We often try to bring our portfolio companies together to network and learn. So this week about 25 Bessemer companies gathered at Spago's in Palo Alto for 7 hours to share best practices for search engine marketing (i.e. buying keywords) and optimization (i.e. prominence in search results).
Mostly, the veterans from Blue Nile, Postini and LinkedIn shared war stories and lessons learned with upstarts like Lifelock, Wize, Sparter and Zopa, but all had interesting experiences to share. I recall seeing folks from Revver, Wikia, Flock, Vimo, Delivery Agent, Gerson Lehrman Group, and Pure Networks. A testament to the broad appeal of online marketing, we even had eager marketing execs from chip companies (Zensys, Summit) and software companies (T3Ci, Endeca and Nominum).
Punctuated by servings of warm goat cheese pizza, we learned about demographic, geographic and time-of-day targeting. We also learned about negative campaign filters on dynamic keyword insertion (e.g. shoe stores should pay for clicks on "shoe XXXX" unless XXXX = fetish).
While munching on crispy cones filled with tuna tartare we listened to Bessemer EIR Geoffrey Arone share tips on community marketing, mostly through social networks.
We also set aside some time for best-of-class (non-Bessemer) vendors to present (videos here). While we dined on a scrumptious salad with fruits and nuts, Did-it presented on SEM techniques (slides). Andreas from Bloofusion deconstructed the sites of three of our startups to illustrate what they can do improve their PageRanks and prominence in search results (slides). Offline, Andreas shared this tip with an enterpreneur looking to hire an SEO consultant: search the consulting company's name on Google, and make sure they come up first in the search results!
The entrees largely disappointed (mine was salmon with bok choy), as did the even less tasty news we digested that there are no lasting shortcuts in SEO--the best "Google Juice" is a fresh, relevant, and easily navigated site (so much for the Cliff Notes approach).
For dessert we indulged in mousse cake and shmoozing, which, as usual, was cited as the most popular segment of our portfolio gathering (is it the chocolate or the company?). All in all, the feedback forms ranked the event a 3.6 out of 4, another sign that online marketing is top of mind for growing businesses.