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October 18, 2008

SMX Singapore Keynote - Gillian Muessig

By David Temple

Dsc03739 Gillian Muessig, president of SEOmoz, gave the keynote address "The Business of Search" at the inaugural Search Marketing Expo (SMX) in Singapore. Gillian addressed the financial crisis going on right now. As she traveled around the US and Asia in the past few weeks she asked people how this was affecting them. In general the view in the US is "This doesn't happen!" and people were quite worried however in Asia they felt, "This happens; it will all work out".

What does it mean for SEO's? Gillian used an analogy, noting that when a Plague hits, people 'wake up'; you have their attention. The recent events in markets have given us the financial equivalent of a Plague. SEOs finally have client's attention; they are ready to understand how much less expensive, more targeted, and more effective SEO/SEM can be than traditional media. She pointed out that Dr. Mathew McDougall, CEO of the Sinotech Group in China, said he is already seeing millions of dollars moving online and others have corroborated that in their comments to him.

Gillian said the first millions are being spent in SEM. She predicts that as more bidders push up the cost, the next stop will be SEO. And when the dust settles, she predicts that money will remain online and continue to increase as mobile web, SMS, and other forms of marketing experience maturation and rising adoption. All in all, this is a very good time to be in Internet marketing of any kind.

What do decision makers need to know before engaging in SEO?  Turning her attention to how to effectively sell SEO to clients, Gillian said they need to know basic concepts, the tribal speak of SEO, and something about industry trends. In addition, SEOs must manage expectations and demonstrate the ROI. The basics are building content towards searchers' interest, making sure the pages are easily indexed by the search engines, and pro-active marketing activities, such as blogging, social media marketing, etc.

Every industry has their tribal speak. For instance Boeing has a book on acronyms call ERBAs - Easily Recognizable Boeing Acronyms. Explain the terminology of SEO clearly without talking down to them. Remember that they are brilliant in their business; demonstrate that you are brilliant in SEO by clearly explaining the subject, not by obfuscating.

Why do we need search engine marketing? Simply put, you need to be where people are looking. The limitations of search need to be addressed, including things like flash, pages behind firewalls, indexing, etc. Talk about keyword phrases and link popularity. The emergence of new threats and opportunities such as Google news, blogs, images, videos, local search, etc. are also important. She demonstrated how people are using Google maps to get their businesses listed. And how others are losing out by not being represented on those maps.

Gillian showed numerous slides with industry trends and encouraged the audience to take pertinent slides for their own presentations to clients. The Internet penetration rate is at approximately 20% as reported at SMX in Nanjing, China. Social media is one of the fastest growing aspects of the Internet in Asia as compared to the US.  Basically it is a monstrous market and very few people have arrived relatively speaking. So there is plenty of room for growth and Asia is the exciting place to be right now.

What are search engine marketing deliverables? Clients want to know what they are receiving for their money. The mainstay SEO deliverable is the site review. It includes a search friendliness report. Make sure you are very clear what a search friendliness reports looks like, it shows how well a search engine can index those pages. If they cannot index those pages they will not be found on the web. It includes a keyword research report, which should include an explanation of the value of long tail and local search.

It includes a link analysis report and as most of you know, SEOmoz launched Linkscape recently. Links are the most important element in ranking for the major search engines at this time. An analysis not only of the links a site already has, but the value of those links, a competitive report to show what your client's competition is up to, and a list ordered by priority of how to build more links should be included. Usablility and user experience reports is sometimes included in a complete site review. If they only hired you to do SEO you may want to mention it on the side.

Competitive analysis reports and social media reports are terribly important. Folks need to know what's available to them, how they are doing and what the effects are on their web site. Elements of the site review should include actionable information. Include recommendations for content development, link building strategy, analytics and a top 3-5 list of the low hanging fruit.

Other deliverables are comprised of doing the work recommended in the Site Review. They include link building campaigns, social media campaigns, content development as well as training workshops in which you train the client's team to do the work inhouse and support them with consultation by phone, email or more on-site meetings. Help your client to make choices from this menu depending on their specific situation and budgetary restraints.

What does it take for a savvy client to reach a level of trust for you to get the job? Gillian spoke with a decision maker of a very large company based here in Singapore and he had a list of desires from SEO's. He's pretty savvy and has a team of SEO's but he is smart enough to realize he needs outside consultants to assist in optimizing his sites. [Gillian did not use his name or company during her keynote per his request but he has allowed me to identify himself and his company and to link to his detailed list.] SEO Consultant: Ways to improve your sales pitch is listed by Peter Zapf, Vice President of Community Development, Global Sources. It's a good article; we should all take heed.

1. Please don't ask me my budget first thing in the conversation.
2. Ask me about my business goals and objectives.
3. Ask me about my existing results.
4. Let's get clear on whether this is an SEO project, or an SEO/conversion/usability project.
5. Discuss your tactics.
6. Discuss your methodology.
7. Tell me who is going to do the work on this project and put them in front of me.
8. Tell me about your in-house training process.
9. Without breaching client confidentiality, liberally use examples in your discussions.
10. Estimate business impact.
11. Engage me in a conversation about our costs of implementation.
12. Prioritize.
13. Tell me when you expect to see positive results.
14. If you point out shortcomings in our current SEO efforts, do it constructively.
15. When you talk about such shortcomings, please also share the results we can expect from addressing them.
16. When is a good time to talk about cost?
17. While you are unlikely to guarantee results, you probably want me to guarantee payment

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