Last week saw the annual SES (Search Engine Strategies) conference in 2012 where all the big names in search gave their view on the year ahead.

The overarching hot topics were probably Google + and SoLoMo (Social, Local, Mobile).

There are some good round-ups to be found online (e.g. Andrew Girdwood’s blog and Kevin Gibbon’s blog) so for now, here’s my (and my colleague Richard Lewis’) top 10 take-aways for you to think about.

(Apologies in advance if I haven’t given the right people the right credit, feel free to comment if I missed you off the list.)

1. Test new targeting options in Facebook

The launch of ‘timeline’ has created some new targeting options to test in Facebook advertising  e.g. you can target mobile users, and people that have ‘just moved’ and/or are ‘expecting parents’, really useful if these are life-stages that you’re trying to target. (Courtesy of Efficient Frontier’s Jonathan Beeston).

2. ‘Beat the burn’ on Facebook ads

Jonathan Beeston also talked about burn-out on Facebook ads and argued that the key driver of CTR is the image:

  • By all means refine the copy and headlines, but the big wins are to be found in testing images.
  • Company logos typically don’t perform as well as real, human images.
  • Keep refreshing the images as they ‘burn out’.
  • Also consider using scheduling and budget caps to cap exposure and stop the ‘burn-out’.

3. Improve your site stickiness

Great presentation from Jeff Slipko (Expedia) to remind us that stickiness isn’t just about time-on-site, it’s about getting people through your conversion funnel so look at your site to ensure that you’re:

  • Instilling benefits. These will encourage customers to come back to you if they aren’t going to convert straight away (e.g.do you have testimonials and reviews on-site? Are you dissuading any security concerns?).
  • Creating urgency, If you’re selling something then can you test  ‘only x items left’ or ‘x amount of users are viewing this deal’ or ‘price guaranteed until x’.
  • Testing. Expedia increased conversion by testing everything from the font size of the price to the use of filters (display x prices) etc.
  • Streamlining the checkout. Is there anything unnecessary that can be removed at the purchase point? Remind people what they’re buying. Display a phone number if that helps conversion.

4. Are you making the most of your existing relationships for SEO link building?

Get case studies from your agencies to get links back to your site, ditto universities that have relationships with your business. (Courtesy of Verve Search’s Lisa Myers).

5. Optimising for SoLoMo (Social Local Mobile)

There were some great talks about the use of SoLoMo and tips like:

  • If customers are ‘checking-in’ to your competitors’ outlets, track this (e.g. via Tweetdeck) and tweet them to offer a discount to use your company instead.
  • Reviews are vital for ranking in Google local – so incentivise reviews e.g. through the use of prize draws (and add these to your site mark-up).
  • Add Google analytics’ tracking URLs to the content you promote in Twitter, so you can track this traffic in Google analytics (otherwise it goes into the ‘direct traffic’ pot).

6. How can your company use Pinterest?  

Another hot, new trend that was discussed at several sessions. Does your brand have a profile yet? If not, worth a test and an easy one for retailers. For non-retailers, think about how you can utilise it so that it ties back in with your brand?

7. YouTube keyword tool

Did you know that YouTube has its’ own keyword tool, based on what people search for in YouTube?

Could be useful for:

  • Planning which videos you should create as part of your content strategy.
  • Planning keywords to optimise for in your PPC/SEO campaigns.

8. Investigate free tools

If you don’t have the resources, use sites such as http://cannedbanners.com/ to create professional looking banners that you can add into Google’s Display Network as part of your Adwords activity.

9. Copywriting creates sales  

Don’t forget the importance of good copy when optimising landing pages (there was talk of a tendency to focus on images, buttons, etc, only) @optimiseordie from Belron attributes 50-70% of uplift in optimisation tests to copy (including call to action wording, title, headline, strapline and framing).

If you don’t have an in-house copywriter, he argued that it was worth investing in a specialist agency.

10.  And finally, with all the talk about Google+:

  • Does your company have a Google+ page?
  • Use your page to promote your content, and grow your circles by asking customers to add you to their circles (and by adding relevant people/brands to your circles).
  • Use Google’s new rel:author functionality to spread your content wider and drive more Google traffic to your site, as it makes your content stand out (and could become a ranking factor).

At the moment, most Google+ users seem to be in the digital marketing industry, but if you can dedicate some resource to this you might reap some benefits ahead of your competitors if and when it does take off in the public domain.