I was unable to attend the last Search Engine Strategies Conference, which was held in London, but Alan Webb was kind enough to review the conference and post his thoughts at SEO Chat. Alan's review is a little lengthly, so I thought it would make sense to summarize it here. If you want the full version, please visit his post here.
Domain Name Issues: Alan basically came back from this session learning that it is best to have separate domain names and not separate folders (.com/en/) to provide language specific content to the search engines. Content is important and the originating IP address of the physical server are also important factors.
Search Engine Friendly Design: Alan's next track was presented by Shari Thurow, a SES speaker elite. He pointed out a computer problem that caused the session attendees to use the paper slides. This was a real basic course but highly recommended to first time SES goers.
Writing for Search Engines: An other basic course I have attended, presented by Jill Whalen and Charon Matthew. It discusses the proper utilization of keywords in your content. Too many, makes for a weird reading page and lowers your conversion rates. Too little, makes for a poorly ranked page. Finding the balance is what Jill specializes in.
Link Building Basics: Presented by Matt Cutts of Google, Mike Grehan (my favorite speaker), and Thomas Bindl of OPTOP. In this session Google discusses the fair ways to build links and PageRank, Mike talks about his secrets in obtaining quality links and Thomas's methods of buying links.
Link Building Clinic: Speakers included Ammon Johns (Propellernet UK) Warren Cowen (Greenlight) and Dixon Jones (Receptional). Alan was very impressed by Ammon Johns presentation, who wouldn't be? Alan decided to ask one question on the value of links from the same c-block. The answers were of course reassuring. He learned an other tip, to offer your testimonials to others for them to post on their Web site. Of course, get them to link back to your site with your name and company name.
Dynamic Web Sites: Presented by Jake Baillie (Priva), Mikkel deMib Svendson (Marketleap) and Laura Thieme (Bizresearch). Hmm...sounds like the same panel from last time, not that it matters. Most of the talk was on how to optimize dynamic sites, such as sites that use content management systems. The use of mod_rewrite or Windows alternatives was also suggested.
Meet The Crawlers: This is the session where you get to hear from representatives of the major search engines. The speakers included; Matt Cutts from Google and Ron Verheijen from Yahoo!/Overture. Besides for the simple demonstrations of all the new, cool features of the search engines. Alan learned that "apparently Yahoo understands CSS code". Alan then remarks on questions that received the diplomatic but essentially the "no comment" response.
Advanced Link Building Forum: Speakers included Matt Cutts (Google), Paddy Bolger (Top-Pile), Warren Cowan (Greenlight) and Dixon Jones (Receptional.com). "It highlighted why forum links, link farm links, guestbook links, off theme links are not weighted as highly as thematic links from authority sites." The sandbox theory was brought up and I will quote Alan here; " The google sandbox was briefly mentioned. One of the panels mentioned it could occur when a site launches and all of a sudden a large number of links point to it with the same link text. So the sandboxing may well just be a filter for those sites that have an exorbitant amount of incoming links on launch. It is the links that are sandboxed not the site. This might explain why only some sites get sandboxed and not others. Matt Cutts on the other hands basically thought there was nothing in it and that there is no sandboxing “I don’t know where this sandboxing theory started from..” In others words there is still no answer to the sandbox question, whether it exists or not. My personal opinion is there is a form of quarantine going on some new sites which is triggered possibly by an unusually fast link development or from cross linking on same ip c blocks or one of possibly many other factors. It is being seen too often, and where there is smoke…"
Alan's Summary: A very good conference and although I am an experienced search engine marketer, the cost to fly from Germany and the registration fee for 2 days was definitely worthwhile. If for any other reason than to hear what is believed and is posted as fact on forums confirmed or denied by those who know 100%. Sure, there may be some disinformation going on, but if you are good at reading people, you can sort out what is disinformation and what is for real especially when face to face with those who are definitely in the know.
For those not experienced, or with limited search engine marketing/optimization knowledge, the handbook that goes with the conference is worth the two days entry fee alone. You could learn most of what was at the conference for free on forums and in articles, but it would take you literally months to sort out the crap from the real nuggets and even then you wouldn’t know for sure what was really fact or what was just pronounced as fact. I strongly recommend anyone who has not yet been to one of the SES conferences to save up if necessary and do so. The knowledge can literally change your online business around and could potentially be worth a very substantial amount more than the cost of the conference registration fee.
Conference Coverage by Alan Webb.