Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Alfidi Capital at SES San Francisco 2013

I attended SES San Francisco 2013 last week; the organizers archived the conference program for those of you who didn't attend.  I couldn't resist this show because I need to discover the latest social media strategies that will bring Alfidi Capital to millions of investors starving for my incredible insights.  My usual convention for discussing conferences still holds.  I paraphrase speakers' content in regular text and add my own observations of their subject matter in italics.

The show started with SES's founder recommending Vivastream (an app for event networking), ClickZ (a social marketing knowledge base), and Search Engine Watch (monitors best practices for optimizing search engine appearance) for a social media marketer's toolbox.  He admitted that quantifying social ROI is difficult.  I think he just gave me a good blog topic, because creating innovative concepts and metrics is my natural talent.

The first day's keynoter was Jeffrey Hayzlett.  He sounded mostly like a motivational speaker, but he did leverage his experience at Kodak into some action points.  Jeffrey wants marketing leaders to drive change by being "clock changers" because C-suites like self-starters who take initiative to solve problems.  He described five main mistakes in failing to drive change.  Here they come.

1.  Fear.  Survival instincts inhibit change.
2.  Tension.  Healthy debate is good.  Search for things that create cognitive dissonance.
3.  Radical transparency.  Own up to your shortcoming and ask your team for help.
4.  Take risk.  Push the envelope.  Try multiple themes and methods.  Radical transparency mitigates risk if your entire team is providing feedback.
5.  Promises.  Customers and providers are linked in an action cycle where satisfaction comes from promise fulfillment.

Jeffrey demanded we ask ourselves to find our "118," the equivalent of a 118-second elevator pitch.  I don't know how many floors an elevator can traverse in 118 seconds.  Most of the elevator pitches I've heard are confined to 30 seconds.  He also wants us to find our passion and stand for something.  I've heard this kind of talk from high school guidance counselors and Boy Scout troop leaders.  I guess some people need to hear it from marketing motivational gurus.  The professional speaking circuit must be quite lucrative if it pays keynoters for such penetrating (yawn) insights.  

I spent almost the entire first day of the SES show in the Google seminars.  They were mostly focused on getting people to use Google's products but I got a few hints on how that will drive my social media action to new levels of bonanza.  Google also provided free snacks and soda.  That must be one cool place to work.  I've never sent them my resume because I'm certain I'm too old to fit in.  I prefer that they come to me at these conferences.

Google's AdWords guru said that an advertiser's AdWords budget should be dynamic.  Part of the reason is that search impressions vary by device, time of day, and geography.  Bids rather than budget should drive the ad spend.  This  strongly implies that advertisers must flex their ad budget to target their product and brand key demographics by some constantly changing mix of device, time, and geography.  There will never be a static optimal mix.  Google's conversion tracker reveals click responses to ad buys, so assign a value to conversions from each device type.  CPA changes may lead to dramatic step-ups in profitability.  It's not just some trick to get Google's clients to spend more on AdWords.  Google will publish this as a white paper in a few weeks or months.  Google has tons of research papers available.  

The next Googler talked about success in mobile apps.  Here comes my stream-of consciousness narrative.  Mobile barriers to conversions (i.e., ad impressions that lead to sales) are gone because mobile purchases are now accepted behavior.  Sales success comes from ease of use, like one-click purchases.  Engagement is more important than acquisition.  Development teams can add Google Analytics' SDK to their apps.  Power management is a concern for developers.  Simplicity in apps is better than complexity.  Google Analytics can parse use case data by small form factors across devices.  Pay attention, mobile entrepreneurs.  Once thing VCs want to see from mobile products is use case data.  Build in Google Analytics and you've got a measuring tool.  Universal Analytics can measure apps running in Google App Engine.  Google Analytics can generate location reports down to some tiny level.  Successful apps grow to cross many platforms, like Angry Birds.

I missed the next Google talk due to a business lunch I had to attend but the final Googler was not to be missed.  This was a really hot chick who noted that Flash HTML 5 worked seamlessly across all devices.  I was more interested in whether she worked on devices, if you know what I mean.  She also said that keyword contextual targeting works in seasonal ad campaigns.  You marketing folks will have to make sense of that.  I'm just throwing it out there.  The reception afterwards was nice of Google but their hot chicks were too busy chatting up other attendees to spend quality time with Yours Truly.

SES held an expert roundtable forum where other gurus held forth on helpful marketing topics.  I hit the only table I needed:  blog marketing.  The dude I spoke with advised me to check Google Marketplace for my page rank and try to get it higher.  Uh, that's their apps market.  I may have failed to explain to the dude that I'm not an app developer, I'm just a content creator.  He said PPC works but it's costly.  That doesn't bother me because my ad budget is zero. has domain authority metrics I can use.  Getting inbound links really helps a Google page rank.  Reaching out to other bloggers for links and retweets reduces bounce rate (when a visitor goes back to Google and does a related search to click somewhere else).  Systematically building links is a serious project, so I will need to contact an expansive roster of finance bloggers to request links.  Blogdash and other blogger outreach platforms exists; some require pay while others are free to use.  I'm starting to see a theme developing.  Relationships with other high-traffic bloggers and aggregators should help drive traffic to my blog.  If that doesn't work, I can always post pictures of LOLcats with funny captions.  Everyone on the Web loves LOLcats.  

The second day of the show started with a keynote from Google's Patrick Thomas, who challenged us to design our own search engine just to see what kind of content we'd allow.  Google deals with content problems across several domains, including copyright infringement and hate speech.  Relevant search demands policy governance and the Internet's size demands search engine principles for controversial content.  Solving for scale means limiting manual decisions.  Search engines must also abide by country-specific laws on content.  I imagine China and the Islamic world would be particular headaches.  "Underground" information not readily found on Google still exists, like on the -chan series of sites.  I haven't visited the Internet's underground since my college days, and I have no intention of having a look around that neighborhood.  Using a "white list approach" of manually selected search results is difficult if you care about scale, and it was doom for AltaVista.  Difficult search decisions include content farms like black hat SEO boards.  Ahem, there's a big difference between black hat SEO and white hat SEO.  Black hat tactics get a site banned from search engines.  White hat tactics build a permanent audience for content.  Google's Knowledge Graph helps it overlay real-world context onto web-based algorithmic results so they can decide what not to index into web searches.  Google does write algorithms that drop the index rankings of bad merchants who get massive links simply because people badmouth them.  That's why I include positive notes in even my most sarcastic articles, nyah nyah nyah.  Google takes page speed loading into account in rankings because a faster speed provides a better user experience and is more deserving of a higher rank.  It's a good thing I use Google's Blogger platform.  The blog code must work wonderfully with the search code.

The only free seminar available to me, the free expo pass cheapskate, was the Page One Power talk on link building.  Google likes it when relevant sites and blogs link to your site.  There's that theme again.  It may very well be true if so many SEO pros are succeeding that way.  Get a strategy, find targets, and ask for links.  Blogging is vital to white hat link building.  I've got that one covered.  I won't give away all of the tips I collected from Page One Power's free seminar and expo floor talk but I will share one relevant principle.  A target link's value is based on two factors:  its domain authority (from once again) and its relevance to a keyword you're trying to drive with your marketing strategy.  This is why links from professional associations matter in link building; they are highly relevant to a keyword.  This is also why data tied to Google's API matters; it determines whether link building from a given site will be useful.  Data from marketers showing search engine results pages (SERPs) for keywords shows which sites are hot and deserve link builders' attention.  Oh, BTW, Page One Power founder Jon Ball noted me scribbling furiously during his talks and said, "Those are good notes."  Yes, indeed they are.  I publish the general notes on my blog and use whatever's left to develop my own proprietary ideas.  See folks, the experts see me in action and admire my work.

I also want to address one more topic that I picked up from sitting through a couple of expo floor talks.  Google+ profiles can register for Google Authorship and be recognized with top ranks for good posts on specific subjects.  Use Google's guidelines for Authorship or their algorithm will penalize you.  I've also seen some helpful tips from Google's Official Webmaster Central Blog.  Experts at SES told me that I can enable it for a single blog article and even do so retroactively for articles published years ago.  One attendee mentioned that some research somewhere shows Google Authorship to be more effective in driving traffic than link building.  That settles it.  I'm pushing Google Authorship first and link building second but both will be part of my SEO strategy now.

The expo floor was filled with SEO marketers and other vendors.  They were fun to watch because I need to use some of the concepts they've mastered.  I sat through one interactive talk where a web marketing guru gave out hard-hitting critiques of our websites.  I let him critique my research website, Alfidi Capital.  He said my big gray block in the middle makes people think it's broken.  He thinks the whole site is cheesy and unprofessional and that people will click away.  He says my fonts don't match and my logo is in the center of the page.  He thinks it's really bad, and I told him I don't care at all.  He said he assumed I wanted people to invest with me after seeing my site, and I told him that is not at all what I want anyone to do.  I said my goal in business is to make people angry.  He said I succeeded in making him angry.  YES!  Mission accomplished!  I'm not changing a single thing about the Alfidi Capital main site because it looks exactly that way I want it to look.  It looks fine on mobile anyway, and mobile is the future.  The dude even gave me a free copy of his book on web page something or other.  Maybe I'll read it, or maybe I won't.  It can only help me if I can figure out how to make more people angry.

I made a few SEO resource discoveries on my own.  Digital Marketing Depot and HubSpot have tons of free tips and white papers.  Google codes its various algorithm updates as Panda, Penguin, and Phantom . . . mainly of interest to hard-core techies.  I'm just a blogger.  I don't care how code works.  I just want to publish mind-blowing articles and force-feed my thinking to a planet starving for genius.  SES San Francisco gave me what I needed to get there.

Full disclosure:  No position in GOOG at this time.