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June 8, 2011

Mega Session: SEO Vets Take All Comers — SMX Advanced

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This is a “PowerPoint-free” panel of search marketing vets who take questions on SEO issues. I gave my wrists a rest on the last session and now feel refreshed enough to liveblog a panel of six people — good God, I just counted that.

On the agenda is:

Moderator: Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief, Search Engine Land

Speakers:

Alex Bennert, In House SEO, Wall Street Journal
Greg Boser, SVP of Search Services, BlueGlass Interactive, Inc.
Bruce Clay, President, Bruce Clay, Inc.
Vanessa Fox, Contributing Editor, Search Engine Land
Todd Friesen, Director of SEO, Performics
Stephan Spencer, Founder of Netconcepts, Co-author of The Art of SEO, StephanSpencer.com

Danny tell us this session is typically NSFW. He is introducing the panel and they have lonnnnng resumes. Danny’s introductions are like mini comedy acts. So Greg Boser is celebrating his 20th wedding anniversary and apparently took his wife to SMX. They ARE headed out on a cruise after the conference is over to play shuffleboard all the way to Alaska.

Questions:

What are the panel’s thoughts on social share buttons?

Bruce: How many people have added +1? How many people know it loads two seconds slower on a page? — +1 second at least (everyone laughs).

Greg: Nothing worse than a page with zeros. Why would you share a piece of crap?

Todd: figure out where your audience is and then pick your social share buttons.

Stephan: You could always inflate the numbers if you want o look more popular.

Vanessa: Monitor page speed. Any time you are adding a third-party widget to your site, you need to watch it. Look at perceived load time. Look at all the different factors.

Stephan: Two great books — “High-Performance Websites” and “Even Faster Websites”

For the Wall Street Journal — How is social sharing affecting SEO practices?

Alex: Not a ton of impact. Twitter has more impact for breaking news with hashtags of that stories keywords. They uses addthis.

How do you avoid duplicate content with rel canonical and pagination?

Vanessa: Article pagination and pagination for search results. For article pagination, the canonical tag was used to tell search engines that you have content in multiple places.

It wasn’t intended for when the content was the same. Google hasn’t said it will penalize you, they said they just won’t pay attention. The other type is search results pagination.

She recommends no index on some of those pages.

Greg: Canonical is like full disclosure, very transparent, makes your architecture stronger.

Todd: Article pagination is not what canonical is for. Using a canonical is the best tool for Google to decide if they want to accept it or not.

Stephan: If you do a noindex and leave it at that, follow is applied, so it may be dropped from the index but passes authority.

Vanessa: Google is just trying to say, we want to give you accurate information about how to use the tag. It’s not that people are using it wrong. In terms of noindex, Google is more conservative than I am. It’s not a problem to open up all your content.

Danny just had to stop this discussion so we have time to talk about ANYTHING else.

Schema.org tags cannot be manipulated. Stephan, how would you go about that? (Everyone bursts into laughter)

Vanessa: You can block the search engines.

Greg: That day will come. There are areas that could be a problem, what they show and who they get it from.

Use caution. Google wants to swipe all your stuff everywhere without sending them to your site. Google is pillaging.

Bruce: Only reason you would try it is if you’re constantly losing rankings when the search engines don’t know what you mean through your content.

Stephan: I’ve been a fan of microformats for a while for one-click additions. It’s more the user experience than anything.

Vanessa: Can I clarify Schema? 1) Only for display and not for indexing and ranking or relevancy. Might be in the future. 2) Seems they’ve launched and the next big push will be the standard they are supporting so it’ll be built into CMS.

Danny: This part of the session is called, “Panda, Panda, Panda” — Help. So many questions on panda. General thoughts?

Greg: I don’t think it’s a recoverable thing — you need a whole new strategy and business model Most people that got hit knew their stuff wasn’t that great, so they aren’t as angry with the algo change.

Stephan: Once you go Panda, you never go back.

Vanessa: Greg makes an excellent point — Danny: Wait, I gotta tweet that.

Vanessa: Is this page the best search results for the user and does it give them all the content they need? It’s tough because if it’s your revenue model, it’s tough to shift that.

For those sites that she’s seen, it has to be at the executive level shift about what they do.

Greg: It’s built on a human model and then they take that to rate sites.

Danny: WSJ came out OK, Alex?

Alex: Yes.

Danny: For those affected by Panda, what would each of you do?

Greg: Look at backlinks and whether the content developed any links.

Stephan: ID some sites that would be high-value sites that you could start a new home at. Take the best content and augment existing and moving into a new house.

Alex: ID pages with high impressions but low clicks. It’s relevant for a particular query and narrow your efforts on that.

Todd: Find the bad crap and get rid of it.

Bruce: Get rid of all the low-quality content, but people don’t know what low quality is. Some got hit even if they have great content but everything above the fold is an ad. Years ago doorway pages were evil. We have a lot of people that don’t know any better that are being sold garbage and this problem is going to last for a long time and the n are going to be taken. Some junk may link the sites that are not junk and there might be some backlash in that.

How does Twitter impact SEO?

Greg: It’s a signal, that wave of activity on Twitter will spill into link on blogs quickly. There’s a direct connection between Twitter content and links. It’s a great signal, to watch and monitor. It has to be tweets and links from those people who are of value.

Todd: It’s measurable and they are good at ID’ing who is tweeting who.

Stephan: Signals reinforce the fact that this something is legit and not a manufactured campaign.

Vanessa: You shouldn’t think about that you want Tweets because you want to get ranked, but because you want people to go to your page.

Will social signals become more important than links?

Stephan: I don’t think so.

Greg: Connectivity will never go away, the Web is about the hyperlink. That’s always going to be a huge part. Its is changing though. You don’t just need 20 links that say “blue fuzzy widgets.”

Bruce: A trust graph is more important than a link graph. Untrustworthy links will cause yo to go down. A lot of social media sites are short term. It helps to get the right people to see you to like you. If you’re talking Twitter and Likes, you are talking about a bunch of things.

What scares you about Google lately and what do you like about it?

Greg: Other than organizing the world’s information then wanting to control the information — other than that? I do like their new link filtering. It’s a less punitive way to police.

Bruce: I have a particularly paranoid vision of Google. As Google pulls data in and they will become more powerful. I see it moving into local pretty strong because they make more money doing that. I see Google moving into the news business. Than Google can publish their own news and you have to inherently trust Google.

Alex: The thing I don’t like about Google is that Wikipedia is considered a news source. They are in Google News and they rank really well, too. I love how aggressive they (Google) are with the analytics tools.

Vanessa: I’m sorry Google doesn’t scare me.

(People are trying to get Vanessa to say something about negative about Google)

Vanessa: I think we take for granted some of the tools they have like Google Insights for search. It’s awesome data we wouldn’t be able to get to any other way.

Stephan: I’m not happy with Google playing hide the banana. Their primary benefactor is shareholders. In AdWords there are certain settings that aren’t to our benefit. It’s not meant to be an SEO tool — all about “show me the money”. They are now getting into the health info, which is scary. I think they have made great improvements in their local algorithm in Google places.

Todd: What I actually like about Google — it’s given me a hell of a career for the past 10 years.

Matt Cutts was hiding in the audience — Danny just called him out. (Apparently Matt has been known to take notes in sessions before.)

Lightning Round

Does anchor text over-optimization exist?

Yes (collectively)

Digg-Reddit — does anyone care anymore?

No (collectively)

Danny was looking to Matt and now he’s conveniently disappeared.

Todd’s final thoughts: We did miss one word this whole session — the word “Silo” *referring to Bruce — everyone chuckles.

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