Top Takeaways from SearchFest 2013: Part I

Last month, Inno Garage had the pleasure of attending SearchFest 2013, sponsored by the wonderful team at SEMpdx. This all-day conference brought tops names from around the country to Portland's The Governor Hotel for a full day of paid search, SEO, social media and advanced technical tracks, workshops and panel discussions.

Start SEO Scheming with Structured Data
What are structured data (or more commonly schema tags) you ask? In a general sense, a schema is a framework or concept that helps organize and interpret information. This is useful because schemas can allow for shortcuts when interpreting large quantities of data. For search engines that crawl literally billions of pages from data centers all around the world, this is especially significant because when a user performs a search query, these results need to be retrieved as fast as possible. The more help you can provide search engines in locating and crawling your data, the more likely your content will show (and rank) for a query. Structured data can help.

Structured data are attribute-based mark-up vocabulary shared by webmasters and increasingly recognized by search engines. Whether it's RDFa, Freebase, rNews, Facebook Open Graph, Twitter Cards or Schema.org, these microdata tags can be used to provide rich info beyond static content feeds. You can even go into minute detail and use tags to identify an image, name, URL, event, person, place or product. Structured data that is applied consistently across the web help increase search visibility by boosting trust and providence--otherwise known as data fidelity. This allows the engines to see your website as a verified entity and in turn, show it to more users.

Example of schema.org tags labeling items of a movie using the itemprop attribute.

Still not convinced it’s worth the work? Here’s a real life example from Jeff Preston of Disney Interactive. Preston conducted an experiment on structured markup on Disney's video clips. By submitting unique descriptions to schema.org, Open Graph and XML Site Map, he discovered that search engines pulled 70% of meta data from the videos tagged with schema.org markup. Open Graph and XML pulled in 20% and 10% respectively.

Advanced Tip: Remember to use a rich snippets validator or testing tool to check that your work was implemented correctly!

Google+ is Broken, But Reviews Are Here to Stay
According to Mike Ramsey from Nifty Marketing, Google+ is “broken.” That might hurt a bit (or a lot) to SEO’s who have spent the past year creating Google+ Local Pages, claiming Google Places, and then verifying and merging two. But don’t despair! While we wait for Google to sort out its social/local fusion experiment, we can focus on other tactics to drive rankings in the Local Map results by garnering citations.

Whether it’s a name, address, phone or review, citations provide link value and trust to help your local business land in the coveted “Map Pack,” which can also impact your organic rankings. How do you get more citations? Great content marketing. In addition to regular ol’ blogs, expand the diversity of your content with local guest blogs, local interviews, local infographics, local guides, local directories and local microsites around top service or product offerings.


Example of a local guide to “Get Cultured” into Portland’s Foodie Scene, by Culture-ist.

Reviews are also fantastic ways to get citations, which in turn, equate to better rankings. If you’re a local business, an ecommerce website or both, always ask for reviews in email follow-ups after sales, on sales receipts or invoices, by placing a sign on your counter or even creating a dedicated page on your website with a feedback form.

Advanced Tip: Review other businesses (namely your vendors, manufacturers, distributors or partners) as a business and ask for a reciprocal review.

Be mindful of how you engage in your review campaign. Google is smart enough to penalize web rankings if they detect false or disingenuous reviews. They may also filter these so-called “spamviews” out of the algo altogether if they detect any strange patterns in new review spikes or reviews coming from the same IP addresses, referrer source or user agent. Remember, local reviews are an ecosystem—bringing in one new review in one directory often results in shares to dozens of others. At a time when Yelp! Is starting to rank above the Map Pack (especially in Bing results) now is a great time to start focusing on Local SEO for reviews!

Make Money Rather than Spend Money on Social Media
Brands who engage in social media, or social commerce, focus on the "Big Five"--Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Either by social media plug-ins, ecommerce apps for social sites, mobile apps to drive in-store social shopping or web apps for social shopping, users are going SoLoMo (That's "social, location-aware, mobile" folks.) At the end of the day, social media metrics should help achieve business metrics to ultimately drive business objectives. In the wise words of Mike Pantoliano from Distilled, social media is the assist that sets everything else up for the score.

It's important to prove social media's worth to the bosses, but it doesn't mean you have to buy the next Radian6 or Sysomos. In recent months, Google Analytics has stepped up its game to include "Social Reports." When tracking ROI on social, focus on the following:

  • Adjusted Bounce Rate
  • Micro-conversions ("Likes," comments, shares)
  • Social-assisted conversions
  • Multi-channel funnel views
  • Coming Soon: Attribution modeling tool (Tracks each stop in the funnel and assigns a dollar value to each step instead of crediting the last interaction.)
  • Advanced Tip: Use "View Ripples" to see your Google+ data


Don't forget to check back on Digital Market Share for SearchFest Top Takeaways Part II when Jim walks us through the world of paid search, SEO for ecommerce and more. Also, follow us on Twitter as we live-tweet at our next conference, Semi-Permanent, on March 13th!