Panel sessions are packed with attendees who have come from all over the country to learn how to improve traffic to their site using search engines. Here are some tidbits from the panelists. Some of the advice is entry-level. “Kn

ow your message. What are people searching for? How many people are searching for a specific term? You should come up with the top ten phrases containing at least two words,” advises Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, to marketers looking to buy keywords. He backs up his advice with specific references to his site, such as this page where search marketers can find resources to do that research. “Remember the long tail search theory. All the less popular terms add up to more than the most popular terms,” Sullivan adds.  “People don’t necessarily come to the home page and follow your navigation. With search, every page becomes an entry point,” Sullivan continues. Depending on one’s fluency with search marketing, this can be an eye-opener or a statement of the obvious.  Here is another piece of advice from the search marketing guru. “It is more difficult to manipulate the links to your page. You want links from important sites, more than quantity. What you do is you do a search on your top terms. You want links from the pages that come to the top. You contact those sites and ask them to link to you, saying that you have already linked to them and telling them how a link benefits their visitors.”  On brand marketing “All brand display advertising drive search. Research shows that, when users are exposed to TV or print ads, they go and search online. You have to be prepared for the misspelled version of the product name, of the tagline. Like in basketball, search does not get all the 3-pointers, but it gets the rebounds,” analyses Bob Heyman, chief search officer at MediaSmith.  Google’s Universal Search is making marketers groan because Internet users are more likely to find what they are looking for right away and to stop looking further down the page. “It does complicate things. Negative buzz about a company comes up in the news results,” fears Scott Linzer, director of search marketing at the agency Universal McCann.  In the hot area of local search, branding efforts have a place. One panelist cited a Honda campaign which landed users on a page listing inventory for Honda cars in the users’ area, a mashup between branding and a call to action.  Benchmarking Benchmarking is designed to answer questions such as “How much of the search traffic comes from paid vs. natural search?” or “What proportions of visits are generated by a keyword?” Online marketing is appealing in part because of its very measurability. Martin Laetsch, a former search director at Intel, insists on the necessity to centralize the data inside the organization to make the best decisions.  Analytics are a first step. Benchmarking takes things one step further by measuring change. Doing “intramural” benchmarking allows marketers to compare their different efforts (search, email, display ads,…).  Searchers and their engines In a panel entitled “Searcher Behavior Research Update”, several panelists presented interesting new studies about searchers’ behavior. A study by TMP Directional Marketing, for example, looked at the influence of online and offline local search sources. It concluded that online searchers might look at 4-5 businesses, but will only contact one in the end. This drives home the absolute necessity to make a compelling first impression. The same study found that online searches still drive a significant amount of walk-in and phone business. Isabelle Boucq for Atelier from San Jose  FEEDBACK For comments on this article, email us at