Sunday, April 30, 2017

Alfidi Capital Attends SMX West 2017

I am a known regular at every major digital marketing event in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Search Marketing Expo 2017 down in San Jose. I attended this year's SMX West Conference to hear what Microsoft Bing and Google had to say about their search capabilities, but there were other goodies on hand.

Alfidi Capital displays Expo badge at SMX West 2017.

My free Expo badge got me into the main events from the major sponsors, plus all the free candy I could grab during booth pitches. The badge selfie notes the Landy Awards from Search Engine Land  which I was not invited to attend. Someday, these folks will have me hosting their award ceremonies. Mark my words, because my badge selfies are prophetic. The only other photo I took was of some wild equation someone displayed on a pitch slide illustrating online ad spending; it did not come out nearly as well as my badge selfie.

The keynote address pitching Google Assistant was the latest roadshow chapter in Google's plan to take over the world, one household at a time. Google Assistant integrates with Google Home and probably enables other parts of the IoT ecosystem, like Nest. Before you know it, your thermostat will be searching Google for neighborhood microclimate forecasts. I suppose Google's in-home devices and apps will interface with Google's APIs by passing basic data on identity, payments, and geolocations back and forth. Doing this with users' permission requires users to become a lot more cognizant of security. The UI is always the weakest point in security chains. Good luck, Google; you're better off pitching automated security and letting the smartest users post helpful bug fixes online. Actions on Google gives developers hints on how to build for Google Assistant.

The Bing people talked up their ad programs' quality score metrics. I prefer that they raise the quality of their search algorithm if they ever hope to have a shot at taking market share from Google Search. I did like their tip on landing page optimization, where the "root word" of a word with many synonyms avoids a search engine penalty for keyword stuffing.

One big benefit for yours truly was to hear SEO legend Bruce Clay speak at SMX West. The guy has been doing search marketing since the earliest days of the discipline. The FTC has plenty of guidelines impacting search marketing, and everyone advertising in the search sector must comply. I did a Google Search of some combos of "FTC PPC SEO" to see the latest developments. Mr. Clay mentioned WebPagetest as one way to identify fixes that will raise a page's search rank, in addition to Google's long-standing webmaster guidelines. I asked Mr. Clay about how emerging industry guidelines on making Web pages accessible to people with disabilities will affect SEO. He generously answered that ADA Rule 508 (supported by treaty in many countries) enables audible readers for alt-tags of images, and a company can incur huge fines if a US federal government employee uses a website that's not ADA compliant. Lawyers are lining up behind the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) to pursue liabilities for websites whose images do not have matching alt-tags. The FCC is tracking CVAA regulation updates. Thanks again for the heads-up, Mr. Clay, because Web entrepreneurs like me need to stay out of trouble. Mr. Clay's tips were endless, telling us to mitigate referer spam and UTM injection, and cautioning against malware installation into plug-ins that cause negative SEO results.

The Google free talks were the day after the Bing talks. I scored multiple handfuls of free snacks from both sponsors, in addition to some cool marketing insights. There's tons of online commentary for Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) as an ad performance metric, including calculation methods. Marketers should use ROAS together with CVR, CPA, and CPC in a dashboard format, with conversions traced as "attributions" to each spending metric. I used to hear a lot about remarketing to prospects who fell out of a marketing funnel, and now it's accepted as a given with "dynamic remarketing" as a variant. The ultimate purpose of using data-driven ad buys is to raise CVR while lowering CPA, and the Google people made it clear that this is their ad platform's approach. I don't use Google Merchant Center, because I don't sell any products or run ads, but it's the future for online retailers of any size.

I picked up quite a few other specialized tips from the Expo that probably aren't applicable to my general readership, but they are definitely of interest to me. I have realized lately that sharing too much about my business strategy can be counterproductive. I took a bit longer writing this article about the Expo because I wanted to ensure I had time to update my own SEO techniques. SMX West 2017 was a winner for Alfidi Capital.