Monday, February 12, 2007

Getting the most of your online marketing: the In & Out of SEM/SEO

SEM: Search Engine Marketing (aka: paid search) is set of marketing methods to increase the visibility of a website in search engine results pages

SEO: Search Engine Optimization (aka: organic or "free" search) attempts to improve rankings for relevant keywords in search results by improving a web site's structure and content

SEM and SEO are the hottest topics of online marketing at the moment if we believe the 50+ executives of our portfolio companies who gathered recently at Spago in Palot Alto for the Bessemer Online Marketing Workshop. Attendees included Blue Nile, Postini, LinkedIn, Lifelock, Wize, Sparter , Zopa, Revver, Wikia, Flock, Vimo, Delivery Agent, Gerson Lehrman Group, Pure Networks, Zensys, Summit, T3Ci, Endeca and Nominum - a wide spectrum of companies, both in terms of stage (very early to pre-IPO) and sectors (consumer internet, software, chipsets...). Bessemer was also heavily represented with David Cowan , managing partner and co-founder of VeriSign (see his post about the event), Rob Stavis, BVP’s New York-based managing partner who led our investment in Skype, Byron Deeter, partner and founder of Trigo and our COO/managing partner Ed Colloton.

It took us some time to put together the agenda, but here is how the 1/2-day event eventually looked like:
- In-depth analysis of SEM best practices - Abe Mezrich, Director of Communications from Did-It
- SEO best practices and case studies - Andreas Mueller, President and Founder of Bloofusion
- Online marketing metrics - Chini Krishnan, BVP operating partner and founder and CEO of Vimo
- What it means for customers - Phil Braden, GM Customer Interactions, Endeca
- The future of online marketing - GeoffreyArone, founder of Flock and EIR at Bessemer
- Roundtable - moderated by Rob Stavis
- Cocktail and networking

The workshop was a great learning experience for all the participants (who rated the event at 3.6 on a scale of 1-4). Here are a few interesting insights
On the SEM side:
- Know when your customers buy: the conversion rate varies tremendously within the day, between days and by geography (even within the US)
- Understand how the customer sees a Google page (top right and top left are the first areas screened by the eyes)
- Inserting the key words in your word ad can be very effective if done properly (Watch out though, as automated insertion can lead to very interesting results: e.g., I loved the "Great deals on Plutonium - shop on Ebay and save!")

... and on the SEO side:
- Go for market share: Google is ~50%, Yahoo ~30%, MSN ~10% (for the US - there are some notable exception as France where MSN is the leader)
- Eventhough the "relevance" criteria of search engines are kept secret, respecting a few rules can make a great difference:
1) Determine the best set of key words that consumers will type to look for your product or service. This requires time and market research, but is really key
2) Optimize one page for each target search term
3) Link your site with relevant/ thematic link websites (use Google page rank as a benchmark)
4) Work on your site architecture: avoid frames, dynamic URLs, text within images, flash navigation, AJAX and JavaScript navigation for example

If you are interested to learn more about SEM and SEO, Abe and Andreas presentations can be downloaded at the following links: Abe Mezrich – Did-it and Andreas Mueller - Bloofusion.
The videos can be watched at Bessemer Online Marketing Portal (the other materials are not public).

Get your own helicopter for $50!

...and you can also make it fly on AirWolf tune. Our office is full of them! The name of the bird is PiccoZ .
- hurry up, the retailers are out of stock!