SMX East 2008 Give It Up: White Hat Edition

One month ago, SMX East held it’s Give It Up session — this time with a new twist. All the secrets revealed by the panelists were tips considered to fall into the white hat category of search engine-accepted search engine optimization techniques. As with all Give It Up sessions, the tips and tricks revealed were under a blogging embargo for the following month. Today we finally get to share with our readers. Enjoy!

Moderator Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief, Search Engine Land, introduces our speakers: Michael Gray, President, Atlas Web Service; Kimberly Krause Berg, Usability Consultant/Owner,; Kate Morris, Search Engine Marketing Manager, RateGenius; Tyler Shears, Online Marketing Manager, Databanq Media; Stephan Spencer, President, Netconcepts; Rob Kerry, Head of Search, Ayima Search Marketing; and Shari Thurow, Founder and SEO Director, Omni Marketing Interactive.

Shari Thurow’s tip is something she does herself. She’s going to compare the searcher’s intent to the engine’s intent. Remember that you’re designing for people who use search engines, so understand how and why someone is searching, why they’re using those keywords and why they’re in that order. You should also understand the same concepts as they apply to search engines.

The Search Engine’s Goal

The first thing she does is search. She gets keywords from keyword research tools, user interviews and tests (you need direct contact with actual users). She considers her keyword research findings with Web analytics data to predict how the engines will rank her optimized content. The tabs at the top of search (news, video, blogs and books) are the different places for which you might want to optimize. If a Wikipedia result shows up for the keyword, that tells her that the search is an informational type search.

When people use the commercial search engines, they usually have the following intentions:

  • Go to a specific site
  • Want info about a topic (60-80 percent of searches)
  • Want to do something

A plural is an indicator to the search engine that the searcher is looking for information. Look to the search results for the type of information the user is looking for. Remember this about search listings:

  • The Title tag is first, the Meta tag is second and the URL is next. For informational searches the snippet is very important.
  • Another type of search is a navigational search. People are searching to get somewhere specific. People with navigational intent rarely look past the number 1 and 2 positions.
  • The point is to have realistic expectations about search engine positioning.
    • The right pages
    • The right keywords
    • The right place in search results

She’s looking in the search results to get her information.

Michael Gray is going to talk about how to drive traffic with your Flickr photo stream.

Take pictures that people want to see:

  • Good subject, good quality: This is the kind of image that people want to make their wallpaper.
  • Dull subject, good quality: An example is a picture of daisies that’s taken from an interesting angle.
  • Good subject, bad quality: No matter how blurry your picture of big foot is people will want to see it.
  • Dull subject, bad quality: Don’t take these pictures.

Use keyword-rich, unique titles:

  • Instead of “DSFC001234.JPG”, name the image with keywords. Try adding the month or the year to make the picture unique from all the others.
  • Consider the amount of pictures that are coming up for that title and narrow it down by adding more descriptive keywords to avoid duplication.

Increase internal links with groups:

  • Titles of pictures will be your internal linking text.
  • Find relevant groups to submit to.
  • Submit to multiple groups.
  • If there isn’t already a group for a certain subject, start one!

Increase Flickr views with ratings and comments:

  • Ratings and comments help your internal ranking.
    • There’s a group called Score Me! That you enter a photo for review and you score five in return. There’s also a Score You! group where you add comments. Follow the rules of the group.
    • Submit only your best photos.
    • Have a thick skin — some of the criticism can be harsh.

Use tags:

  • Use relevant tags.
  • Include the name, state, city or location in the tag.
  • Use multiple words – there is no right way. Michael likes to make two-word phrases, like “Las Vegas”, one tag because “Las” doesn’t mean anything by itself. Other people do them individually.

Consider creative commons:

  • Creative commons lets others re-use your pictures, as long as they link to your picture and give you credit.
  • Consider commercial re-use.
  • Take pictures bloggers want to use.

Bringing it all together:

  • Try to submit pictures that are high quality or that people want to see.
  • Don’t add links to every picture.
  • Only add links to pictures that have traffic, ratings or comments.
  • Add links to deep pages that enhance and add value.
  • Eventually you will drive traffic from multiple sources, like other sites, image search and even Wikipedia.

Tools to help with Flickr:

  • Picasa: import, crop, edit pictures
  • Flickr bulk uploader: uploads, renames, tags, put photos into sets and groups
  • Picnik: online photo editor
  • WordPress

Kate Morris is going to talk about developing links from the inside out.

Tip 1: Hire a student

What level?

  • Undergraduate
    • Cheaper
    • Willing to do anything
    • Moldable
  • Graduates

.Edu links are the golden egg of this technique. Links from student home pages and links from organizations can be gained from the student (ask nice!). You can ask them to post about what they are working on. Because it is a student account, it’s not as “juicy” as other .edu links, but it’s still a .edu.

Students are also good for:

  • Research projects
  • Content development
    • White papers are like school papers!
    • They’re young and creative.
  • Pay your interns! She says they’ll work better for you.

Tip 2: Participate on Yahoo! Answers

  • Niche market community building
  • Links
  • Tips and tricks

Tips to using Yahoo! Answers:

  • Don’t automate the answers. That doesn’t actually answer the question. You’ll be chosen as best answer more often if you actually answer the question.
  • Talk to their specific situation with details.
  • Add the whole URL to your site. These links are not followed but they show up in Webmaster Tools and are indexed.
  • Be transparent. If you’re representing your company, say that you work for that company and that they can help. She’s built more business through this than any other link building she’s done.>/li>
  • Clean up the spam. There are tons of phishing opportunities, so the more often you report them, the more trusted you are.
  • Vote and check daily. The more “best answers” you get the more points you get and the higher your level and trust will be. You can vote for yourself, too.

Other answer services include Live Search QnA and WikiAnswers.

Tip 3: Utilize your partners and affiliates for links

Got affiliates?

  • Trackable URLs
  • SEO URLs
  • Blog posts
  • When you have affiliates, build it into your contract

Got partners?

  • Partner link pages
  • Just ask
  • Work out blog deal (swap favors!)

Up next, Tyler Shears will discuss white hat link building.

Your Web site is a business:

  • Your Web site is a business and links should b e part of your business model.
  • The model has various levels of link development needs.

No Links? WordPress!

  • Start a WordPress blog on your domain.
  • You can write more and with personality.
  • A college intern is a good candidate to write your blog.

Content, Content, Content!

What is excellent content?

  • Find out what the industry standards are for your niche.
  • Use keyword research to target your terms that will generate the most exposure.
  • Look at what people are writing about in your niche, what’s working and what’s not.

Badger Badger Badger… Mushroom!

  • Create a directory.
  • Create a listing for the top 100 businesses and email them with their listing info.
  • Require the business to place a badge on your site.
  • Use relevant anchor text.

What about the juicy links? There are some links that have more value, and there are many tools available to help you determine what a juicy link is.

Give free SEO advice!

  • Point out some easy things.
  • The benefit is that you can build a business relationship (affiliate, email marketing list, content partnership).
  • If the relationship develops into something further and they choose to link back to you, the chances are the link is a lot more valuable after your SEO advice has improved their problem areas.

Kimberly Krause Berg is going to share her experience of reputation management with organic SEO through a case study.

There was an artist named Nathan DiStefano from Doylestown, PA. There is another Nathan DiStefano, also in PA, who wrote a vibrator review in Amazon. For the purpose of this story, I’m going to refer to the artist as ND1 and the Amazon reviewer as ND2. ND2 was getting the top spot in the rankings for a search of “Nathan DiStefano”.

A colleague of ND1 got Nathan a Web site, but it was ranking below the reviewer. This Web site had:

  • Text in images
  • A boring Title tag: “Nathan DiStefano”
  • Google was forced to pull the SERP description from the Meta Description tag: “Official web-site of Bucks County, Pennyslvania Artist Nathan DiStefano”
  • An old domain. Kim would need to beat the aged domain
  • No inbound links

Unfortunately for Kim and ND1, the colleague that had created the site wouldn’t give them control of the site. Kim would have to create an entirely new site.

On the new site, Kim focused on organic SEO only:

  • Added content to the new site,
  • SEOed pages with Title tags, unique on-topic content, content before images and text links
  • Wrote a testimonial which ranked in the number 2 spot for about two months because she promoted that page
  • Expanded the bio page
  • Connected with art galleries that show his art on their site
  • Promoted the new URL in new business cards and brochures and all press including Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Fiddled with the Title tag; put his name first; moved “original” around; added local information
  • Added local information to Meta Description
  • Added locality in text on home page and inside pages; local search
  • Design new Web site

For months, the old domain was in the top three spots, followed by ND1’s MySpace page, and then ND2. To combat ND2, Kim decided to make an Amazon account and new profile for the artist. She included reviews on art, music and local books.

In three months time, ND1’s new site was in the number one and two spots in Google and the SERP description accurately portrays him as an artist. Now it shows what he actually does.

The more they focused on a clean and usable Web site, they more links they got. The number three ranking page for his name is a chamber of commerce link to his site. MySpace is now number four. Number five is Facebook, which she asked him to create as his professional networking page. The old ND1 site has moved to number 16.

In Yahoo, the results were even better. Print promo, interviews and videos were coming up in the SERPs. Yahoo SERPs show more results from related sites and the old site is no where to be seen.

Stephan Spencer is up next to present on Google power user tips.

Keyword competitiveness

  • The intitle: operator shows pages that are more focused on your search term than the pages returned without that operator.
  • Use the ratios to give you a sense of how competitive a keyword market is. This is an alternative to KEI. A high ratio is a good sign that not a lot of people are optimizing for the phrase.

Anchor text

  • Anchor text remains a very important signal for Google and the other engines.
  • Your allinanchor: ranking is an indicator of the strength of your anchor text. A low ranking indicates that you’ve got some work to do on improving anchor text.


  • Q more accurate number of pages on your site that are in Google’s index can be obtained by appending &start=990&filter=0 to the URL of a Google result set.
  • Want to see past the first 1000 results? Refine your query by extending site: into a subdirectory or by adding inrul: and a directory or file name.

Number range

  • The Numrange operator can help restrict results set to a set of model numbers, product numbers, etc.
  • The Numrange operator is also great for copyright year searches (for example, to find abandoned sites to acquire). Combine with intext: operator to improve signal-to-noise ratio.

Supplemental index

Filetype refinement

  • The filetype: operator is great for looking for needles in haystacks.
  • This operator actually matches based on the file extension in the URL.


  • Cache is great for getting to subscriber-only or deleted content.
  • You can get to it from the “cached” link in the listing or by using the cache: operator.
  • Don’t want to leave a footprint? Add &strip=1 to the end of the Google cached URL. Images won’t load.
  • No cached link? Use Google Translate and translate it from English to English.

Similar pages

  • The related: operator will show who else folks link to in addition to the URL you specified.
  • The results for this search operator are limited to a result set of 26 to 31.
  • It is useful in identifying neighborhoods.

OR Operator

  • Words in a search query are ANDed by default.
  • Perform an OR search by including “OR” in the search term or with the vertical bar |.

Rob Kerry is going to talk about getting link love.

Buying links is frowned upon by Google. Link exchanges have little value and are time consuming. Web sites love free content almost as much as free money. Supplying data/content makes your site and authority and strengthens the brand. Providing content (that includes a link!) is a cheap alternative to buying links or paying social media gurus.

Case Study: Finance Client

  • Offers free financial news stories and comparison tables to major publishers.
  • Re-writes stories to avoid duplicate content issues.
  • Integrates a copyright link on every story.
  • XML feeds ensure that content is loaded on publishers domain, resulting in link juice.


  • “Powered By” logos can strengthen brand and copyright links and significantly benefit SEO.
  • The content publishers are choosing to link to you, so it keeps Google happy.
  • You can gain links from super hubs that never sell links or exchange them.
  • This technique can work in any industry.


  • Car insurance site: Offer gas price comparisons or new car news.
  • Poker: Provide a feed of player stats or tournament news.
  • Kitchen appliances: Offer recipes that can make use of any appliance.


What kind of traffic can we get from Flickr?

Michael says that it depends on the industry, like travel, and that getting into groups helps.

Kim, if you’ve got small business, what does it take to do a project like your artist’s?

She bartered her services for a piece of art!

How do we combat our own affiliates that use black hat methods?

Rob made the affiliate URLs link to another site which filters to his site. Stephan says to include a restriction on black hat methods in the terms of the agreement.

Stephan, where can we find the search parameters you shared in your presentation?

Search parameters like those in Stephan’s presentation are in his ebook, which he’s working on updating now. Shari says that Google Power by Chris Sherman also has great stuff. Joost De Valk has a cheat sheet you can search for by plugging in some of the parameters into the search box.

Virginia Nussey is the director of content marketing at MobileMonkey. Prior to joining this startup in 2018, Virginia was the operations and content manager at Bruce Clay Inc., having joined the company in 2008 as a writer and blogger.

See Virginia's author page for links to connect on social media.

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6 Replies to “SMX East 2008 Give It Up: White Hat Edition”

very good point about under-grads, we take them on at our company and they are very creative and hardworking.

Great, in-depth report, very good point about under-grads, we take them on at our company and they are very creative and hardworking. We also have them writing posts for our blogs, and they do a great job.

With regards to URL, in your opinion (Virginia, Susun) how important is it to have your main keyword between the www. and the .com? for example, if my main keyword is ‘print’ is there much difference between ‘’ and ‘’ ?

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Virginia Nussey

Thanks, Jack and Kim! Give It Up sessions are my favorite to cover because of all the juicy takeaways that come from them. Of course, it helps if the presenters are as awesome as Kim! :)

Beautifully reported! This is an excellent post…and I can say that ’cause I was there :)

This is good stuff. Especially liked the ideas surrounding what engines want vs what visitors want. That’s the eternal SEO balancing act and it must be gotten right!


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