social Signals — Covario’s social signal test found that Facebook Likes made a bigger impact on SEO rank than Google+ and LinkedIn.

4. Organization can either help or hinder your success

There are two key challenges of search integration: data and organization. If the search function within your organization isn’t centralized, you miss out on the benefits of scale, overall program insights get easily lost and it becomes much more difficult to achieve the incremental benefit that PPC/SEO/social brings.

Click cannibalization vs. click incrementality is always a popular topic. A study by Covario found that there was a 20% increase in click-throughs when you use both PPC and SEO together.

5. Attribution, the million dollar question

This past year, I personally feel that great strides have been taken to understand and tie social media to solid business KPIs. However, the question of attribution (argh!) continues to elude us.

This was particularly pertinent following Shar VanBoskirk’s Forrester keynote which touched on topics like “digital disruption” and the “omni-channel challenge”, which goes way beyond SEO, PPC and social, and delves into how digital in general is colliding more with traditional channels.

Although there was some good discussion about how attribution is not about first touch or last touch (it is more about intelligent attribution and mapping it out visually to understand impacts), there was no practical process or simple answer. This topic is something that is near and dear to my heart right now as I try to better understand the attribution of social media which does tend to be more skewed towards early funnel actions. It has always been a struggle to properly give credit to early funnel activities, when you are attributing based on last touch.

Answers on a postcard, please!

Additional Information

Be sure to also check out Thom Craver’s excellent conference coverage for Search Engine Watch.

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