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February 3, 2011

DOMAINfest Panel: The Latest/Greatest SEO and SEM Tips

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Experts: Andy Atkins-Krueger, Bruce Clay, Seth Dotterer, Danny Sullivan
Moderator: Ryan Berryman

The SEMs give tips to the domain investors in this session. I was speaking with Aaron Kvitek on the break and he was talking about the importance of cross-education in these industries. So, this ought to be a good one for everyone.

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Susan and I have been switching off today with covering sessions. The consensus at this point is that I’m warmed up enough to cover a panel session. Judging by the intensity with which Susan was typing this morning on the other group session, um …

And I think I just drank out of some random person’s water bottle thinking it was mine. I’m disgusted.

Intro speaker says this is historically one of the more popular panels at DOMAINfest. He gives introductions. [Great panel!]

Ryan, the moderator, starts with Seth: Fortune 500s might not be on top of search, how do you advise clients?

Seth: Seen over the last year, the end of the SEO practitioner as a technical guru. They are looking at it from a portfolio approach. It’s more of a disciplined process.

Panel The Latest/Greatest SEO and SEM Tips

How has reporting and accountability changed over the past year?

Bruce: We cater to large and small accounts. Some of them are able to do the work themselves, some need guidance to do it themselves. Definitely needed to be more technical people in the past, now there are more marketing not technical centric people. As a business, we are forced to reallocate the resources. How does everything work together, in concert, PPC, conversion, SEO. SEO is still critical, is a cornerstone, but he sees it becoming more a piece of the pie. That’s an evolution.

How important are keyword domains in SEO?

Bruce: Recently it has become even more important. Bruce owns SEOTools.com. He always redirected before, but held onto it. People started offering him money and then he started putting a couple pages on it. No link development but it ranks for SEO tools. Local search is more critical. City name is going to significantly influence results.

Does the functionality of the browser matter in international?

Andy: The keyboard is of more significance. There are 15 different ways to insert a Chinese character. The reason why numbers are so popular there is because they can type those easily.

Danny, what are some of the major trends you’ve seen happening in search, what may come?

Danny: The collision of social and search continues to be an amazing thing to watch. Can you tell someone has authority on Twitter independent of their page? Twitter has nofollow so you think those links don’t count, but Google and Bing get the tweets from Firehose, so those links do count and are being counted.

If there are still some naysayers who think social doesn’t have to do with search, well it does. As long as you are participating, that’s a step. It’s similar to when links became useful in SEO.

Continued verticalization of search. In October, Google took Places and turned them into regular listings [“organic”]. At some point, you’ll do a news search and might just get the info from Google News.

Seth, have you seen impact from your clients in Google Places?

Absolutely. The metrics we’ve use for years and years don’t mean anything anymore. People are struggling.

How would you advise people who own thousands of domains to start building out the sites?

Seth: It all depends on your strategy, whether it’s affiliates and long-tail keywords. Don’t go out there and put the same content on all your domains. Find your area within a niche where you think you can compete. Some may find content is king.

Danny, we’ve seen changes to the Google page, there’s a lot of concern with Google promoting own properties, what’s the general feel about that?

Danny: There are a lot of concerns about Google generally. People who don’t like Google seem to latch on. Is the typical consumer concerned? No. Everybody who is ranking well is complaining that Google is not being fair. How evil can Google be? It’s just trying to send the most relevant information. For example, Google Shopping takes you to other sites off of Google.

A search engine should be giving you a certain search experience. The concern is, is Google trying to keep me at its own properties, not pointing me elsewhere? Danny doesn’t see Google doing that.

He is concerned with Places pages when you’re just looking for a particular website of a company.

YouTube is a destination. Begs the question, Am I getting it because Google owns YouTube or do they have a lot of content and that’s why?

Andy, are you seeing the same appetite for video search these days?

Andy: YouTube is huge globally. Particularity in Asia. There are more examples now of companies looking to make videos in more languages. They used to do it for English but now there are projects in multiple languages.

Seth: Still a huge opportunity. Click-throughs blow up when people see a video. Few people are aggressively doing it now, so there’s so much opportunity.

Andy: Think in terms of opportunities outside of English, too.

They switch gears to Google Instant.

Seth explains what Instant is to the audience. He says they did research and found that people are finding what they want more quickly.

Have you seen impact of Google Instant on SEO?

Bruce: Yes and no. What we have noticed is that Google Instant is giving you information based on query behavior. Recommending for what the fourth word query might be in three-word query. Gives us some insight into a more long-tail strategy.

More than often, Instant tends to make users go on a tangent. They go where they’re not going to convert. He’s not sure conversion holds.

Conversion is an increasing component. We found if you have video on your page, you have about a 40 percent increase in conversion, all else being equal.

There are three layers of people doing domains. Buy don’t develop, sit on it, and sell it for a profit. People who develop 10 sites and making money on each but not enough on one that they can do a full-fledged SEO project; they should  focus on conversions there. Then there are flagship domains that make a ton of money once built up.

Bing/Yahoo! migration, Danny what do you see?

Danny: Just worry about Google. Don’t worry about Bing. [Everyone chuckles.] Google and Bing are both important. On the SEO side, in general if you’re doing right by Google, you’re doing right by Bing. Bing-only strategies are not very useful thus far.

Seth: There is a conversion difference between Bing traffic. You’re going to have different demographics across search engines. The transition team when people moved campaigns from Yahoo! to Microsoft was a little rocky. Strategies are different from those different markets.

Andy: There have been consequences and things are getting complex when rethinking which search engines to use internationally.

Seth, is Bing/Yahoo! less competitive and therefore more ROI?

Seth: Yes, many people might not want to spend in more than one place.

Danny, let’s talk about the controversy on the Bing/Google thing.

Danny: Had a trip to Google. Google said they had a sting operation to find that Bing was copying their results. The Google engineers went Ape Sh**. They were concerned that Bing was riding on their backs.

There are debates you can watch online on this. Bing has some issues with what Google is saying. They watched what people were doing and they used that to influence search results. They say Google does the same thing with the Google toolbar. User behavior may cause similar results (Bing won’t say the word “copied”).

[Danny wrote an article about this, check it out.]

Seth asks how Google responds to where they get their content from. Danny said people are wondering why Google is so upset when Google leverages other people’s content for their business model.

Danny hopes we get back to the quality in results.

Seth, we talked changes to the quality of the results before the session; Google made changes recently to content spam. Comment on that, what kind of content is important?

Seth: Google has created a marketplace. Google needs to be sure the results stay relevant. Gibberish loses. People need to adapt to relevant content on those pages. Don’t look for a one-size-fits-all investment. Find out what properties need the content.

What is long-term, sustainable content?

Bruce: We have moving parts. Local results showing more and more often so Google makes more money. It becomes compelling for us to be in the top three.

If local results will rank, and they don’t have the quality of sites at the national level, which means the bar has been lowered, so we can perform well at a lower level. We have a higher ability to compete.

We have to appear as subject matter experts. Mediocre content is becoming less and less attractive. Mediocre content has a tendency not to be “liked” and shared in social media like Facebook.

The type of content will matter. Video is content. All forms of content that are part of your page contribute — especially with Universal Search. If all your competition has videos and you don’t, does that mean you’re last?

Seth: One thing, take PPC ads that convert for you and change the Meta information for a compelling call-to-action.

Seth is now talking about the Head section and how to put together Meta information.

Andy, non-Google markets, how important is mobile, social?

Andy: Mobile reaches the parts that search engines don’t get to. This happens in parts of the world where they use mobile over PCs.

Bruce: The persona of your audience matters when looking at mobile. If your audience is business, you might not go for mobile. Social, you might. Social is overwhelming us.

Bruce asks how many people tweeted during this session. About half the room raises their hands.

You use the right tool for the right problem, he adds.

Seth: Fire up our website on an iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry to see what it looks like from there.

Bruce: Go to Instant Previews in Google to see what it looks like, too. Has a direct relationship to click-through rates. We’ve done some research on it. The preview is almost the same size as an iPhone screen, so you can see what people might see.

Time for audience questions.

Q. Define mediocre content please.

Bruce: When someone views a page at first, they scan it, looks for keywords. You don’t really read on your first time. So content is irrelevant until someone finds that page may be what they are after. Mediocre content is: nothing new, no value, not taking away anything. Value-add content is unique content that gives the reader something they didn’t have. You add to their knowledge.

It’s how you convince them you’re trustworthy. It’s how you convey you’re better than your competition.

Moderator asks, What if the topic is mediocre to begin with?

Bruce: You mean like Wikipedia?

Seth: Are you producing positive engagement?

Andy: This is a difficult question. If someone copies it, does that mean the content is mediocre? Great content is typically within a website that has many pages with supporting content. [Like silos.]

Q. Now that Places is getting emphasis, are you looking at heatmaps to see where users are going? If you owned Attorneys.com, does ChicagoAttorney.com rank higher now?

Danny: The Places results are organic results. There are no “normal” search results since December 2009. Everything is personalized now.

Bruce talks about how the SERPs change based on behavioral search. Google tracks what you are searching for and serves up results based on the search prior.

Seth: If you bucket your keywords, Google is deciding that “attorney” is based on a user looking for information.

Q. What tool do you recommend for judging your rankings, especially with the changes to local search?

Bruce: If you have a tool that is driven by the API (from Google), it’ll work fine. [Bruce plugs his tool, LOL.] There are tools that eliminate bias by location but it may not give you the best answers.

Danny: Webmaster Central will tell you your rankings. But you should be looking at your analytics. This will help you understand the success of your keywords.

Seth: Ranking is an indicator that will lead to traffic and conversions. Don’t get too caught up in only rankings.





6 responses to “DOMAINfest Panel: The Latest/Greatest SEO and SEM Tips”

  1. Vlad Rascanu writes:

    Really good article Jessica. Favourite quote “Just worry about Google. Don’t worry about Bing.”

  2. Jessica Lee writes:

    Hi, Vlad! Glad you liked it. Everyone had a laugh when Danny said that, but it’s kinda true ;) Thank you for your comment!

  3. Chris writes:

    Thanks for the tips, excellent writing. I’ll be sure to follow you on twitter.

  4. Jessica Lee writes:

    Hi, Chris — thank you on both! :)

  5. MicroSourcing writes:

    The “collision of social and search” – this is exactly where SEO is headed in 2011. Social media’s growing influence has gotten Google to pay attention.

  6. Jessica Lee writes:

    You are absolutely right! Thanks for being a loyal reader :)



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