SMX Advanced 2012: Ask The SEOs

SMX Advanced 2012 (Seattle)
SMX Advanced 2012 (Seattle)

It’s time for ASK THE SEOs with:

  • Moderator: Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief, Search Engine Land (@dannysullivan)
  • Q&A Moderator: Jonathon Colman, Internet Marketing Manager, REI (@jcolman)

and Speakers:

  • Alex Bennert, In House SEO, Wall Street Journal (@seosylph)
  • Greg Boser, SVP of Search Services, BlueGlass Interactive, Inc (@GregBoser)
  • Bruce Clay, President, Bruce Clay, Inc. (@bruceclayinc)
  • Vanessa Fox, Contributing Editor, Search Engine Land (@vanessafox)
  • Todd Friesen, SVP, SearchFanatics (@oilman)
  • Rae Hoffman-Dolan, CEO, PushFire (@sugarrae)

What the hell is going on with Penguin?

VF: It’s nothing new at all, it’s just doing a better job. But now it has a name.
AB: It was just confusing because it had a name.
GB: It’s a broadscale implementation of things that they had been doing manually for a long time. The biggest takeaway is that it’s a behavioral adjustment filter. They don’t want you doing that stuff any more. It’s the cousin of Panda, which was a lot about high volume low quality content on your site. Penguin is about high volume low quality links to your site from sites with no human interaction. So if you’re doing that – stop it!
TF: It’s like Google is saying now: We’re not going to let those bad links help you, and now we’re going to penalize you for it.
BC: We have a penalty audit now. People who didn’t want to spend on SEO to do it right, didn’t. And now those are the people who are complaining about getting hit by Penguin and/or Panda. The people who were hit by this were the people who were taking shortcuts year after year after year.
GB: Describes the concepts of footprints and what looks normal and abnormal.
VF: There are positive and negative ranking factors.
TF: We’re back to the Google Dance.
BC: Many of you, in about  3 months, when the next update comes out…will not be immune.
GB: Take it as a warning to dig through your closet and  get rid of your bad links.

Can authorrank reflect positively on the authority of your site as a whole?
GB: Yes. It seems to work for Barry Schwartz. Google is pushing to get everyone into that environment. The real value is the whole package.
RH: For clickthrough rate, the one that has a picture next to it – that’s the one that gets the users’ attentions.
TF: And you’re searching for something in your industry,
the picture is often going to be someone you know.
GB: I don’t typically notice the domain if i see a picture. So you can hire writers and take advantage of their trust and authority.

IP Sniffing:
VF: I would never tell you to show something different to bots than to users.

Paid inclusion:
DS: I’ve never ever seen anything like this where they’ve taken a major search property and said now you’ve got to pay to be there.
TF: I used to work for  PositionTechnologies, who actually invented paid inclusion for Inktomi/Yahoo. I’m a big proponent of paid inclusion. But what Google’s doing is not what you’re thinking when you think of paid inclusion. Google isn’t going to do it like Yahoo. It’s only going to be affordable for the top 5-10 brands.
GB: If you’re a 3rd party aggregating site and/or comparison shopping,  you’re in a dying model. Google has been cannibalizing those because Google wants to be that 3rd party aggregator. You need to adjust your business model because it’s just going to keep going: travel, education, comparison shopping, it goes on
RH: I’m afraid of when Google does it with local…which will be like local paid inclusion. Give it away for free, and then once people are used to that income, start charging them for it.
BC: The search results page is changing. It’s now everything. a product directory, ppc, etc… We’ve seen instances where for some searches there are only 4 organic results. And sometimes only one organic listing above the fold. It’s going to be hard for Negative SEO to work because it will get really expensive. And it will get really really expensive to spam. If Google can’t make the top 4 organic results free of spam, then they will not be able to make money on ads. So they had to lean on everyone in order to get rid of the sites that aren’t contributing to the quality of the search results.

WTF is Matt Cutts saying that +1’s are not a good ranking signal?
VF:  Their official blog post says that it will be looked at as a ranking signal.
BC: The +1 is a ranking signal if the people who +1’d a site are in your circle.
DS: I don’t care what Matt says, I see the evidence with my eyes.
BC: They lost a lot of access to a lot of the places where people do hangout and share stuff (FACEBOOK!). Google will always be about analyzing the social connectivity of the web. You can fake links and social signals, but it’s hard to fake them both and have them line up. I’ll take a facebook share over a Google share any day of the week because that’s real people sharing stuff.
TF: Google demoting pages based on having no +1’s? No one has the balls to remove the +1’s from your site.
BC: I have buttons on my sites. I took all the counts off. It’s just buttons now. I don’t need to show them. People have stopped putting bookmarking buttons on their sites. Why is that?

Social: Do you think it’s an important thing to be doing for search? If you don’t have an audience, should you be getting an audience?
BC: CopyBlogger’s idea is get an audience first and then figure out what to sell them. Build the audience first. RSS is supposed to be dead, but RSS and metrics like Alexa and how many comments you have…we find that type of content does really well.
VF: You want an audience because you want an audience.
BC: Investing in a big audience is secondary to sales. You’ll invest years in getting an audience and building loyalty.
AB: The only social strategy we have (wallstreetjournal) is Google.  We probably wouldn’t even be doing Google+ if there wasn’t all the markup stuff you can do.

Danny goes on an EPIC rant about link building!

BC: If any linkbuilding thing you are thinking about and it has a name, don’t do it. If it’s a site with a link building service, don’t do it. Google doesn’t not want linkbuilding to be a standalone thing. It’s something that happens after you do other stuff. With that said, it makes it much harder. Now you got to build engaging content on other sites for new audiences. That content on your site does nothing for you.
BC: If anybody has a video of Danny, you’re going to get links.
VF: It’s marketing. You want SEO to be integrated into your business, so when PR people talk to reporters, they include a link back to your site. I still see this all the time where there is a PR move and the news sites don’t link back to your site.
TF:  There are still things that work. But those are the things that we don’t like to talk about because there are Google people here – and they are taking notes. We are working on arms-length linking.
BC: Don’t say “we” because I am not. Some companies were forced to compete or die. And now that gap that Google had between what they said and what they can do is very small. They are walking the walk now. They can catch you. I’m a marketing guy more than an SEO.
AB: Go where Google’s trying to go, not where they are now.
TF: Skate to where the puck’s gonna be.

Closing Comments
BC: No matter how safe you think you are with links, if you look at your link inventory, the thing that will happen is google only remembers the bad links. Everybody in this room probably has 10% of their inbound links that are on the edge of getting you in trouble. Start addressing those now.
AB:  Don’t chase search. Chase your audience. And our audience is growing internationally. Language tag. Geo-locations tags. And an href tag.
TF: Not a lot to add to the content and links thing. In light of penguin and panda, companies are hiring link auditors. Be honest about ALL your links. Also, does bounce rate influence rankings? Probably not. But if you have a high bounce rate, fix it because you’re losing money every single day. Get focused on rankings and conversion.
BC: Dirty little secrets. Social signals do not generate backlinks. If you’re doing content marketing, do it on sites with big audiences. Loyal site members are the people who link to stuff. Great content on your site is not going to do anything for you.
RH: Use markup on your sites. And use rel-author to increase clickthrough rates to your sites. Second, stop looking at your rankings and start looking at your traffic. Start keeping records of which keywords are converting.
VF: I’m going to agree with Todd. You have to make sure you are solving peoples’ problems and that they are converting. That in turn will help you rank.

Danny via @stncmp: Are we supposed to skate to where the links are? Funny