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9 Things We Learned at #SESTO – Search Engine Strategies Toronto

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For those of you not as familiar with search engine marketing, SES is a conference and expo highlighting trends and practices in search engine marketing. The leaders in online marketing, SEO, and web analytics converge to network and share tips, tricks and learn the latest best practices. We attended SES in Toronto. Here’s what we learned:

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1. EDEN is up to speed on our Search Engine Marketing Strategies
Our industry is constantly evolving and EDEN has evolved right alongside it. Google, Bing and the other SEM giants are unveiling new features in an endless cycle. To stay afloat, rolling with the changes is a necessity. At Eden, we were pleased to note SES speakers and panelists highlighted the importance of practices such as adapting for mobile, targeting local search and being active on social media – all things we’ve already been addressing and implementing with our clients’ web sites and online marketing strategies.

2. Google’s focus is quality over quantity
With Google’s panda and penguin updates, there’s been a lot of discussion about what it means for the future of SEO. We were gratified to note that Google has been shifting their focus to providing quality search results. What does this mean? That unique, well-written content and genuine links from industry specialists and industry-relevant web sites are more crucial than ever. Say goodbye to the era of spam links and sloppy key word content. Google is focused on weeding out junk and highlighting sites that match what their searchers are looking for.

3. Authorship is the next big thing
A recurring talking point at SES Toronto was Google’s authorship program, which allows people to claim credit for content that they produce. Positioning yourself as an author of the content on your website or blogs gives your content more credibility according to Google’s authorship algorithms; thus giving your content a better chance to rank. Authorship involves setting up a Google+ profile and connecting that profile to your web site or blogs.

4. Mobile-use is exploding and Responsive Web Design is the key for Mobile Optimization
During the mobile seminars at SES, it was noted that 65% of searches today start on a mobile phone and completion of a transaction or user interaction continues on a tablet or desktop. That is why it is critical that a web site be optimized for optimal mobile user experience and search engine optimized for mobile searches. At Eden, we recommend Responsive Web Design, a type of reactive design that automatically configures your site for optimal viewing and user experience across desktop, tablet and mobile devices. Google has also noted that Responsive Web Design is the preferred path to take for being indexed and Search Engine Optimized. It enables you to be one back-end that hosts all your content while delivering a layout that is best suited for the device you are on – whether it’s a mobile phone, tablet or desktop.

5. Local search is essential
Local search is the key to your kingdom if you are a local business. Mobile searchers are more likely to walk into a business within an hour, whereas web searchers can take days to make a conversion. As you can imagine, targeting local users allows you to connect with people who need your services the moment they begin their search. If you haven’t put your business on the local map, you miss out on a huge opportunity. Make sure you register a Google places account. If running a PPC campaign, set your geo-target. When optimizing your web site, ensure that you include your geo-target (city, province and / or country) appropriately throughout your key word content – title tags, meta description, H1s body copy. Get quality inbound links from local relevant web sites.

6. AB test everything
What is AB testing? It’s simply testing out two different versions of something to learn which performs better. AB testing is a great way to learn what works, and improve your conversions. With AB testing, you gather important data about what keywords, phrasing, images, colours and CTAs are most effective. You can use that information to build better, more effective websites, landing pages, banner ads, PPC ads and marketing pieces. AB testing should be a continuous process. What works today may not work tomorrow. AB testing is what will keep your brand on trend.

7. Leverage your data
We’ve all heard it before: knowledge is power. It’s especially true when it comes to search engine marketing. One of the most strategic aspects of SEM is data collection. To stay competitive, it’s essential that you’re consistently learning about your customers and how they interact with your brand. Whether that means mining for keywords, AB testing designs and phrasing, or delving into Google analytics, there is always something you can learn that will help you build a stronger online presence. Data mining is a constant process that never ends. Online marketing is always changing and your website should too.

8. Integrate social and search
At SES Toronto, the discussion on how social and search practices have intertwined was pervasive. Online marketing has been trending toward social media for years now. Most businesses have brand pages on major social networks, and post occasional updates. But how do you optimize these pages to convert visitors into customers? SES panelists agreed that useful content, shared often was crucial. The more compelling your content is the better your chances of engaging your customers. Brand and content engagement is what leads to conversions.

9. Videos engage, convert and can go viral
With the rise of smart phones, tablets and shorter attention spans, videos are key in grabbing your targets attention. Videos are a wise addition to your web strategy for many reasons. Because online videos are so popular these days, optimizing videos is also essential to your seo strategy.

These are just a few of the trends we think are going to be essential for online marketing moving forward. What do you think are the most important lessons online marketers need to keep in mind for the future of SEM? Sound off in the comments. We love hearing your thoughts and opinions.

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