Celebrating Search and Social Marketing: SES Singapore 2011 Cliff Notes (Event Recap)

  • Marco


The first ever SES conference to be held in Singapore was a resounding success. Kudos to the wonderful folks at Incisive Media for delivering yet another fantastic serving of the latest trends, best practices, industry insights and integration strategies in the fields of search and social marketing. SES Singapore 2011 was an exhilarating affair that had two frenetic days of presentations and executive panels by brilliant thought-leaders (there were more than 50 of them) from across the globe.

Check out the complete coverage of all sessions:

If that seems daunting and 10 minutes is all you have, here’s the Cliff Notes version.

Day 1 Highlights

Keynotes and Panel Discussions

Mike Grehan in his opening address, told the story of how search is about constantly organizing the world’s information to make it universally accessible and useful. He also touched on the “genesis” of social network analysis, the “taxonomy” of search, the importance of understanding user intent, the shift towards information seeking on social networking sites as well as the complexities of modern marketing.



Up next was the first panel discussion that centered on best practices for search marketing in regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals, gambling and the adult trade … or what Barry Lloyd fondly referred to as “Poker, Pills and Porn.” While customers continue to actively search and crave for information, marketers in the regulated industries have different approaches to sharing experiences and engaging online. David Garceran Nieuwenburg shared how the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC), facing several restrictions on how they can promote their activities, uses social media hubs under corporate brand control to bring traffic to their sites. That, coupled with SEM and SEO, produced fairly impressive results. According to Barry, social media works wonders for regulated trades as it improves visibility dramatically since social media sites are often highly ranked.

Marcelo Wesseler looked into how social media can assist in the lead generation process. Key learnings were:

  • Understand customer and purchasing lifecycles
  • Start with Search – first PPC then SEO
  • Focus on SM campaign on customer centric value creation
  • Don’t neglect onsite customer experience and lead conversion tactics
  • Be diligent with traditional onsite web analytics – set up robust reporting mechanisms
  • Use free tools (e.g. Google Analytics) before investing in expensive tools
  • Build in-house expertise to complement agencies’ work

The special address by Arun Poojari shed some light on the continued shift from Paid media towards Owned and Earned media and how that would affect digital marketing campaigns. He discussed about best practices for digital effectiveness, digital investments, campaign planning, campaign optimization, etc. Next on the podium was Mandeep Grover, who spoke on Integrated Marketing as giving deeper insight and better predictability of preference (e.g. search analytics during American Idol). He enumerated 4 crucial steps to “Bringing it All Together”:

  1. Have a deeper understanding of Insights
  2. Know the media channels inside-out to assess how closely they can align with your objectives.
  3. Understand and optimize the consumer journey
  4. Have clear metrics that strongly demonstrate value

With the proliferation of mobile devices and the increasing data consumption attached with it, it’s no surprise that the last panel discussion of day 1 would talk about SEM for mobile. Christian Cadeo highlighted that Asia is driving the smartphone revolution that’s why it’s highly relevant to define your mobile campaign goals. With 61% of users taking some kind of “action” after ad attention, it is critical for marketers to be ready, be found and be smart. Adrian Tan and Samuel Goh provided 5 Tips for mobile SEM basics and optimization:

  • Optimize your mobile landing pages
  • Be mindful of keyword length
  • Ad Position matters in mobile search
  • Have a good and prominent Call-to-Action
  • Track with analytics and optimize with targeting

Fundamentals Track

The track kicked off with Rich McPharlin and Barry Lloyd, both zoning in on how to maximize ROI from SEM. Rich talked about how top/bottom ads increase the importance of Quality Score, different kinds of keywords for different purposes (broad match, phrase match, exact match and negative), the metrics that really matter (bounce rate, conversions, ROI) as well as the search behavior of consumers. According to Barry, the Buying Journey goes like this:

“Someone finds you on PPC. They remember your Company Name. They type in your name and find you on organic. They buy something!”

This gives weight to the concept that SEM and SEO works best when used as a powerful combination as opposed to opting for siloed execution. Also, defining attribution value is very important.

Shei Wah Tan, Sean Rezel, and Rajitha Dahanayake gave an overview on SEO and the key principles on how search engines tick (e.g. search engine ranking factors, etc.). To achieve success, the e-commerce team, web agency and SEO agency should work hand-in-hand for: Visibility, Visitors, Conversions, and Revenue. 9 Golden SEO Rules were established, namely:

  • SEO Tags: your website should be able to accommodate various tags
  • URLS: static, no duplicate, absolute, re-directions
  • Content: text/html, anchor text, social
  • Navigation: breadcrumbs, linking to home
  • Page-Formatting: H1 H2 tags
  • Page Architecture: page structure, content visibility
  • File Names: html names, image file
  • Technical
  • Site Maps

Despite the cliched phrase “Content is King”, search engines (especially Google) put a lot of emphasis on great content. The combination of good keywords and quality material provide the foundation for successful link building.

Joe Nguyen showed how to effectively use web analytics and how to integrate the resulting information with data from market research companies like comScore, Nielsen and the like:

  • Optimize as much as you can from the bottom up
  • It’s all about mindshare, so use both SEM and SEO
  • “Pathing analysis” helps shed some light on what consumers do on your site
  • Search usually gets the credit but consumers have already seen a display ad or heard about you from social channels
  • Attribute some value to every aspect of your campaign

Nicholas Tay, Enrique Pinilla, and Blanca Menchaca showed us how to apply marketing skills and experience to social media. Notable best practices include the following:

  • Find out if you a part of the target audience of your brand. Recommend Engagement benchmark – aim for 0.4%.
  • Look at different kinds of matrices. It is not the same all throughout.
  • Social Integration
  • Community Management: Localize your message, Know your audience (especially in SEA where the market is fragmented), Customer Service (define responsibilities, establish guidelines, engage promptly, etc.), Different Network Different Strategy (e.g. B2B – LinkedIn, Company Blog)
  • Social Advertising: Sponsored Ads, Promotions
  • Approach to Social Media: Listen, Engage, Measure, Analyze & Optimize

“Hot Topics” Track

Kelly Choo and Hari Shankar started the advanced track of SES Singapore with their talk on Social Analytics. Both shared techniques for collecting massive amounts of social media data, how to identify subsets of content, analyze for temporal patterns and ultimately measure and track ROI. Some key challenges that were examined included automated sentiment analysis (handling sarcasm, slang, etc.), turning raw data into actionable intelligence, and determining what really matters for metrics and ROI.

The topic “Proven strategies and tactics for advanced paid search” was handled by Rey Ong, Janice Tan, and Sho Shimoda. They covered campaign expansion techniques, designing and running effective ad tests, advanced auction theory, the proper use of relevant analytics reports as well as bid rules and campaign automation. Sho gave search optimization tips on how to:

  • Get more impressions by expanding keywords
  • Get more clicks through testing and refining title/description
  • Have a better landing page by building it systematically
  • Get more conversions by using analytics segmented by paid search and natural search keywords, adding cost drivers (for paid), and segmenting between brand and no-brand search

Rey provided tips for keyword expansion and stressed on leveraging unused budgets for experiments, monitoring closely (“if it doesn’t work, stop”) and to measure and pay attention to analytics (conversion rates, bounce rates, time-on-site, etc.). Janice focused on broader optimization strategies (e.g. pre-click optimization, usability) and highlighted the following insights:

  • Copy sucks, so be smart. Less is more. Use bullets. Avoid “Wall of text”
  • Don’t give people crazy forms. Ask for minimum information.
  • Continuity and convergence
  • Use smart designs and graphics
  • Clear calls-to-action (CTA’s) to ensure visitors know what’s next
  • Think beyond the nitty gritty and look at the bigger picture – and how it all fits into an overall plan

With social connectivity, conversations, and content distribution changing the way people consider and consume brands, it is imperative that marketers change their approaches to brand building or else they risk becoming irrelevant. Pushkar Sane evaluated current brand building models and provided a glued audience with a fresh approach. Brand building today is not linear; it has multiple entry and exit points. Marketers should consider an inverse funnel and new ways of connecting (aside from mass or direct marketing). The key is to respect the power of the consumer in the age of social and to learn and evolve with the times.

With online advertising becoming more complex, it is now increasingly critical that advertisers and agencies recognize and understand the opportunities that display, search and social are providing. Cindy Deng, Kate Clough, and Arun Kumar shed some light on what’s in store for search, social and display in 2012. Arun mentioned about the “advertisers-publishing-audience ecosystem” is getting more complex (see infographic). He also noted that optimization is happening in silos (display, search, mobile, social and television). Cindy explained how moving from search marketing to synergy advertising (search and display) yields stronger results. Kate then talked about why performance perception and optimization rely on accurate and meaningful metrics. A few of the important things that she centered on are default attribution methodology, post-impression conversion testing and attribution adjustment.

Day 2 Highlights

Keynotes and Panel Discussions

Sarah Whyte spoke on the “Art of Content Marketing.” Through a selection of case studies (with highly entertaining video examples to boot), Sarah outlined the tactical approach to marketing activity with a focus on making engaging content shine inside the vast digital space. It is proven that fantastic digital content working hand-in-hand with the right marketing strategy (e.g. social) has the potential for solid online impact, regardless of budget constraints.

Monappa Nalyanda followed with “Maximizing your digital marketing mix through integrated marketing”. He stressed the importance of having a diversified media plan with tailored communication and content creation that leverage the engagement and reach quotient of media vehicles individually to maximize the overall impact of the campaign. He also discussed the elements of the integrated marketing mix (display, mobile, email, social and search) and corresponding strategies for each and every one of them.

The last panel discussion (and the closing segment for the whole event) was skillfully handled by Vincent Teo, B2Bento’s very own Anol Bhattacharya, Devashish Saxena, and Eddie Choi. They gave the audience valuable and actionable insights on B2B social media marketing, securing internal buy-in and budget, and the application of brand building and lead generation principles. Here are a couple of key takeaways:

  • Decision makers in B2B are also consumers! So social marketing is critical for marketing in B2B, perhaps even more than B2C.
  • Social media can help B2B organizations achieve their goals in the following aspects: demand generation, thought leadership, brand building, customer loyalty, and cross-selling/up-selling.
  • 5 tips for improving social media ROI: determining where prospects are in social media, mapping influencers, igniting conversation with a content strategy, using benchmarking metrics and conversion tracking via campaign and URL tagging.
  • If you don’t get buy-in, change the group you are talking to. Start small with those who are passionate about it. Work against the “normal distribution curve” in typical organizations.
  • Members in B2B communities could convert with higher value transactions.

Fundamentals Track

“Coming up with excellent and share-able content is like catching lightning in a bottle.”

This is how Ricky Baizas summarized his segment on optimizing for YouTube. He enumerated the following as the key steps towards optimization:

  • Have Fantastic Content – Check what Content you have in abundance
  • Check with Legal – clear licenses (music, etc.)
  • Get the Filename right for easy search. Fix it so that it contains all of your main keywords.
  • Fill in ALL blanks: Title, Description, Tags
  • Maximize the Features: Playlists, Subtitles, Annotations
  • Embed Everywhere: Put your content out.
  • Make the Right Friends: Check for people who are active and with a good amount of content and engage with them.

Is there a relationship between social insights and search? Where does the path to purchase start? In their talk, Rosemary Lising and Simon Ashwin noted that the usage of search and social media channels accelerates as consumers get closer to conversion. This “Late Kick”, as termed by the duo, indicates that even 30 days after initial search, consumers still haven’t fully decided and you still have the opportunity to influence conversion. They explained that earned media (that’s social) is an integral part of the decision since it refines the buying process through perception changes and brand elimination. They then advised that marketers should have an always-on integrated search and social program.

Jean-Marc Thomas presented KFC’s case study of managing their recent social crisis. The way KFC handled the crisis earned them significant positive buzz. Jean-Marc then showed what brands can do to manage social media crises:

  • Take advantage of the power of search. Google’s new algorithm is heavily pushing YouTube video content
  • There would always be videos, look out for hidden content that may negatively influence your brand
  • Prevent and take actions immediately
  • Own the digital shelf – your own content must be able to figure prominently in SERPs

On the topic of search for eCommerce, Jurik Auer, David McLean, and Omri Bril enlightened the audience on how to create a search engine friendly and appealing eCommerce site, how to ensure its scalability and how to track its performance. Keyword research, information architecture, index-ability, URL considerations and content are just a few of the things that David touched on. Omri expanded with the benefits of Long Tail Keywords to achieving the perfect product page. Jurik cemented the segment by stressing the importance of analytics and how continuous measurement and benchmarking can provide the basis for strategy.

SES Advisory Board member Eddie Choi covered the intricacies of search advertising. Like most of the speakers, Eddie rallied behind the significance of analytics. He put things into perspective with the statement:

“Keywords talk to search queries. Ad copy talks to searchers and the audience. CPC talks to customers.”

Keyword research is important. You can understand the demand of a product through the keywords that people use to search. Eddie advised us marketers to understand our USPs, value proposition, brand attributes, product attributes, customer demographics and customer perception. He also gave wonderful insights on Baidu (which is highly relevant for Chinese markets) and PPC best practices.

Capping the Fundamentals Track was a panel discussion with You Teck Lam and Sally Wuu about innovations in mobile advertising. For them, marketers should keep things simple and don’t overload with clutter. The mobile campaign should have a clear offer and an even clearer call-to-action. Several best practices covered include:

  • Maximize the reach of your mobile campaign because mobile devices are so pervasive
  • Re-think what targeting means and be relevant in mobile advertising
  • Optimize ad design for mobile
  • Prolong engagement
  • Know what works and re-allocate your budget from those that are not working.

“Hot Topics” Track

On the advanced side of the conference, Cuneyt Uysal isolated common problems companies face when profiling users. With the use of integrated online tools, Cuneyt showed how marketers can connect channels as well as enable engagement automation and analytics. By understanding the value of data and how to use it, marketers can improve web content and visitor quality. A good customer engagement journey is not just about promoting something (e.g. rock concert). You also need to ensure that people have a great experience and enjoy themselves as well.

Search has one of the lowest customer acquisition rates, simply because it is a “pull” medium, allowing people to find you when they need you. Mark Kum and Richard Mabey delved into how SEO can help marketers position their website in such a way that it would be found at the most critical points in the buying process. The 10 cyclical steps that veterans use are:

  1. Identify your Targets – ask your top offline competitors
  2. Market Analysis – use available statistics
  3. Comparative search trends – how high do you rank, how often, and when searched for what
  4. International and Local Search – use local search engines
  5. Evaluate site assets – PageRank of 5 and above can get you to the top
  6. Site foundation – 301 redirects are risky
  7. Content analysis –  description and placement of keywords
  8. Site Tags – keywords in h1 tag
  9. Internal links – link to your home page from within the site as much as possible
  10. Re-start and refine

Tom Skotidas took the attendees through some case studies of how companies are using LinkedIn Groups to sow brand awareness and generate ongoing B2B sales leads. According to Tom, marketers can enjoy the following core benefits from LinkedIn Groups: personal brand building, positioning, inbound lead generation, and outbound lead generation. But they also have to be weary of costs such as: reputation building, actual financial costs, personal time spent, content production, member engagement time, and the absence of thread depth. Best practices are:

  • Naming – be relevant and appealing, don’t use company name
  • Social sellers – choose the right people, create a plan for their contributions
  • Invitations – be highly relevant, don’t use stock standard
  • Member Engagement – plan ahead to time; topics must be interesting to target audience
  • Approach group members individually and ask for contribution
  • Ask your social sellers to help you create buzz

The panel composed of Lydia Ng, Adrian Ang, and Kelvin Quee presented the audience with a snapshot of the search landscape and how it has evolved during the past years when social media exploded. For search marketing to remain as a powerful tool for marketers, the search model has to evolve to incorporate social. Relevance (through listening, monitoring and optimizing), congruence (ad title and keyword matching) and search-ability of social content are absolutely paramount.

Mikko Kotila’s disarming humour in his segment on using social media conversations and statistical analysis to maximize community ROI, penetrated even the most skeptical marketer effectively enough to instill great wisdom and insight. Aside from emphasizing that guesswork and the “spray and pray” method does not work, Mikko also shed some light on three great C’s:

  • Connect: the internet is empowering brands to connect with you and vice versa
  • Contribute: the internet allows people to contribute
  • Compete: the internet taps into human’s being wired to compete (e.g. Dell Swarm, FourSquare, etc.)

Here are a few more of our favorite moments:

  • More people online doesn’t mean more are social
  • Social interactions has to be about diversity – we may be losing it and actually getting less social if everyone is on the same platform
  • It’s so 90s to “build” a community or groups

The advanced track of the 2011 SES Singapore ended with a panel discussion comprising Vikas Gulati, Andrew Tu, Jonathan Tilbury, and Arshan Saha. Remarketing (aka retargeting) is a technology that allows marketers to show their ads to former site visitors while they surf elsewhere on the web. The challenges with retargeting in Asia are: tracking and measurement, cookie pools, matching creatives and landing pages, and offering offline options to limit conversion drop-offs.

Parting Shots

The presentations in the inaugural SES Singapore highlighted the fact that SEM and SEO continues to thrive amidst the continued rise of social marketing. The talks also gave a recurring emphasis on the importance of analytics, combined SEM and Social, integrated marketing and the fact that mobile is a huge force to reckon with and is shaping up to be THE next buzz word after “social”.

Needless to say, we have gained a lot at this year’s SES Singapore and we hope that next year’s event would even be better (which is a tall order we might add). And on this note, we wrap up our B2Bento coverage. Hope to see you all on the next one! For feedback, comments and thoughts, chime in below!


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