Search Engine Strategies (SES) December conference is hosted by Danny Sullivan from SearchEngineWatch.com. I have more accurate numbers as to the turn out from Jupitermedia (not sure if I should disclose my contact or not) – there were actually ~900 attendees for the conference sessions and an additional ~300 exhibitor only on hand. That is an awesome turn out for a conference of this nature being held in Chicago in mid-December. I will be providing my view of the speakers and courses I attend and report them at the end of the day. Day two really got me thinking about the future of search and where we will be in a year or so from now. I had to break in into two parts because the blog limited me to how much I can post.
For day two part two please read on...Session One: The first session was a half hour keynote address by the “search engine guru”, Danny Sullivan. For those of you that do not know much about Danny Sullivan, he is the editor of SearchEngineWatch.com and leading informational (authoritative) site for search engine industry news that relate to SEM/SEO. Danny started off with jokes on the Florida update and starting a support group named Google Anonymous, needless to say – it got a few laughs. And he used that for the theme of the first part of his presentation. He went into the 12 steps one has to take to complete Google Anonymous. 1) Honesty: Be honest with yourself. Should my site be in the top 10? Is it really better then the other 1 million results found? Are things worse off for the searcher? He was clear to say that Google is having issues but he also was clear in presenting the honesty portion of the step. 2) Faith: Have faith in Google that Google will do what is best for the searcher. 3) Surrender: Forget SEO and go with AdWords. This was a joke of course but he also made his point well heard. His point was to do both paid and organic because of the old saying, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Just like all good firms have a PR and Ad budget, the same should be applied to search engine marketing. And finally, those that pay always have a larger say in what is done. 4) Soul Searching: Start thinking about if search engine marketing as we have it today will continue to be managed the same way. 5) Integrity: Basically, you need the best possible site – you need to be the authoritative resource in your area of expertise to consistently do well in rankings. 6) Acceptance: You need to understand that search results will always change and that there is no guarantee that if you have a top 10 result today that it wont be here tomorrow. You cannot depend on free listings. 7) Humility: skipped over 8) Willingness: skipped over 9) Forgiveness: skipped over 10) Maintenance: You need to constantly maintain to keep your rankings. I used to feel that once you optimize you were basically done but with these recent changes, there is always more work to do. 11) Making Contacts: File the spam reports, file the bad search results, follow up as necessary – they will listen. 12) Services: Well this part upset me. Danny, as he normally does, leaves out the second largest SEO/SEM related forum on the Internet. He brought up the URLs of four forums that have discussion on SEO/SEM including WebmasterWorld, HighRankings, JimWorld, and BestPractices. We all know that WMW is a leader but SEO Chat is right behind it. I will do my best to confront Danny about this but it simply might be left out because no one pressured him to mention it. Brett Tabke is the editor of WebmasterWorld and that site must be mentioned. HighRankings must be mentioned because Jill Whalen (the owner of HighRankings) is a speaker, JimWorld must have some sort of ties to Danny and Best Practices I am just not sure (I would assume they have some in).
Now for some stats: Google today has about 77% of the market and MSN I believe was 17% (numbers are not a 100% accurate – this is from memory of this morning). The picture for the end of January 2004 after Yahoo! does its merging, Google + AOL 51% and Yahoo + MSN 43%. How big of an impact is that to use SEO/SEMs out there? We need to start looking at MSN and Inktomi (Yahoo!’s new search technology believed to come into play the end of January) and how to best optimize for those engines.
Then Danny went into his "invisible tabs" theory for Google 2005. The concept is as follows, if you don’t already know. Currently Google has tabs for web search, image search, groups, directory and news search. These tabs will continue to increase as Google comes up with more ideas. If Google or any other search engine wants to succeed, they will have to make it easier for the searcher. That requires Google to be smart enough to try to figure out which “tab” the searcher wants without the searcher clicking on a tab. How they do that? Well Danny said Ask Jeeves does an OK job on this today. Do a search on “surfer picture” and you will see that it brings up pictures without you having to hit the image tab. The average searcher does not and will not see or utilize the tabs, Danny brought up an example and I have seen this several times in person with normal Web searchers. They were amazed with the quality of results after hitting that image tab in Google. What SEOs will need to do is (1) understand the “tab” sources, (2) understand when the “tab” content is more visible to the searcher and (3) understand that specialty services will more likely charge for inclusion – there will be less free listings around in the future. So Danny believes Google will figure this stuff out for you, including local search (which I will cover a bit later in this blog).
That covers session one, the keynote my notes for the other sessions will be a bit shorter because they were less abstract.
Session Two: To keep things short, take a look at the conference agenda for day two for speakers and what it covered. I opted not to go with the “Buying Search Engine Advertising” track and “Campaign Case Studies” and went to the “Optimize Flash & Non-HTML Content” track. The speakers for this track included Gregory Markel from Infuse Creative, Shari Thurow from GrantasticDesigns and Karen Howe from AOL Audio Video. Expectations were high for this track but it did not live up to the hype.
First up was Gregory Markel from Infuse Creative, a graphic designer and not a programmer. I do not want to hurt his feelings and I know the speakers highly respect him but his speaking skills killed his presentation. He read quickly off his slides, 95% of the time word for word. I did manage to take down a few notes that I thought would interest the readers of this blog. First note is that FASTSearch is the only search engine to integrate with Macromedia’s Flash Search Engine SDK. If you don’t know, Macromedia built an SDK for search engines to use to allow for their Flash sites to be indexed and crawled by the search engines – only FASTSearch integrated with it. Problem with the SDK is that it only converts the content into text and does zero SEO stuff to the text. I am pretty sure he forgot to add that Flash sites by nature contain very little text as compared to HTML sites. So converting a Flash site to html based like structure, while it does something, in reality does very little due to the shortage of content to spider. It was also funny how Gregory brought up that PHP can be utilized to help in terms of SEO and Flash but did not go beyond that until the Q&A session at the end. And at the Q&A session he said it is not worth doing because it doesn’t really help much for SEO purposes – so why bring it up? And my understanding of this technique was a little on the side of “spammy” (sorry Phil C., your term did not catch on at this conference).
Next up was Shari Thurow from GrantasticDesigns, a wonderful speaker as I mentioned on day one. She went into how to optimize PDF documents for search engines and how they can help with overall placement. Few points that I would like to mention that is not covered in her book (or at least I don’t think they are). You must link to your PDFs in MULTIPLE places for them to be labeled as important to Google. And avoid duplicate content by using the robot.txt exclusion protocol. I recommend getting her book, and I do not get a commission nor am I a personal friend of hers. Get the book at http://www.searchenginesbook.com/.
Finally we had Karen Howe from AOL Audio Video. AOL actually recently acquired her company so she was all smiles. They basically run a search engine for audio and video types of Web media. She is a good speaker and worked the crowd well. She says there is an overall shift from HTML formatted Web content to High/Rich Media formatted Web content. Someone remind me to post the numbers after I get the slides. To find one fault in her speech, she wrongly classified “stop characters” as words like “the,” when “stop characters” are characters that make search engines stop crawling your site. It was probably an innocent mistake so lets overlook that one. What they do is collect meta data such as the title, author, copyright, creation date, description, keywords, etc. and report that information back to the searcher. The major problem is that Rich Media creators leave out this data from the files so it is really hard (impossible) to know what the file is. She brought back funny examples of keywords entered in to the meta data fields (didn’t write them done) such as NBA Highlight Film (well what team, when, what was it about?) and “I don’t know. Sorry”. She mentioned now that she is with AOL, she can utilize that leverage with Macromedia to add more of these meta data fields to their files to help AOL AV better position Flash files.
Session Three: To keep things short, take a look at the conference agenda for day two for speakers and what it covered. I opted not to go with the “SEM En Espanol” track since I do not speak the language (but I recognize its going to be and is currently a major revenue producer, I am from New York) and I also, reluctantly opted out of the “Balancing Organic and Paid Listings” track and went to the “Link Building” track. The speakers for this track included Paul Gardi from Teoma/Ask Jeeves, Mike Grehan from iProspect, Eric Ward from EricWard.com and Marissa Mayer from Google. I got some juicy Google facts for you, so make sure to read that part.
Marissa Mayer from Google was up first; let me tell you she is a confident woman – gives off the Google persona. “Links are proxies for human judgment of page value”, so the more links and the better quality of those links (I should probably reverse the order of that) determine page value (i.e. PageRank). However, PageRank is not the only factor, if it was Adobe Acrobat Reader would rank number one for the search term water buffalo (she gave a different example). Relevancy = PageRank + Hypertext Analysis (the exact formula and weights remain to be secret). Marissa explained PageRank as a function of important pages linking to that page. The more links and the more relevant those links are the better off you are in terms of PageRank. She also said that you could be downgraded for having certain links. Yes – I know, we all think that is not possible but she said that if you use “bad neighbors” or “free for all” link exchanges, your PageRank will suffer. Avoid getting links from pages that are too general and unrelated to your site as well as the FFAs. Anchor text as we know is important and do not go overboard, place links where your users find them most useful. During the Q&A she said the XML feeds can help and Google does look at the data collected by the Google toolbar for quality purposes and is not included in the ranking algo.
Next up was Paul Gardi from Teoma/Ask Jeeves. He explained how Teoma is unique to other search engines, and it impressed me. Teoma is unique in two ways; (1) Subject Specific Popularity and (2) Communities. Teoma analyzes the local subject communities which brings the power of communities in search leading to (1) better vision, (2) expert validation (3) contextualization (4) Experience. How it works is by the “Teoma Approach”, first search the Web index then break the data down into communities (communities can be found in the refine search option on the right of the teoma results – example search on football), third it calculates local subject specific information and finally aggregates all the pertinent information for the searcher. Since Teoma’s goal is to use the power of the “expert editors” of the communities to rank sites, to rank well you need to become an authoritative expert for your area.
Third speaker was Mike Grehan, famous guy – he actually asked me to remove some content from this site, which I did right away. He is someone you want to hear in person, he covered the concepts of linking which he went over very briefly. I have the slides but I do not want to post them here, with his permission I will link to his white paper…check back for it. One thing I want to point out is that he said that he 10% of the weight is judged by linking within a “cyber community”. It’s really cool how he explained all of this but again you need to see it in person or get his white paper. I will post more on this later.
Final speaker was Eric Ward, famous guy as well. He actually built links for Amazon 9 years ago, yea that’s right – 9 years ago. He joked about not accepting stock shares for his work, it cracked a smile out of me. This is an other person you want to see in person, if you can. Besides for getting links from the directories, he said to get links from the Teoma Resources section, which can be found directly under the refine your search results on the bottom right. Deeper the link in your site, the less likely it will be found, the less likely it will be indexed. An excellent point he made was that search engines do not do a good job of evaluating the percentage of links you have coming to you. For example, if there are a total of 20 links that can link to you and you have all 20 links then your PageRank should be 10. Whereas a site that has 15,000 links but can have 50,000 links, their PageRank should be less. I liked that. More information at: http://www.ericward.com/linkanalysis.html.