Monday, December 7, 2009

SES Chicago December 2009 Day 1

I'm back to the Hilton Chicago for my favorite conference of the year, Search Engine Strategies (SES #seschi). Although I own a real estate brokerage, these conferences are a delightful throwback to my old life as a computer nerd. I love coming here and mingling with all these interesting souls.

However, as always, I am woefully reminded of how much I have fallen behind technologically since the last time I was here. And I'm not talking in just a few ways, but hundreds of ways. One thing is for sure, I am glad that I waited to revamp my website until after I came here.

The conference this time has a subdued feel. I think this is because the world is in the middle of a transition between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 and this feels like a big deal. Web 3.0 is mysteriously creeping up on us all. This time around we are quieter before the sessions start, in fact you could hear a pin drop as we sit quietly waiting, listening, striving to understand what is going to happen next.
And we are learning that what is going to happen next will be a big shift away from what we know.

Today we heard a lot about real time search, the role of search in our future, social media vs search strategies,
and much more. The new web is no longer about page ranking. Social media has us thinking about the web into in terms of "people ranking." Soon we will see that people and their reputations will be the anchors of the web, not static web sites. There is also a lot of talk about "real time news." The kind that you can only get from Twitter.

As if on cue, today Google rolled out a new
real time search feature. If you put a topic that is trending into Google, you will now get current news results in the return. (Try a topic like Tiger Woods). Usually, we use Google to either look up a domain name or to find information about a topic. For current events, most of us use Twitter or RSS feeds instead of search engines. But Google and other SE's are on the case to change this with their brand new real time search capabilities.

The day ended with my favorite session, "What's the Link Between Search and Social?" The panel discussed how search strategies and social media might work together. The group decided that comparing the two is like comparing apples to oranges; the two tasks are different from each other, each serving a different function. There is a place for both in online marketing, but not so much an intersection of the two.

I personally had been moving away from search strategies and investments. However, I see that search has a place next to social media marketing, at least for now. However, networks of people-powered systems are clearly forging a strong stand against the foothold that search engines like Google have had on the Internet for a long time. It's an important concept to understand in the Web 3.0 world. Looking forward to tomorrow...


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Slow to Start, Fast to Warm Up - Part 2 - My Business Use of Twitter

A couple of weeks ago I fired up my Twitter use in earnest after hearing Guy Kawasaki speak about the possibilities for Twitter in business at SES NY in March. He laid out several ways that businesses can and should be using Twitter, many of which I have described below in previous posts. What follows is a quick description of how I am using Twitter for my Utah Real Estate Brokerage.

Most of my current real estate clients are my "friends" on
Facebook. As a result, when I began to Twitter I didn't really see the need to follow anybody on Twitter who I currently had an established relationship with on Facebook. I also remembered something that Marty Weintraub of AimClear said at one of the SES sessions: Twitter is an amazing testing ground for business ideas. He advised us to try all different kinds of things and then monitor results. He said that it's the best real-time data you can get. So, if you are unsure of your focus or direction, just dive in.

I bought this. I began to use the search function to look up keywords like "REALTOR" and "Utah Real Estate" to see what the
Twittosphere was saying about these subjects. Perhaps not surprisingly, people from all over the world were complaining about their REALTORS and related subjects. Also, people were tweeting their excitement about house hunting or writing offers. I discovered that Marty was right, you CAN get the pulse of your industry in an instant. It was indeed interesting and revealing.

One tweeter asked if anybody knew a REALTOR in the Salt Lake City area. I got on it, but the tweeter responded back kindly that he had found somebody already. Still, I felt that I was onto something. I also tweeted advice to frustrated home buyers and sellers, encouraging them to tell
their Realtors how they were feeling and not just rant randomly to the Twitterverse. I've made a few friendships this way and am learning a lot about my profession through the eyes of other people's experiences with their REALTORS.

By chance, an old
friend who I used to work with in the Governor's office found me and began to follow me. He had great contacts in the Utah State Government that I began to follow. I also found local media people and we are co-following. I began to list myself in Tweet Directories (one example is: Can't hurt, right? After some thought, I decided that from a business perspective on Twitter, I wanted to keep my pulse on the workings of Utah in general. That may be a somewhat broad goal, but it is where my interest lies because I am also a news junkie.

In contrast to that, a REALTOR friend of mine
specializes in the sale of properties in the beautiful Ogden Valley in Utah, where amazing skiing is only 10 minutes away. Her focus is much more local, which makes sense.

I found following a multitude of subjects arduous, so I downloaded
TweetDeck which I liked. I also found TweetGrid, which allows me to monitor up to 10 subjects at once, and has a wonderful retweet button. My day consists of two separate Tweet times. Once in the morning, and again at night. First, I catch up on my Internet reading which consists of Real Estate, marketing, social media and any other subjects that interest me that day. Once I read it, then I tweet it. Then I conduct searches of several subjects to see what the Twitterverse is thinking that day. I respond or follow as need be. The goal is to get to know what is happened in my market place straight from Tweep's minds, in real time. Marty Weintraub was right again, it has been a very interesting testing ground.

One final piece of advice. Make your profile description succinct and descriptive of you.
Don't leave it blank. Upload a picture of you, your logo or something else that is appropriate to you. Keep it clean because there is a permanent log of what you tweet on your profile. Several people have been fired for the things their employers discover them doing on Twitter. Even colleges are looking up tweets before they accept incoming students. Don't tweet anything you wouldn't want your granny to see. Really.

I would be thrilled to have you follow me at:
. Unless you are an axe murderer or something equally as weird, I will happily follow you back.

Jennifer Bunker

Totally Smitten Twitterer

Slow to Start, Fast to Warm Up - Part 1 - My Personal Use of Twitter

Okay, so I admit it. Like many other people, my initial foray into Twitter was less than stellar. I configured it, looked at it, and then decided it was no big deal. I left my account idle for several months after that.

Then, I attended SES NY in March. Guy Kawasaki gave the keynote and it took him all of about 2 minutes to open my eyes WIDE to the benefits of Twitter for business. I couldn't wait to get back to my office and get going. And that's what I've been doing for a month.

Since I am a Facebook junkie, I already carefully balance my personal and professional relationships there. I've reached a sort of "homeostasis" or happy balance with my little community there and I'm happy with that. So in setting goals with how I would use Twitter, I decided initially to indulge my own interests and hobbies. I began to tweet to the twitterverse everything that I read online in the morning before I get to work. I figured I'd eventually attract others who like the same subjects.

And attract I did. Much to my complete surprise, I attracted about 100 followers a day. I learned early on that it is polite to follow your followers, so I did that too. I didn't tweet much personal stuff (left that for Facebook) but basically I began to build a little library on Twitter (found under my Profile) of interesting articles that I might want to read again. I admit to being a book hoarder in RL, and as it turns out, I'm hoarding articles online! Go figure.

Anyway, what this means is that one big way I use Twitter is as an online library for myself.

Also, when using the Search function, I was able to follow others who are tweeting about the subjects that I enjoy. By following them, they followed me. Now I am to nearly 2,000 followers and I have learned a boatload of new information, have made new Utah contacts, made news people contacts, met other vegans, found dog lovers, and connected with politicos that I would never have had access to before. Since these are my interests, I'm really in heaven. I spend about 1 hour in the morning and one hour at night reading the news and then twittering it. (I had to impose strict rules for myself or I would spend a lot more time than that twittering).

Like anybody new to Twitter, I've also attracted my share of MLMers and Online Marketers as followers. I just let them follow and find that eventually they drop off when I don't show interest. Twitter is full of snubs like that, but nobody's feelings are hurt because we just aren't close enough to care. I also love that you can connect or snub in 140 characters or less. It's a Type A person's dream come true.

So, now I LOVE Twitter and plan to become a force in the subjects that interest me. Quite a self-indulgent hobby, I know! I hope I see YOU in the Twittersphere!

More on how I use Twitter for business in Part 2.

I would be thrilled to have you follow me at

Sunday, March 29, 2009

SES: Getting Mobilized! Mobile Marketing Strategies

Sitting in this session felt a bit like somebody was repeatedly cracking me on the head with AHA after AHA. I've seen the presenter, Cindy Krum, speak before. She is vivacious and cute, and so believes in what she is saying. The information she gave us was a gigantic shift for me. I think this session was my second favorite of the conference and you will see why.

In this session she spoke about searching with smart phones. The most popular smart phone of course is the iPhone, with various Blackberry models in second place. Cindy gave us the statistic which I have already quoted several times, but bears repeating:

* 5% of phone owners have an iPhone, but 75% of mobile searches are coming from an iPhone.

Translated into easy to digest brain info, this means that smart phone users are much more likely to conduct a mobile search than users of other types of phones. It stands to reason then, that when these people who don't yet own an iPhone get one, mobile searching will increase at some number too big to even comprehend, talk about, or even write down.

So the question for a small business owner is, will you be ready?

Yes, dear soul, you have stuff to do to get ready. There is such a thing as mobile bots, and they will visit you. When they come, like regular bots, they will evaluate your website(s). They are looking to see how your website will "render" on the screen of a smart phone, and even if your content is something that a mobile searcher might be looking for. You will want to roll out a raging bottie party for these little guys in order to make them feel right at home.

In order to do this, let's take a step back for one moment and examine what is going on when a mobile search is performed. I am willing to bet that a search from a phone is being done to: find a location, find a phone number, find a restaurant, find a business, find a Starbucks, find a gas station, etc. Further, and astute readers will tattoo this concept directly onto their foreheads, these people have an IMMEDIATE NEED TO USE THEIR WALLET!

Please take all the time you need to grasp the significance of this. Mobile searches will be increasing in MASS by people who are looking to spend money immediately.


Okay, so let's get back to the role of the mobile bots. These bots hold your lifeblood in their hands. They are actively indexing mobile sites now. Does your site render properly to a smart phone? Don't know? Call your site developer and ask. If they say they can't do it, fire them and find somebody who can. It's that important.

Cindy provided some very interesting demographics slides, which I will get and share. She also explained the difference between on-deck and off-deck searches. They are important to understand, but I will put off an explanation for now because it is complicated.

Cindy urged us to think about the Mobile User (KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER). She urged us to always code our sites in xhtml and use CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). As I have said previously, it's okay if you don't know what these are, however ask your developer if your sites have these standards. If not, fire the buggars and get somebody who knows what they are doing! Your very online life depends upon it.

She gave us a huge list of mobile directories to submit our sites to. I will get that and share it. She said that there is a meta tag for mobile which helps to alert engines that you have a mobile version of your site. She said that we all have a lot of work to do. She said to be ready.

I am going to be ready. Fortunately for me, I am my own developer. Call yours and have a conversation STAT.

One last item of interest, Cindy introduced the notion of QR codes. QR codes have been popular in Japan for a long time. They are two dimensional bar codes which can be read by some cameras. iPhone is adding QR code readers into future versions which is why I advise to wait to buy an iPhone.

Curious on how the QR code works? Check out this video:

Awesome stuff!

Jennifer Bunker

SES: Where Will Consumers Be Searching in 5 Years?

That's what I wanted to know. Here are the key points I picked up:

1) Search marketing spending is getting smaller. As a result, Google is collecting less from ad spending.

2) Video marketing is increasing. The number one thing people look at online is video.

3) iPhone Effect - The mobile audience is growing fast.

4) At any given time, watch what the kids are doing. We'll be doing that in 5 years.

5) The panel predicts that computers will converge, and then merge, with TV. They get this from the fact that we are watching so many videos online.

6) Google is building big data centers to support its Cloud Computer Initiative. This is the idea that everything we do will take place in the cloud (including TV) . We'll have simple access devices. Probably some relative of the iPhone or other smart phone model.

To support this point, the panel reported that Nike will be broadcasting the (uh oh! something I didn't get down in my notes!) finals on YouTube in May '09. What would that be? Don't know but the point is Nike is using YouTube to do it.

The panel also discussed the "Deep Web." There are billions of pages of information that Google doesn't search such as archives and libraries to name a few. This will become more available as time goes on. Also Semantic web searches are coming about. These handle complex searches mostly through social media outlets. Google is no longer the middleman in these types of searches. Trip Advisor is a good example of this. This site answers questions about travel directly. Also, go to and put your name in. Prepare to be shocked.

This panel emphasized that Twitter as a media type is where we are headed in the future. This means access to information through social networks where search engines are not needed as middlemen. The nice thing about Twitter, so says the panel, is that Twitter is in real time and that is what we want.

Universal, blended, and Live search are the results that we get now when we Google something. You will notice that in the results you get videos and images and categorized websites. Also, there is a lot of geo-targeting going on as results are presented to you. These links are targeted towards your own geographical area, which has been noted via your previous search activities.

More on these interesting concepts in later posts.

Jennifer Bunker

SES: Key Points in Launching a Global Website

This session was by far my least favorite. The panel wasn't ready or engaging, and the subject wasn't really what I was there for. I don't know why I picked it really. The talk was primarily about how Google has different searches set up in different countries such that if you search for "Utah Real Estate" from France, you'll get a list of websites found in the French directories.

Also, the panel noted that even if your website is displaying in another country that speaks English, you need to make allowances for things like the "King's English." You want to localize your site (example, change favor to favour) and also translate your site (pants mean underwear in England).

All excellent things to think about, but not where I am at right now.

Jennifer Bunker

SES: SEO - Where to Next?

This was one of my favorites of the entire conference, but before I get to the details, I want to clear up a few things.

The acronym SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This geeky term was coined in the day when we were trying to figure out how Google algorithms where working upon our websites and placing them thusly in the rankings. The acronym, SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing, which at least is a little bit more descriptive what we are thinking about these days. I prefer the much more generic term, Internet Marketing because that at least casts a large net over the topics which are tackled within the subset.

Okay, on to “SEO: Where to Next.” These sessions are the reason why I go to these conferences because I am interested in what is coming down the road in this field. New changes come up fast, so I want to be working towards what is up ahead, not what is happening now.

This session did not disappoint. My favorite panelist, Jill Whalen spoke about the necessity of developers “baking” good SEO basics right into the CSS of websites. CSS means Cascading Style Sheets. If you aren’t a developer, you have no reason to know what this is except to be sure that your website is being designed with this type of format and with XHTML standards. Just ask your web designer if this is the case. If not, fire them and find somebody else who does it that way. It’s really important.

Jill’s point was to drive home the need for web coding standards across the board, so that websites can be found via all kinds of searches. This could be mobile, geo-targeted, vertical, blended, whatever. It was here where I first heard that “rankings are dead.” They just don’t add up to quality traffic anymore. The panel stated that analytics are the new rankings and I think they are right. This means that you must know who is coming to your website, how, why, and when. Know how long they stay, where they are lingering, and even know where they are clicking on each of your pages. We are now much more interested in the performance of the website itself rather than driving the masses to a so-so site.

So, what about driving traffic to the website? The thinking is that now we drive highly targeted traffic to our websites via social media and much less through casting wide nets via search engines. So the shift is towards UNDERSTANDING WHO YOUR CUSTOMER IS (I will always capitalize that most important point) and knowing what they want and how to get it to them. Find customers where they hang out already. Start a dialogue, give them something they need or something of value. Use your analytics to measure success, and then shift accordingly.

Figure out what your client is worth to you. What is the chain of events to the purchase? (Does this sound just like old fashioned marketing? Say, “Hell yeah it does!”) Universal and blended searches along with geo-targeted searches will deliver people to your door. Will you be there to greet them in the manner upon which they demand?

Become an authority. Make sure your links have contextual relevance. Think local. Think quality connections. Think conversations. And all of this doesn’t cost anything to do.

We see that the future holds this truism ”The best Social Marketer and the spiffiest websites get the prize.” Back to basic Marketing 101, but with spicy technological tools and gadgets.

One other thought from me. I've never really understood why Traditional Marketing and Internet Marketing can't share the same bed. They really are the same thing aren't they? They have the same goal after all, right? Just a thought.

This was a conceptual session. There are more how-to’s lurking for later on.

Jennifer Bunker