And Our 9th Annual State of Search Survey Says…

SEMPO is pleased to release our 9th Annual State of Search Report.  For an industry that is constantly evolving, this report remains a critical touchstone for digital marketers looking to assess where they stand today and where they should be looking to succeed tomorrow.  Plus, our unique approach of surveying and segmenting results for both companies and agencies provides perspectives and insights not easily found in other reports.

The 2014 State of Search Report is no different in this regard but we did make some significant changes in the survey approach to be able to capture today’s reality of search marketing’s integration into the overall digital marketing mix. Here are some of the key elements that we implemented to further enhance our ability to provide meaningful and relevant data:

– The survey was shortened to be more strategically oriented – focusing more on objectives, metrics, and ROI and less on resources and tactics.  This appears to have produced the desired result as 70% of our company respondents either manage or contribute to strategy, budgets, and direction of marketing.

– We added social media marketing questions to the survey several years ago as it was becoming clear that search engines were evolving their algorithms to include social signals. This year we added more digital channels, including mobile, email, and display. The results illustrate the degree to which content marketing integration is still more of a strategic concept than tactical reality – somewhat more particularly with companies. We think you will also find it interesting to compare key objectives, metrics, challenges with emerging trends, and ROI perceptions between channels as well as between companies and agencies.

– Budget questions were included as in the past but this time we drilled down a little deeper to understand allocation/aggregation between digital channels as well as flexibility to alter spends based on more real-time ROI assessment.

– There are also a few new questions around how much time digital marketers are investing in learning/researching the latest trends and how experimental they are in testing new techniques/technologies by channel. We were a little surprised to see that both companies and agencies are less experimental with search engine optimization than all the other channels except email. Another sign of the maturation of SEO or more of a reflection of last year’s developments regarding Google’s algorithm and analytics “enhancements?”

SEMPO members can access the complete report here. We look forward to your comments and the ongoing conversation around the report as we dig deeper into the findings and surface more observations.

Finally, sincere thanks to our members and sponsors for their participation and support of this survey and for their continued commitment to advancing search marketing best practices as part of today’s integrated digital marketing mix.


Talent Acquisition and Job Hunting Beyond LinkedIn

According to the 2013 Jobvite Social Recruiting Survey, 94% of recruiters use or plan to use social media in their recruiting efforts, while 78% of them have made a hire through social media. Thus, it makes sense for recruiters and job hunters alike to utilize social media.

For Job Hunters

1. Review privacy settings – Let’s face it, some of us say EXACTLY what we feel when on Facebook or Twitter. If your posts are in any way controversial, you may want to review your privacy settings to make sure your posts are viewed by friends only. Recent surveys suggest that nearly 40% of employers have prescreened potential hires. Though most are looking to see if candidates are a good fit with their company’s culture, you don’t want to lose a great opportunity because of a misguided Facebook post or tweet.

2. Let your network know you’re job seeking – Facebook and Twitter are first and foremost networking vehicles, allowing you to communicate with a broad group of people quickly. Don’t be shy. It is essential for job seekers to let their networks know they’re in the job market. Tell them the location, industry, and job title you are seeking as well as any other pertinent details that your network can pass along about you. 

3. “Like” or “follow” any prospective employer’s social media platforms — More and more employers are posting jobs on their social media pages. Make sure you are aware of any potential openings at your target employers. Search for Facebook pages or Twitter accounts devoted specifically to jobs. Many major companies, including Google, Disney, and Microsoft, now have dedicated jobs’ accounts. And, if you can determine the hiring manager of a potential job, their Facebook or Twitter page could give you a sense of their managerial style. Use this knowledge to your advantage during an interview.

4. Use groups and hashtags to your advantage – Whether on Facebook or Twitter, get involved in the conversation. If you become a known contributor in your areas of interest and expertise, you may come across a hiring manager who is seeking the talents you possess. Use your Twitter account as a bridge to your personal blog, portfolio, or resume to provide more details about your knowledge and skills.

For Recruiters

1. Show up in organic search – With so many candidates using search and social media in their job search, make sure your Facebook and Twitter pages are optimized. Fill out category, topic, and description sections of your Facebook and Twitter profiles, using terms related to jobs and positions you are looking to fill.

2. Create groups – Whether they are location, industry, or position based, groups are a great way to find individuals who are like-minded and interested in your company.

3. Leverage your employees – Ask employees to tweet or post jobs in their department or location. Chances are good that they have someone in their network seeking employment.

4. Tell everyone how great you are – Retweet when employees and customers say great things about you. Everyone wants to work for great companies doing great things.

5. Engage with candidates – If you are able to make the process as personal as possible, prospective employees are more likely to become actual employees.

Do you have a tip for fellow job hunters or recruiters? Share in the comments below:

Keyword Insights: An Interview with Bill Hunt

How are Hummingbird and “not provided” affecting the Search Marketing industry? What are some insider tips and tricks? SEMPO recently chatted with Bill Hunt, President of Back Azimuth Consulting and co-author of Search Engine Marketing, Inc., about his views on Search Marketing and the latest industry changes.

1. What initially attracted you to work in the Search Marketing industry?

I got pulled into it indirectly by optimizing my own earthquake preparedness site to rank well in US and Japanese search engines.  After the Kobe earthquake in 1995, we did significant business with Japan and that success was reported by a number of business magazines.  The phones were ringing off the hook but not for the earthquake kits or consulting but from companies. Most wanted us to help them enter Japan using search engines.  I sold the kit company and my wife Motoko and I focused on localization and optimization of sites for large companies like AT&T, HP, and Western Digital.

2. Tell us a little bit about your approach to gaining keyword insights.

My process is a multistep process to segment the words by logical categories and let the data point us in the right direction.  Keywords from different sources can tell us a lot about our consumer.

The first and primary insight I want to know is how are we performing for our products and services.  It is not sexy but performance for all products, services, categories and their buy cycle attributes.  These don’t need to be researched or supported by any data – they are your primary keyword universe and should be non-negotiable.

Once we have the products and services data all set, what does the data tell us? Do any patterns emerge when you look at a cluster of words?  Do they use one over another; is there a price relationship or a lack of knowledge about the product? Some interesting examples I have found are:

Las Vegas Hotels – what do they really mean when they use that phrase?  We found that 83% of the search volume for variations of this phrase were related to “cheap or discount” hotel rooms.  That while they searched using “Las Vegas Hotels” they really meant “cheap Las Vegas Hotels.”  So if the #2 ranking page has a snippet of “The premier Resort on the Strip,” which clearly does not sound cheap, you are not going to get clicked.

Cloud Computing – along the same lines, we found 87% of the variations of this phrase were “what is” or “what are the benefits” related to cloud computing and all the pages ranking on the first page were educational pages that described what cloud computing was.  Once my clients changed the content they jumped to the first page.

Some other sorts we want to look at are:

By revenue – what keywords make you money?
By margin – where do you make the most money?
Misspellings – how many ways do they misspell different words?

Currently I am finding one of the best sources of insight is site search data.  These are phrases that are being used on your site showing specific interest in the product or service.  For one of our retail clients, we identified over $4 million in untapped opportunity to upsell and cross sell site searchers who wanted to upgrade or add to their products but none of the content supported these phrases.  Simply adding the ability to buy up recovered the cost of the effort in less then two weeks.

Another big analysis I think people should do is to look at their top 20 highest CPC paid search terms and see if they rank in the top 3 organic and which page is ranking.  So far nearly 200 people have told me that less than half of their terms are ranking for their most expensive words.  Google research shows that as much as 66% of the paid listings that are clicked don’t have a corresponding organic listing.  This is pure gold if you can fix this not only from a cost reduction but from a brand and shelf space opportunity.

3. What kind of tools do you use and recommend to gain keyword insights or research? Does this differ based on the size of the company and, if so, how? What can be gained from drilling down through keyword data?

I honestly believe the process is the same no matter the size of the site or company.   I think that some search teams get overwhelmed thinking about keyword data modeling for an enterprise company with millions of words.

The #1 tool is your brain. I don’t think enough people spend time thinking about their keywords, their audience, and, most importantly, what did they want when they searched and why did they use a specific phrase when they did it.

As far as commercial tools, this is the interesting thing about our industry – there are not any available.  Sure all the tools have keywords in them and give you data and a few even have some basic classification but none are really enabling you to do anything with the words and data.

I am obviously partial to the keyword management/mining tool that I have spent the last 2 years developing – it pulls in all your keywords and associated data and does the segmentation I have already mentioned.

For those without a tool like mine, I think a simple database or pivot tables in Excel can work wonders.  Once you have tagged the words into classifications, you can sort them any number of ways to find opportunity.  I am finding most advanced search programs, like those at SAP and TripAdvisor, require their Search Team members to be proficient in SQL to be able to mine for opportunities.

There is a lot of data that can be gleaned from the data.  I have hundreds of examples of opportunity that was mined.

4. Has Hummingbird impacted your process for recommending/prioritizing keywords or phrases?

It has not changed our process but has been helpful to get companies to better understand the need for Searcher Intent Modeling.   This is especially true with any phrase related to “how to” do something.   Hummingbird is trying to deduce the intent of the search and we have seen a number of pages drop for companies that are not specifically answering the “how to” or don’t specially match the intent of the searcher.   Also we are pushing content type alignment – for one of our clients that has a lot of cocktail recipes, many of their web pages were replaced by their YouTube videos on making various drinks.  We have made some changes so that the video and the page are ranking, increasing their SERP shelf space.

5. In your opinion, when should you trust your gut instincts and when should you trust data in keyword selection? 

I think you have to always trust your gut first since it is a great gauge of intent. Search Marketers rely too heavily on tools to guide them rather than instinct.

6. How important is it to reevaluate/review keywords? When should this be done?

It is critical to do it at least quarterly, and I have a few clients that review all new keywords on a weekly basis.  It really depends on the turnover of your words and how many new products you have.

7. How has “not provided” impacted your process of measuring keyword optimization success? What metrics do you recommend for evaluating keyword success?

It has had a pretty significant impact but we are starting to work around it.  I am well known for my “Missed Opportunity Models,” which use the gap between search volume and organic visits for a specific keyword.  These models have been used by many companies to justify their search programs and they are nearly impossible to do now.

Most of the companies I work with still use rank and organic search engine revenue as their key drivers.   While we cannot tie it to a specific keyword, we can show that overall non-paid search revenue is increasing.

We just built into our tool the ability to leverage PLP’s, rank, and page revenue data as a proxy for organic performance.  How this works is every Tier 1 and Tier 2 keyword we have assigned a “preferred landing page” – the page we believe has the best opportunity for conversion.  We then look at organic attributed revenue month over month and rank of the assortment of words month over month.  This allows us to show that an increase in ranking or the swap of a PLP over another page has had positive impact.  We can see the same when a word or a set of words drop in rank.

We also look at traffic based on Google Webmaster Tool data which we pull in but it is only a fraction of actual data.

8. Where do you see the role of keyword research and optimization going in the future?

They are becoming even more important, especially since we have less data to support performance improvements with not provided.  I have been advocating a Keyword Czar role for a number of years, and there are a few companies that are starting to adopt this at least as a part-time role.  With the increase in social media conversational mining and the demands for content ideas, this is becoming more and more important.

It is a great tool for content creation efforts.  We do a lot of modeling of words and opportunity and if you lay that out in a hierarchical flow it pretty much tells you exactly what content your are missing and how to better speak the language of your consumer.

How are Hummingbird and “not provided” affecting you? Where do you see the role of keyword research and optimization going in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily SEMPO.


Using Search for Talent Acquisition: How to Get Your Job Openings in Front of the Right Candidates

It’s January – a time when businesses focus on the year ahead. They determine what resources they’ll need to meet their objectives, and thus, hiring is heavy, and competition for talent is fierce.

We typically think of search as a medium for customer acquisition, but it is also widely used by candidates searching for jobs. Similar to the approach we take for customer acquisition, search for talent acquisition involves optimization and distribution.

Build a keyword list
The first step in getting your jobs in front of the right candidates via search is to develop your keyword list. Your list should include:

1. Personal attributes of ideal candidates
2. Key performance indicators and success metrics of the most successful people in the position
3. Reasons candidates would want to work for your company (perks that make you stand out)

Put yourself in the mind of the job seeker. What terms will they be looking for when searching for the ideal job? Be as specific as possible by using appropriate industry jargon to help eliminate fringe candidates, and to give you the best chance for receiving resumes from the most ideal candidates.

Write a job description that is compelling, unique, and shareable
If we’ve learned anything as search marketing professionals, it is that content is king. That content comes in many forms. Treat your job descriptions as you would your product descriptions. Include as many of your relevant keywords as possible, write compelling descriptions that catch the reader’s eye, and include audio or video to give your job description some personality. A small audio snippet from a hiring manager or company executive gives a candidate a sense of what to expect if he were to work at your company. It also gives your description a personality and gives readers a reason to like, share, repost. Your goal is to have a candidate say “this job is me,” or “I know someone perfect for this job.”

Create unique landing pages with optimized URLs for each job description
Just as it is vital when creating product and other website pages, so too is it vital to create unique landing pages for your job descriptions. As with any piece of optimized content, your URL should have plain English phrases using the position title. For example, would be a preferred URL for your online marketing manager job descriptions.

Establish links to your job description from relevant sites
Where do your candidates search for jobs? An easy way to determine this is to do a general search for the position you are seeking and see what comes up. Most likely, the top sites are general job boards, industry-specific job boards, associations, colleges, newspapers, and more often, social media. Make sure you link to your job description from as many high volume sites as possible to give your site relevant link authority.

Leverage social networking to get the word out
According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 72% of online adults use social networking sites. Networking, whether social or otherwise, is a vital component of the job search. You must be where the candidates are. Many candidates, in fact, may not be active job seekers. Social networking sites are a great way to find passive job seekers who may not be actively searching, but who would welcome a job change. Sites such as LinkedIn, allow you to search for candidates who match the qualifications and experience you are looking for. Other sites, such as BeKnown from Monster, and even Facebook are reaching out to job seekers and recruiters alike, trying to capitalize on the social networking phenomenon. Facebook’s Graph Search allows recruiters to find the skills, education, or experience that fits a particular job opening. Leverage to 100+ million users of these sites to find the ideal candidate.

Search is a built-in component of your marketing mix. It should also be a part of your talent acquisition mix.