SES Toronto 2010 Live Blogging: SEO Then and Now

SEO Then and Now

  • Moderator:
    Jim Hedger, Search Marketing Consultant,
  • Speakers:
    Erika D. Brown, EVP Corporate Strategy, Digital Media Practice, Frost & Sullivan
    Anne F. Kennedy, SES Advisory Board, International Search Strategist, Beyond Ink USA
    Judith Lewis, Head of Search, Project Metal

Okay, a little preamble by me (your humble author) – I’m about to present a bunch of other people’s opinions on SEO, as they decree them from the SES stage, but I’m writing this preamble post-session, and I just have disclaim a little. I disagree with a large percentage of what was presented, I think got the impression the speakers were stuck in the ‘then’ portion of ‘then and now’, and much of what they recommended was not only outdated, but just plain incorrect. It saddens me to say this, because I love Jim, he’s a great guy and a good SEO, but Jim wasn’t presenting, he was just moderating – so I’m going to intersprese some terse ‘authors notes’ throughout this kinda-live blogging when I feel like the point has been missed, or something is off base… this might take a while

First up is Judith

So, essentially not much has changed in search since 2000 – the big changes were from 1995 to 2000 – Way back when Google was proud of its 25 million indexed pages, which is a paltry number by today’s standards. Way back when all you needed was a title tag and a URL …. hmmm, I still fix peoples title tags every. single. horrid. day. of . my. life. (sorry, that’s me, the author’s horrid life, not Judith’s).

Top ranking factors – domain name, keyword stuffing, link building, multiple domains/duplicate content, doorway pages, spamming forums – so what’s changed? Well, it’s the same, but simplified, you don’t keyword stuff now, but you still need keywords present. One major change was the simple ability to actually use your meta-description, and have an effect of what was shown on a SERP.

Elements wise, not much has changed since 2000, search engines still use the same core elements. Is this a contentious notion? Not by my standards. This is why people who go back to the basics often do well.

The core ranking factors from 2000 are:

  • focus – site should be focused on a few keywords
  • content – content should be valuable and on a focused topic
  • uniqueness – your site should offers something else nobody has

Has this changed at all? SEO ranking factors include

  • title tag
  • keyword selection
  • meta tags
  • page content

Are images in results an actual change? Speaker’s point here is that it’s all still old school – there are tweaks that have been added to mitigate the basics, but the core is the same.

  • body copy
  • alt text
  • trim down the toys, java, frames
  • links on your main page
  • link popularity

So what is new?

  • canonicalization
  • ducplicate content penalties
  • filtering out less valuable links
  • social media mentions / citations
  • spidering and ranking pdf’s flash etc
  • spidering css
  • link juice sculping came and went
  • deeper understanding of actual link value
  • domain authority – now better understood

The core math is still the same

Q from Jim: Have links’ values changed?
A: Google is trying to rely less on links and social media citations are going to be more important

Author’s note: okay, so let’s think about this – not much has changed? Where is the focus in this presentation on the evolution of link value, of the shift from quantity to quality, of refinement from anchor-text-spammability to nuanced link placement and organic-looking links, about oranic-looking link growth, about googlebowling and washing? this is the evolution of SEO – yeah you have to still have a focused page that refers to and references phrases the way people search (though that was barely touched on), but popularity metrics, which are, ahem, the core of ranking, have evolved tremendously, and that wasn’t even talked about.

Next up is Erika Brown

My intention is to look at things from a tactical viewpoint, starting with the basics and getting advanced

Moving from Search ENGINE optimziation, to search EVERYTHING OPTIMIZATION

You have to optimize all your digital assets – let’s go!

The goal is to own the real-estate on the first page of the SERPs

These days first page results are not just HTML documents – news, twitter, images, podcasts, pdfs, articles, blogs, videos, social media, linked-in, facebook, word docs, excel.

So what are the best practices for these assets? Let’s start with the basics

  • meta data still matters – whatever keywords you select with your title tag, you need to reiterate in the same order in your meta description, and body text – and it’s important to use robot revisit tags (Really?, really?
  • Internal linking still matters, as do internal anchor text
  • Folder naming gets heavy weight (what???) – she is claiming that folder names help get indented listings, this is complete BS, but whatever
  • Reiterate your keywords in your body text.

SEO PR – put your keywords in the title of the press release, and again in the subtitle, and in the body text – okay but (authors note) PR sites lost the majority of their ability to pass pagerank umm, about four years ago.. .uggg. Did you really just tell people to go and make spammy keyword-stuffed press releases for link building purposes? Either your tests are on completely noncompetitive phrases and so gave you  what border on false-positives for efficacy, or… I don’t know, please people, don’t think that press releases should be considered anything more than press releases. It’s one of the most banal and near-useless link building ‘techniques’ left on the digital planet.

Optimizing digital assets

  • Edit your documents properties to include relevant keywords in a description like you would an HTML meta
  • Save your document with a relevant name including keywords – in MS, click prepare/properties – in the frame there is title, subject and keywords. Tada, just like HTML.

Google / Yahoo Local?

  • sing up with your gmail account
  • follow a few easy instructions to add official business title, address, phone, payment info, images, video
  • Add keywords in descriptions
  • Reviews really matter – write your own, add meta keywords in title and review – one review per gmail account, don’t spam it

Author’s note – the presenter says don’t spam it, then she proceeds to tell you to spam it – lilterally saying have your clients add their own reviews, but only one per day – yup that’s spammin it. What she meant to say, I guess, is don’t look like you’re spamming it.

So really, no talk about how Google or Yahoo may actually calculate their local ranking factors, or how you can position yourself better within them, just sign up, keyword stuff, and spam some reviews. Sigh.

Microsites (author’s note… uh-oh)

  • Can be just one page
  • the more the better
  • trends to bypass some fo the legal and pr/marketing departments
  • you can end up having multiple listings in the SERPS
  • the microsites must be very different ffrom your main sitee
  • do not use the same meta, or design
  • if content is identical they’ll be discounted

Author’s note – wow… really? Did you just tell us to go and create a bunch of near-valueless sites in an attempt to flood the index and ‘take over the real-estate’ of the first SERP? There are so many things fundamentally wrong with this empty-shell of an explanation – fortunately Anne Kennedy adds a little meat to this discussion in the Q&A after the presentations – but essentially, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease don’t go creating valueless micro-sites for the purposes of spamming the hell out of Google – as the Google employee in the audience said later, you’re just polluting the web. And it’s more than that, this is 2010, this IS NOW NOT THEN, and in the now, in the real world, you need to create value in every single site you build, or you’re building your rankings on stilts, and they may be cut out from under you at any point. There was no mention here towards building a real network that could be done in a gray-hat/black-hat style, nobody mentioned a single thing other than ‘design them differently and use different text’ – I would say that, if you want to get agressive, purchasing or developing real sites that relate to your product/service and have A REASON FOR EXISTING, can be a very effective technique, and may result in you owning some more SERP real-estate, and potentially some more mind-share in your mind-space, but the way it was descirbed in this presentation is compelete BS, and seriously people, you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

SEO Video

  • manually create acounts at youtube, metacafew, livevideo, yahoo video
  • fill out profile in each site
  • upload the same video to each site on DIFFERETN DAYS – this is apparently the secret……. how many dots can I put after that…… todisplay my incredulity?

I’m going to stop now, because honestly, I think we’re stuck on the ‘SEO Then’ portion of things…

Question – no dupe design, are you sure you get spanked for that?

A: Templates are pretty easy to discern. Add a little swirl. Author’s note – She really said that, add a little swirl. I’m going crazy here.

Anne Kennedy is up next

She thinks this is great cus we’ve seen where we’ve been – but now, there is no now… k she’s screwin with my head. There is no now, now, but I thought there wasn’t anything but now… not even then. Apparently the universe has been lying to me, and I think we’re all getting a little too metaphysical for an SEO presentation.

When Google started we had no: web 2.0, UGC, ajax, flash, adwords, social media, meaningful metrics – so what’s next?

She feels what has really changed is meaningful analytics (author agrees!)

1999 – rankings, hits and clicks with Web position gold, webtrends, urchin

2010 – ROI and user behavior – google analytics, yahoo web analytics, omniture, coremetrics, lyris, visibility score, hubspot, etc

The real value that has emerged of late is interesting ways to view how people not only come to your site, but what they do when they get there, and after they leave.

We’re also getting a bit of demographic information (mostly from Yahoo, because they’ve had email accounts and they’ve been quietly collecting data.. booo) – so the engines are focussing on user intent and utilizing the information they’ve gathered.

Where is this data coming from? Alternate query input – what’s that? Well, videos are – youtube queries are actually outpacing Google queries – when we search for videos, we search differently. Search engineers learn from this. Maybe.

MOBILE MOOOOOOOOOOOBILE yaay someone mentioned mobile (srsly ppl, this is the future, pay attention)

mobile penetration is so much greater in Asia and eastern Europe, because of infrastructure issues, and now we’re finally catching up. Google acquired AdMob for a… lot of money – do you have a good mobile site? It’s not just about that, but she recommends Cindy Cruum’s mobile marketing book (don’t know how to spell that name)

  • have a mobile site
  • different mobile crawlers evaluate your sites differently
  • multiple inde… oh just kill that slide why don’t you

Let’s talk about the iphad… ahhh the iphad…. game changer… really? ipad pplz view more videos, it’s an entertainment consumption device. Can we embed video in books? i think the point here is that media has to evolve, just like the Wired magazines that cost more for the ipad because they’re full on multi-media experiences – is this the future of publishing?

Apps are another alternate query input – and now apps are appearing in search engine results.

search is outmoded – it’s about objects, not text and links. It’s about spatial search, like bing maps, it’s about semantic web with context with text, it’s about augmented reality. it’s all about objects. Bing is the thought leader in this space, because they came late, they came after links were considered old-school, and they now have an object oriented perspective they’re bringing to bear. Obviously this relates well to mobile, space-aware, streetview with augmented reality overlays, etc, etc.

Beyond SEO now

  • new devices make web access highly portable and entertainment on demand
  • alternate query search sites bring you traffic
  • app store is a search engine, you can rank your apps
  • apps are ranking in regular SERPS
  • augmented reality allows you to layer real world information over a web page

it’s about

  • plentiful data
  • multiple traffic sources
  • displaying localized, personalized data onsite

Author’s note – Okay Anne is the most on-the-ball here. She spoke a bit to the future, didn’t seem stuck in the past, and ‘predicted’ that mobile will be big, not that that is earth shattering, but c’mon, it’s way more important than micro-sites


Q: how important are websites like slideshare

A: The more you post in different locations the better – every time you post, different title, different keywords, add it to your own website and approach it with meta-data. remember to alt-tag your video or podcast with the word ‘powerpoint’ with the word ‘podcast’

Q: Microsites, isn’t one site with a good user experience better? how would you even maintain it?

A: Microsites are excellent. I would recommend actually creating a sub-folder if you want to place your videos or things (author’s note – you mean… content?), but the goal is to edge out the competition and gain as much real-estate as possible

A: if I own all 10 results, I own all 10 results

Q: what did you mean by social media citation?

A: a citation is a reference to your site that isn’t a link necessarily, so Google is going to look for brand mentions etc.

Q: would you create microsites for big companies?

A: excellent for reputation management

A from Anne: if we’re not talking about spam, we’re talking about ’surround-sound-marketing’, consider the Intel sponsors of tomorrow program – it’s a microsite, but it’s about the Intel brand, and it has a reason for being in and of itself. This discussion shouldn’t be about microsites, it should be about how many different ways you can get your marketing message out. (yaaaay a NOW answer in reference to this micro-site BS – unless you’re creating sites for a reason, and spam is not a legitimate reason, you’re shooting yourself in the foot – now, you may be married to a foot doctor, and so you’re creating business with all this foot shooting, but dammit if you aren’t going to bleed to death…)

Q: regards to citations, what value do no-follow links have?

A: I get value out of no-follow links, ppl are too obsessed with follow/nofollow, it still becomes a citation and an authority point, just don’t get them from bad neighbourhoods

Authors note – I find it funny that someone who two seconds ago was basically advocating spam spam spam, is now downplaying the importance of the difference between no-follow and do-follow links…

Q: about folders, and properly naming them – we have a dynamic site, how much of a disadvantage of that?

A: most CMSs aren’t friendly – rewrite your URLs – (author’s note, this is wrong, really.. unless your URLs are stupid bad, with more than five or six varaibles, don’t worry about them)

Authors note – okay this is where things got kinda stupid – the second presenter, Erika, waxed on about folder-names being important, and helping you achieve double (or indented) listings in google – THIS IS SIMPLY NOT TRUE – here is how double listings are created in google: if you have two pages that deserve to rank in the top ten on your site, the second page will be pulled up and made into an indented listing. So if you have two pages on your site that legitimately deserve to rank for the same phrase, and the first page ranks #3, and the second page would naturally rank #9, that second page will be pulled up from 9 to become an indented listing under #3. Tada – it has nothing to do with how your folder is named. That is one of a billion quality indicators, and quite frankly, an out-dated, hugely unimportant one in the grand scheme of things. Please don’t pass on this bad knowledge.

Q: pros and cons of having new domains for microsite vs using an existing one

A: new domain, heavy on your keyowrd phrase (wow spam city mania)

Q / statement: if you build out a good site, instead of microsites, you’ll win in the long-run, microsites are lower quality, it’s a regression

That was a google rep stating that – but guess what, she’s the only one (other than Anne’s surround-sound metaphor) that was making any real-world sense.

Overall session experience: Poor

But Jim is still the man, I just wish he were presenting

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