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Scoring a hit with search

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Search advertising and marketing provided the major theme at American Business Media's recent "Online Revenue Strategies" conference held in New York. Spearheaded by the ABM's Digital Media Council and Electronic Media Committee, the program interspersed panels of media executives sharing tips and ideas with vendor presentations. The event attracted about 150 attendees, a 36% increase over last year.

Keynote speaker Geoff Ramsay, CEO of eMarketer, said search advertising takes up more than 40% of the online advertising pie; he predicted it would grow at a rate exceeding 20% this year.

Citing a statistic that 62% of b-to-b users of search engines click first on the natural search results rather than search advertisers, Ramsay said b-to-b media companies have a particular opportunity to drive traffic to their trusted, industry-specific content through search engine optimization (SEO).

Mike Azzara, VP-group director of Internet business for CMP Media, said, "Good editorial execution is the essence of search engine optimization." He noted, however, that it was difficult to motivate busy editors to do SEO tasks, such as tagging keywords.

After a fully automated keyword tagging system failed to keep up with changing terminology and an in-house system was too much work for editors, CMP started using a content-management system in which editors are presented with automated tags as part of the editorial process and can approve or change the tags to keep them current.

Matt McAlister, VP-general manager of IDG's Infoworld.com, explained how his site has increased traffic by having "the editor build a center of gravity around a particular topic." Infoworld.com has assigned an editor to watch Google News throughout the day to monitor the popularity of stories on technology. As soon as a relevant topic starts moving up, the editor initiates a process in which infoworld.com starts covering the topic in several ways-stories, blogs, links, etc. This tactic has increased site traffic as much as 100% on a particular topic, McAlister said.

Search wasn't the only topic at the ABM conference, which also addressed the revenue opportunities of webcasting and content distribution technologies.

Two speakers shared their experiences with webcasting. Tom Cintorino, VP-digital media for PennWell, recommended using a vendor specializing in webcasting because "it is not a core competency for publishing companies." However, he suggested that b-to-b media companies dedicate someone from their own staffs to act as "triage central" to handle customer-service issues with the proper speed and sensitivity.

While Cintorino said he favored live webcasts because he could market them as events, Andrea D'Amato, director of strategic alliances for IDG's Network World, said she has had great success with on-demand webcasts. D'Amato said allowing viewers to see some of the video before asking for registration information improved the rate of registration tremendously.

Content distribution, specifically RSS (really simple syndication) feeds, "is a new traffic paradigm" that must be explored, said Paul Gerbino, VP-content licensing for Thomas Industrial Network. Thomas currently publishes 52 RSS feeds, which drive more than 100,000 page views per month to its sites.

Although an estimated one-third to one-half of b-to-b audiences are still unfamiliar with RSS, Gerbino, who calls himself an evangelist for the technology, said it is important to media companies. "RSS delivers your brand to your reader's desktop, bypassing browsers and the e-mail box. You have to look at it as a delivery mechanism," he said.

InfoWorld's McAlister said he hasn't sold advertising within an RSS feed yet, but he believes RSS increases the capacity to generate leads for advertisers.

Finally, several speakers at the ABM conference addressed the rise of contextual and behavioral advertising on media company Web sites.

Alex Dann, senior VP-Internet publishing for PostNewsweek Tech Media, explained how he is using what he calls "interest targeting."

"On one of our sites, the Homeland Security area was sold out for six months last year," Dann said. "We wanted to do something to capitalize on that growth, but we didn't have any more traditional ad space. So what we do now is tag everyone who visits Homeland Security so that we can serve up Homeland Security ads wherever they go." 

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