2007 SEO and Paid Search Strategies – 360i Summit

Laura Mete Frizzell, VP Media Services, 360i

Barry Dice, AVP Internet Sales, The General

Julia Gause, Online Marketing Manager, Scripps Networks

Chris Humber, Director of Optimization, 360i

Bryan Wiener, President, 360i (moderator)

Laura set the stage for the session largely by discussing 360i’s most recent white paper, which discussed the importance of taking a holistic view of natural and paid search campaigns and crediting them accordingly.

She was followed by Barry Dice, AVP of Internet Sales with The General, the auto insurance company. The General has bucketed search terms and created paid and natural search campaigns around them. Paid campaigns are geotargeted, since The General only does business in certain states, and The General has also created a slew of microsites (or “Precision Portals”) to connect with various types of users in various stages of the buying cycle.

One of The General’s interesting challenges is that his brand name is generic. I’ve seen this issue with a range of brands, such as media outlets that have some properties that find some properties are easier to optimize than others. Consider the difference between the Cake songs “Sheep Go to Heaven,” which is original as far as titles go, to the song that would most likely be a product search, “Italian Leather Sofa.” What helps is that searchers increasingly refine such queries by appending terms such as “lyrics” or “guitar chords” for the music terms, or “car insurance” or “bad credit” for The General. (Once again, given that this is a blog and not a strict journalistic chronology, note that all the digression here is mine; I don’t plan to put words in the speakers’ mouths.)

Then came Julia Gause, Online Marketing Manager with Scripps Networks, who charmed the audience with her own search marketing challenges, such as some sites (namely Flash ones) being harder to optimize than others, so paid media strategies become even more important in such cases to drive traffic and capture searches.

Chris Humber wrapped it up, describing a range of tools, technologies, and tips marketers should leverage for optimization in 2007, such as Media RSS (mRSS), Google Base, and link development strategies that include blog PR outreach. Especially important is identifying the authorities in your space – whether they’re blogs, marketers, or anyone else. Even if you outsource your public relations or have internal people who are 110% dedicated to it, PR is too pervasive a job these days to isolate in such a way. Humber himself has become a public relations extension of quite a few of the marketers we work with. One more paradigm shifted.

One marketer in the audience gave a great case study on paid search in the Q&A. She said how the brand terms were costing next to nothing and generating a huge proportion of sales, while most of the expenses were being poured into terms that weren’t generating great results. The client wanted to try shutting off those non-brand terms for a couple months, but her agency (okay, I guess I don’t need to be too coy when blogging my company’s event) recommended against it, noting that searchers on non-brand terms were then going back to the brand terms and converting. The marketer tried shutting off the non-brand terms for three days, and after losing $100,000 in sales, begged her agency (coyness is hard to shake) to turn the full campaign back on.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, search is a process. Consumers don’t know they’re converting on brand terms.