Evening Forum with Danny Sullivan
**Note: apologies to anyone expecting coverage on two sessions this afternoon. I was unable to cover the Retail Forum due to a scheduling conflict, and the “Converting Visitors to Buyers” session was actually covered by me this summer in San Jose, so I chose to attend the “Future of SEM” panel that Barry covered. The content was probably nearly identical to the post from the SES San Jose 2005 Coverage.
Invites everyone to wear casual clothing for the last day of the conference tomorrow: pajamas or sweats suggested. First question: a gentleman was hoping Allan Dick would provide some more toilet jokes. (laughs) Danny gives a quick history…he gets about 500 requests a day to speak. Allan was an attendee that came up with some new session ideas that Danny approved. He suggests this is the best way to secure a speaking position at SES.
First time attendee said that she was in many of the basic track sessions, and asks what to do about conflicting information delivered? Danny advises to weigh the people you spoke with and try to get a gut feeling. He spoke to a gentleman who is in the gambling industry, and told him he probably didn’t get much out of the conference since so many of the more aggressive tactics are not really disclosed in the conference.
Question geared to the search engines: why do the SE’s attempt to prevent SEO’s from succeeding? It is his experience that as an SEO, he provides better content. Why are they mad at us and not “certifying SEO agencies” and promoting qualified SEO’s like IBM promotes their business partners, for example. Danny asks Tim Mayer from Yahoo to give his opinion on this. If he really did “hate you,” he probably wouldn’t be answering questions at the conference or on his blog as often as he does. He says: “the mission of Y! Search is to provide the most trusted results…has to balance the needs of users, publishers, or advertisers. For example, the “mortgage” space only has ten spots available on the first page for related terms, so many authoritative sites may not show up there. Everyone thinks that their content is higher-quality, and Yahoo’s goal is simply to determine which actually is. Danny asks what are one or two specific things he would like “more love” regarding? The question asker can’t come up with any real specifics, but feels that they should be more geared towards educating people about “good SEO’s.” Danny says he has a good point…consumers do want to know who to trust. Should/could search engines “blacklist?” Probably not, but perhaps offer a “certified white list” of trusted SEM vendors? Some one follows up with “is there a way to create a validation process for a particular page?” Danny says “ let me channel Matt Cutts…he then gets a big roar for his imitation of Matt’s probable answer to this, which involves something along the lines of “we’re working on it, it’s difficult to do this, etc… they may be adding more “advice” within the sitemap submission system that comes back and says things like “your robots.txt file is blocking the robot,” or “you are using text that could be perceived as hidden,” etc…Best thing to do is send feedback to Google saying you want feedback.
Next question: standards of validation have not really been touched on too much in the conference…what is the deal? Are sites that are validated easier to get ranked? Asks Tim Mayer…who answers that this probably is not really a factor. Danny adds that the reason the topic is not really covered is because the conference is about search, not design. Same thing about all the blogging questions. They have discussed CSS and why to use standards-based “Stuff.”
Are search engines starting to get more sophisticated regarding CSS? Is the value of an H1 traditional tag better than the “less ugly” look? Tim says that it is basically treated as plain text. The issue is that you are trying to tell the search engine what is important but not let users know, if you use the CSS div-tag-surrounded H1 in order to make it look smaller. Things should be consistent, telling both the SE and the User. Danny suggests going to the “Meet the Crawlers” session tomorrow to get “more goodies.”
What considerations are being made regarding the theoretical sandbox…Danny takes it away since many people will ask this at Meet the Crawlers” tomorrow.
Next question about duplicate content/scraper sites, and if people are doing anything about this? Tim says they obviously try to measure the amount of Spam on their index, and the creation of duplicates is constantly evolving to “get around” spam detection methods. Describes an essential “cat and mouse” game (my description, not his). Danny says this is a rising concern, and will be addressed in more detail tomorrow.
Who is hiring? SEM’s? in-house? Are we growing as an industry? Danny surveys the room and the majority of people say business is good. One person stands and says business isn’t good…a furniture manufacturer in Wisconsin. She wonders if they can sell online? Allan Dick stands up and says “I sell tubs online, trust me, is can be done.” (laughs). Danny asks a couple basic question…frames? Dynamic URL’s?
Next question: conversion tracking. His client took off compulsory sign-in forms in order for someone to download a white paper, and downloads shot up. He suggests analytics, which would work unless someone runs a program that strips out referral data, such as what Norton Anti Virus does. Also suggests attending the Measuring Success sessions tomorrow.
Next person would like to hear more about Google Analytics, and separately, how do they measure the feeds for the Danny Sullivan podcast on webmasterradio.fm? Danny says he is using Feedburner. Polls the audience about Google Analytics, and most people think it is a good product. Many people are saying that Google will use the data in a “bad way,” essentially causing the cost of high-converting keywords to go higher. The good news is that the price of analytics will probably plummet soon, Danny feels.
Last question…person first time at conference, and has learned a lot, but is overwhelmed because she feels that her clients may not be able to afford everything really needed to perform better. Danny advises to go for the low-hanging fruit, and starting with the more important factors that are affordable, and adding further budget as available. Greg Jarboe adds that if it was that easy, “we’d all be making minimum wage.”