SMX Advanced 2008: Give It Up
[Looks around, makes sure it's safe to reveal secret squirrel SEO information.]
Okay, kids, it’s July 3rd. That means it has officially been a month since the Give It Up session that occurred at SMX Advanced 2008. The embargo has lifted and now I can speak about it. If only I remembered what happened… Kidding. Sort of.
Danny Sullivan kicked things off introducing panelists Rand Fishkin (SEOmoz), Todd Friesen (Visible Technologies), Michael Gray (Atlas Web Service), Rob Kerry (Ayima Search Marketing), Marty Weintraub (AimClear) and Stephan Spencer (Netconcepts). As I mentioned in my initial SMX Advanced review, this year’s panel looked much different than last year’s Give It Up panel.
Danny started things off jokingly, noting that the Paid Search and Developer tracks were all sweet and pimped out while the Organic session was being held in the “ghetto” room where they don’t even have real walls. And the air conditioning is literally freezing people to their chairs. [It really, really was.]
Danny also calls it “bullshit” that there are no women on this year’s Give It Panel. It was kind of odd that with six speaking slots they couldn’t find a lady to fill one. This time around, Danny mentions that he’ll open the podium up for SMXers to share their own secrets. The person who offers up the best secret will win a free ticket to SMX Advanced next year. I didn’t blog that part, but I promise you it happened, and two people were actually given free passes.
Stephan Spencer was the first up to present.
Despite that he’s about to unleash a whole lot of black hat, he tries to take back some of his comments regarding 301 conditional redirects from the day before. You shouldn’t do conditional redirects for affiliates. That’s bad. Nice work, Stephan.
Stephan lists off a bunch of tools:
A Link Ninja Tool He mentions the 80/20 rule and says that there are high value links that drive a lot of link value out there. The good targets are topically relevant pages with a PR value of 8, 9. 10. He mentions that usa.gov, nsf.gov, w3.org and energy.gov all have a PageRank of 10. Adobe has nine PR 10 pages. He says finding these types of sites could be used to locate sites to buy, though I don’t think Adobe is going to sell itself to you anytime soon.
Google Directory Mining Tool: The way this one works is that you spider the Google Directory, extract each site name, URL and PR from category pages and then dump it all into a database. From there you can mine this data via a Web interface to look for sites with super high PR by category, TLD, etc. You can collect supplementary information on a second pass to get the site age, the toolbar PR value, link neighborhood analysis, monetization info, etc. From there, export it all into a TSV file.
How does it work?
- Step 1: ID a category
- Step 2: Narrow by ODP category, TLD and minimum PR
- Step 3: Initial report is generated. Will email you the full report after its done with the second pass.
- Step 4: Report with 2nd pass emailed to you. Get domain, name of site, PR score, TLD, and the ODP category it’s in.
Using a Proxy Server for SEO: Tired of your search engine optimization recommendations not getting implemented on your client’s large scale site? Place a proxy server in between the Web server and the Net, then intercept the page and optimize it on the fly. Develop site-wide optimization rules (think scalable and automation). Implement page-specific optimization. Best done through an admin interface and/or bulk upload.
Thin Slicing: This only works if you’re really expert. You have to make quick decisions, don’t over think. You want to hand-optimize title tags across hundreds of pages quickly. Focus on your title tags, h1 and URLs. Don’t obsess; you don’t have to be perfect. Instead, iterate. If you don’t have an admin interface, use a spreadsheet and do a database import.
URL Testing and Iterative Optimization: Your URL affects searcher clickthrough rates. Stephan says that short URLs get clicked on twice as often as long URLs. Even more, he says that long URLs are actually a deterrent to clicking, drawing attention away from the original listing and onto the listing below it. According to Stephen, the site listed below a long URL’d site will get clicked on 2.5x more frequently. Seriously?
Stephan ended his presentation telling folks not to get complacent with search friendly URLs. Always test and optimize. Make iterative improvements to URLs, but don’t lose link juice — 301 previous URLs and don’t use chain 301s.
Following Stephan was Marty Weintraub.
Fools Gold Link Exchange: Your clients want links and understand that reciprocal link exchanges can help their site to rank, but they don’t understand the nofollow. So…when you set up link partners, nofollow all your links back. They’ll never know! Your linking partners don’t know what link farms are, they don’t know about nofollow.
Why do it?
Clients want and understand link exchanges. Search marketers want devastating 1-way link strategies. Your linking partners don’t understand the basics. Their naivety is your opportunity and advantage. Marty turns my stomach saying it’s “our job” to take advantage of these people.
Marty encourages inviting semi-direct competitors. It will cause good will and your client will get all the link juice.
Nested iFrame Community Crawler: The deal here is to automate a browser to crawl a number of targeted communities to allow you to leave “bread crumb badges” (like the ones left by MyBlogLog) and vanity bait authoritative niche communities. People will see your avatar everywhere and wonder if you sleep.
How do you do it?
Research a pre-made list of vanity bait targets using Alltop, Google Blog Search, etc. Make “a big ass list” of your friends on the social media services, Marty says he’ll give you the code to do it if you email him.
Marty only advocates spamming communities that you actually participate in. Don’t forget to disable your FURL header.
Why call this search engine optimization? Because things happen from repeated participation – traffic, friends, links.
Opportunity = recent participation can easily be staged (faked). Community members and site owners think you worship them by fanatical participation. If your content is worth it, you’ll be rewarded with links.
Extended SEO with Powerful Social Media Profiles: The power of social media profiles is distributed interior linking. “Friending”, joining groups and other participation creates links to profile and distributes link juice.
Works best for competitive mid-tail keywords, but it requires serious creative forethought.
What does it entail? Creating fake social media accounts. Oh good, more advice on spamming! Marty says in order for this tactic to work the accounts must look real. Create “real people” and give them a purpose. He builds interests for his fake people by using the categories listed on StumbleUpon. Don’t forget to optimize the picture and link build from Flickr too.
Well, that’s nice. Do you feel like you need a shower? Because I do.
Michael Gray was next at bat. Luckily his presentation was a lot more white hat.
Michael asks Google to stop trying to be our moral compass. Be truthful and honest and stop sidestepping the question. Amen.
Michael’s presentation is about how to beat the AdWords Quality Score.
Michael says the Landing Page Quality Score is a lie. It has nothing to do with your landing page. It has to do with your organic rankings. The better you do organically, the better your quality score will be. Learn how to break things.
He shows us his site for Sanjaya ringtones. His AdWords ad was disabled because he had a low quality score.
He shows another site. It has the same ad copy but it’s going to a different domain. That ad runs for 75 cents. On the other site the ad goes for 10 dollars.
Everyone applauds and I giggle.
So what’s the difference?
- All campaigns were created in one account
- Ad copy identical
- Landing page identical
The only difference was the domain age. The domain that was created in 2006 had its ad jacked up to $10.00. The domain from 2008 was just $.75. It’s not just the domain age. They’re looking at the number of trusted links you get over a period of time. You need a certain number of links but you have to do it over a certain period of time.
Quality Score Gets Adjusted Just Like The Sandbox
Landing Page Quality Score has nothing to do with the actual landing page. To prove this, Michael creates a third ad going to the whitehouse.gov site. Any landing page algorithm that gives whitehouse.gov a good quality score for ringtones is really not looking at the landing page.
What is the Landing Page Quality Score really looking at? The main factor Google looks at is your site’s organic trust score. Trusted sites equal good low pricing. Non-trusted sites get bad pricing.
How do you beat the Landing Page Quality Score? Every few months Google updates their Landing Page score. If your Web site moves into a non-trusted price jacked category, buy a new domain, create a new ad group, and move all your keywords over.
Google is a data borg. Every piece of data that you give them is going into their borg and being used in their algorithm. Every piece of data can and will be used against you. Think twice before you give it to them.
Rob Kerry was next.
Rob starts off with a disclaimer: His techniques may be seen as black hat and upset Matt Cutts. Don’t use them on your brand sites. [Well done, Rob. Hi Marty!]
Micro Site Creation: Creating many anonymous sites which appear as third party links.
Benefits: It allows you to keep control of your inbound links and anchor text, and it’s often cheaper than buying links. You can also sell links to non-competing Web sites.
How To Do It:
- Get free/cheap hosting and domain
- Avoid .info domains and dupe Class C IPs
- Choose a CMS
- Roll out content
- Link over to main site once aged
- Use the same WHOIS info
- Register domains on the same day/week
- Get links in from the same places
- Use the same content on different blogs
- Use the same template/linking structure
Automated Content: The process of generating unique content using software.
Last year, Mikkel introduced the audience to Markov Chains. It uses a mathematical equation to create unlimited content from a single source. The downside is that it takes years to perfect and the content product doesn’t pass human review.
The alternative is to use multi-source sentence arrays. The way this works is that you start off by writing an original piece of content. Then, rewrite each sentence five times. Each time must be unique but say the same thing. From there, get a programmer (look for a Russian guy, says Rob) and have that person make each sentence a new variable. Randomly pick the first sentence, the script randomly then picks the second sentence and it keeps going through. Before you know it, six articles at 25 sentences each becomes 28 quintillion articles.
- Passes human review.
- A fraction of the cost of copywriters.
- Distribute articles across your micro-site network.
- Submit content to every article directly with embedded links.
- Offer the unique content to other sites in exchange for links.
Rob says this is a white hat technique because it’s used to create unique, valuable content. The entire audience exploded in laughter. Content is king.
Issues: Not all generated content will pass a duplicate test and full sentences can leave a footprint.
- Use CopyScape to check before publishing article
- Randomize words within sentences – “can’t” should become “don’t”, “pub” can be turned into “bar”.
On Topic Spamming (I love that “spamming” is in the title): Auto-post comments and trackbacks to blogs and guestbooks that relate to your site. He says he hates spam just like everyone else, but this isn’t actually really spamming. It’s a time saving device. [facepalm] It uses technology to do what he would do but he can’t work as fast as a computer.
It’s useful for getting links into your network of microsites, getting free links for your affiliate sites and ranking for long tail terms.
Targeting the term “red wine”
- Run precise searches on Google and Yahoo.
- Scrape the URLs on the SERPs.
- Create an array of comments to post.
- Get your coder to create a bot to auto post comments to the blogs that you find.
- Use your target term as your name, which will form the anchor text in your comment.
- Comment appear human.
- Much higher success rate than untargeted spam.
- Passes through pre moderation.
- Many blogs still don’t put nofollow comments on them.
- Yahoo and MSN have trouble handling nofollow so you can still get value out of those links.
Todd Friesen followed.
Todd is up and lets everyone know that he no real presentation but he does have some notes. He jokes that he must be the only one on the panel with a real job because he didn’t have time to make a PowerPoint. Heh.
Old blogs: Go out and find a really old blog on Blogspot or WordPress. Find the ones that are sitting there ranking for keywords but are dead. Check out the profile address. If it’s a hotmail address and someone hasn’t used their blog in four years, they may not have had used their Hotmail either. Hotmail addresses can reused. Register the old hotmail, then go back to blog and tell them you forgot your old password. They’ll email it to you to the Hotmail address. [...scary. --Susan]
Hotlinking images: Years ago people would have fun with those caught stealing images because they were also stealing your bandwidth. Today, if someone is linking to one of your images, that’s a link! Pop up your .htaccess file and put that link wherever you want it to go.
Digg: Todd says he doesn’t use Digg but he has ideas. You have this great domain that you’ve had on the front page of Digg but now you’re banned. The odds of getting unbanned are zero, so what do you do?
Take your list of funny things, throw it up on a new domain, submit it to Digg, call your Digg army out, and then wait for the fervor to die down. You’re getting all this new traffic off of it. A few weeks or a month later when people have forgotten about it, 301 all those links to your old banned domain.
Custom 404 pages: Why use a custom 404 page? You’ve had a product go out of stock, an article that went down, etc. You probably had links to that page, right? Why put up a 404? Instead, 301 that page up a level. If it was a product, go to the category level. You don’t want custom 404s. You don’t want the engines to take your pages off the Internet.
Reputation Management: Todd says that occasionally it’s possible to get things out of the Web. He comments that servers can go down for a variety of reasons. Monitor the sites in your space. The second you find out that one of their pages is down, use the Google Removal Tool to tell Google that the page isn’t there anymore. If you’re lucky, it’ll stay down long enough for Google to remove it. If they do, it’ll be gone for six months to the day. That buys you 6 months of time to push up good content.
Google Bowling: (Todd says this tip comes from Dave Naylor) Because different link brokers moved from Sponsored Links to inline linking, there’s now a Google filter that looks for too many new links coming from old blogs. If you have a network of 40 aged blogs, go back into the archives, add a link to the site you want knocked down across the network; you’ll knock someone down.
Rand Fishkin finished things off for us.
[I'm not going to lie. Rand had about 80 gazillion slides and 7 minutes to go through them. He sped through and I was not all that impressive in staying with him. My apologies. Drinks on me next time, Rand.]
Searching For Links
Rand goes through a number of search operators.
- Related: Find out who your competitors are related to. He plugs in the top ranking sites and then tries to get links from them.
- Intitle search: When you perform this you’ll see that the Intitle results are very different from regular search, even though the term is often in the title. The people ranking for just intitle have earned the ability to be there, but not the trust.
- Intext: Crap. It doesn’t work.
- Inanchor: Also crap.
- Wildcard searches: Excellent for when you want to figure out what is really popular. When you plug in a product search, you can see what people are using as their keywords for this “type” of thing.
- Temporal Searching: You don’t have to obey the little drop down. You can modify the parameters to search for whatever you want.
- Linkfromdomain: Offered by Live Search. It shows you who is linking out from this domain. What domains are link to from a given domain.
- IP tool from MSN: You search for an IP address from Google
- Competitive Link Searches: You can append URLs
- Google BlogSearch Links – link: gives you accurate link data.
- Exalead Links – they offer the link query. He thinks Exalead orders results in order of importance.
- Alexalinks: Also shows links, as does Technorati. Yahoo’s not the only one who does link research.
- [Linkdomain:example.com region:Europe]: Link searches within a specific region. . Great for geo-targegting.
- [Linkfromdomain +linkdomain]: You can see which pages are linking to someone
- [www site:seomoz.org]: Lists the pages of a domain by importance, as seen by Google.
- [SEOmoz -linkdomain:url -site:seomoz org]: Use it to find sites that mention your brand but don’t give you a link. And then ask for the link!
Google Local Ranking Tips: How Google ranks local listings in importance:
- Registration with Google Local
- Perceived closeness to center of city
- Number of local reviews
- Local link popularity
- Local Phone Number
- Participation in Online Menu Services
- Quality of local reviews (the stars)
- City name inclusion in anchor text
- Local Directory Listings
- Keyword/City in Business Name
- Domain Authority
- Address Inclusion on the Web pages
Reputation Tracking Query
Google Temporal Web Search: Searches for SEOmoz every day.
Google Blog Search, Google News, Technorati Blog Search, Summize Twitter Search
Obligatory Black Hat Slide: Google Bowling – point your DNS and they fall out of the index.
And that’s it? Thoughts on the material discussed?