SMX Advanced Goes To The Dark Side
Mere seconds after the much anticipated Give It Up session ended on Wednesday, Virginia and I jetted to the airport to meet up with the rest of the BC team. We gathered in the Alaskan Lounge at Sea-Tac to wait out our one hour flight delay while unwinding and reflecting over cheeseburgers and beer (Bruce opted for the stew).
It may sound odd, but even though my office is literally next door to Bruce, I don’t get to have nearly as many face to face chats with him as I’d like. His travel schedule is among one of the most hectic I’ve seen and it’s rare that I see him more than a few days out of the month. But the conversation I had with him Wednesday night in the middle of a busy airport restaurant bar is something that will stay with me. It reminded me why I work at Bruce Clay.
Coming back from this show feels different than the others. Normally when I return home from SEO conferencing, I’m left feeling a bit wiser and a bit more assured of the industry I work in. This time I came home wiser, but also a bit confused.
Don’t get me wrong. There were a lot of great moments at SMX Advanced. The speakers, the venue, the friends, the networking, the desserts – they were all top notch. SMX Advanced is still one of the best shows around. The highlight for me was really the Developer Track. It was something I absolutely fell in love with. It was an entire track on how to build great, accessible Web sites. Those sessions gave attendees valuable insight that they could take back and use to make improvements to their site TODAY. It wasn’t about developing workarounds or exploiting algorithmic loopholes, it was about doing things right and avoiding problems from the start. That’s something every search marketer can get behind.
But at the same time, I couldn’t help but notice that this year’s Advanced show seemed to lean a whole lot more to the grey/black hat side of things. I couldn’t help but wonder: When did advanced search engine optimization get confused with being a black hat?
Here are some of the “advanced search engine optimization” techniques I picked up during my time in Seattle.
- There are lots of old sites lying around on the Interwebz with great link juice. Buy them and capitalize on that. But do it carefully or Google will pick up on it and reset the score.
- Conditional redirects are teh awesome.
- Search marketers don’t need ethics. They’re marketers. Check the ethics at the door.
- You can never have too many .edu links.
- I need to grow some balls, stop fearing Matt Cutts and start buying links.
And though I can’t even mention the Give It Up panel for another 28 days, look at the folks who spoke. No judgments; I’m just saying that it looked very different from last year’s panel. You can’t tell me the SMX folks weren’t gunning for a certain shade of information there. When the embargo lifts for that session, SMX is going to get a lot of press.
But did attendees get what they were expecting from the show? I know I was certainly surprised by a lot of the content. I wonder who else was.
Microsoft’s Nathan Buggia seemed to be. During the Search Engine Friendly Development panel he specifically noted that he had to revamp his presentation after hearing what people were talking about the day before. He also wanted to stress that advanced search engine optimization was about analytics, not being a black hat. I was right there with him.
Where were the white hat advanced search engine optimization techniques in Seattle? Why was most of the material presented pushing grey and black hat? Are we supposed to believe that that’s what advanced SEO is – spamming? If so, that’s a bunch of crap. Or maybe SMX just thinks there’s no one qualified to teach advanced white hat techniques. I guess those folks were out drinking with all the ladies NOT on the Give It Up panel.
I don’t understand.
To me, advanced search engine optimization is about analytics, it’s about siloing, it’s about perfecting your site architecture so that you don’t have to even worry about tactics like cloaking for conditional redirects. There have to be other white hat advanced search engine optimization techniques out there. Why weren’t they covered?
The Developer Track started to take a really advanced approach but there just weren’t enough sessions. But that’s the stance I would have expected from a conference billed as advanced and being led by Danny Sullivan. If I want to learn about black hat SEO, I’ll go check out a forum or certain blogs. I don’t need to have that taught to me by folks representing the man who’s arguable the leader of this industry.
Sitting at the show made me realize why I like working at Bruce Clay, Inc. We don’t go down that road with our clients. Some of the black hat techniques taught at the show may get you results, but you’re also putting your clients in serious harm. We don’t believe in that. I simply don’t have any tolerance for folks publicly endorsing black hat SEO. And it’s not because I think “Google is good” or that the idea of people manipulating their algorithm or aggressively hunting for loopholes bothers me. Black hats get under my skin because (a) they’re not SEOs (b) they very often provide a bad experience for users and (c) they make the rest of us look bad by association. Why do I need to support that?
What was your take on the show? Did you get the information you were looking for?