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BACK TO BASICS: What You Need to Know From SMX Advanced 2011

by Susan Esparza, June 15, 2011

June kicked off with the always informative SMX Advanced in lovely Seattle, Washington. The conference, which was limited to 1200 attendees, sold out more than a month in advance. If you missed out on the incredible sessions and speakers, fear not. Just as we always do, Bruce Clay, Inc. was there to liveblog the event as it happened. You can find all the conference coverage on the Bruce Clay, Inc. Blog but here are the highlights by session.

The New Periodic Table of SEO

This session focused on the major "elements" involved in doing SEO, including many fundamentals that often suffer when marketers chase only the latest and greatest new techniques. The major takeaway from this panel that one should not confuse correlation with causation.

Important Technical Factors:

  • Page size and load time
  • URL character length
  • Flash navigation
  • Session IDs and dynamic parameters
  • Proximity of page root directory

Important Content Factors:

  • Keyword emphasis
  • Keywords in page elements: the title tag; Meta description; H1, H2, H3 tags; image ALT text; URL

Important Link Factors:

  • Internal and external link counts
  • Keyword in anchor text
  • "Hub" links

Things that rank well are often shared a lot on Facebook. (Further discussion outside of the panel concluded that this is likely due to the aim of both metrics being to find and share good content, not that Facebook Likes are ranking factors in and of themselves.)

Social, brand and local are all changing up the search results as well as an increased emphasis on intent. Building out good content is imperative post-Panda. Google +1 has no measurable impact now but likely will in the future.

Overlooked, Underloved and Unknown Analytics

Two important announcements from Google Analytics came out of this panel:

  1. Google Analytics will soon support tracking for social buttons on site. Every social network and button type will be supported with modest setup and +1 will be supported natively. Visit to sign up.
  2. Starting this month, you will be able to see Google Webmaster Tools information in Google Analytics

Tools recommended by the panel for tracking:

Overall takeaway: A click on display is not the same thing as a click on search. You need to measure your channels separately.

Yes Virginia, Tweeting is SEO

Fact: Tweets are impacting how regular search results rank. What search was in 1998, is what social is today. But one word of caution: Tweets are not a silver bullet for SEO.

Tip 1: Integrate SEO and Social into a strategy

Tip 2: Branded Links

Tip 3: Be Social! (Come out of the SEO shell)

Make website sharing easy and make sure your SEO and social teams are talking and sharing data.

Timing is everything when it comes to Tweets. Test to see when your audience is most engaged and gives you the best response. Engage with celebrities (in your space, not just typical celebrities.)

Hints from Danny Sullivan

  • If someone does not see your tweet in the first hour, it will not be seen.
  • Putting out a second Tweet- gives the tweet a second chance.
  • Tweeting a second time, a few hours later, 50% increase in twitter traffic.

Advanced PPC Analytics

Stick to best practices: Any broad match terms getting more traffic than their exact and phrase siblings? Any groups with just one active ad? Are you identifying loser ads on CTR or conversions? Any budget-constrained campaigns? Adjusting bids for Day of Week and Time of Day? (Requires the time of click) Are you deleting keywords with no impressions for 13 months?

An excess of data leads to a shortage of optimization. Don't get lost in your data. Instead look for trends.

Consider how your attribution model works and try for better attribution without losing sight of your goal.

SEO and Competitive Intelligence

How do you use your competitors' actions to make your marketing strategy stronger?

  • Research true competitors: Competitors online is actually different than offline. Competitors at domain level may be different at category, product or service level.
  • Eliminate noise: Avoid the urge to go to keywords as the next step. Researching a single competitor is misleading. Take each of your true competitors, compile them, then you should see an intersection of keywords that are common across competitors.
  • Tracking causes: What is the competitor doing on and off page? Rankings may have changed due to your own actions or something your competitors did.
  • Track effects: Track KPIs closely - not just rankings, but traffic patterns as well. Set up thresholds.
  • Learning, testing, implementing and repeat: Timing is important; can lose out on a lot by waiting. CI gives us a starting point for ideas to test.

The Really Complicated Technical SEO Infrastructure Issues

This panel was divided into two mini-panels. The first half focused on, which you can read about in this month's Hot Topic. Here's the highlights from part two of the panel.

International expansion best practices:

Do you have time to?

  • create and review content?
  • build and maintain a new site?
  • develop relevant business relationships
  • support customers in a new region and/or language?

Are you expanding in language or region?

Make sure you have shareable URLs and that you provide the user the ability to navigate in their desired language. Consider tourists.

How to Use the Canonical Tag

1. You have 100 products, 10 products on each page and a "view all" page. The "view all" page CAN be the canonical page.

2. You have 100 products, 10 products on each page and no "view all" page. You CANNOT make page 1 the canonical for pages 2-10 because page 1 doesn't have the products that are on page 2-10.

Tough Love: Link Building for the Real World

Lots of amazing takeaways from these presenters. Here's seven of the most important points.

  1. Infographics aren't dead.
  2. Use guest posts to spread your brand and build your reputation
  3. Location-relevant links often benefit from a personal touch.
  4. Send emails that people will read, not just "link request." Build a personal relationship and use email scripts for scale.
  5. Hit up journalists looking for news. Help A Reporter Out is a good source.
  6. Credibility is everything. Build trust and leverage relationships.
  7. Stop believing in your limitations.

Advanced Keyword Research Tools

Obviously this session focused on many different tools. The main takeaway: No one tool is perfect, so use different tools. Don't just look at popularity, there's more to keywords than that.

Free tools (not an exhaustive list):

  • Google Keyword Tool
  • Google Webmaster Tools
  • Google Insights
  • Google Trends
  • Google Content Targeting
  • adCenter Labs tools
  • Microsoft adCenter Add-in for Excel

Use negative keywords. The more negative keywords you have the less money you will waste on unqualified traffic.

Yes, Virginia, Facebook is SEO

The question on everyone's mind for this panel was "Will Google +1 edge out the Like Button?" The panelists didn't think so, predicting that they would actually feed off each other much in the same way LinkedIn is supported by other networks.


  • More than 90 percent of comments and Likes are coming from newsfeeds versus an actual Facebook Page
  • Fans are most valuable when they have access to your Facebook news feed
  • AVOID: auto-posting - this may cause severe adverse condition to your Facebook success rate.

  • Best practices - You Can Do RIGHT Now
    • Place share and social plugins on website
    • Interlink directory and social media pages
    • Make sure social media and SEO teams work together
  • Welcome Pages are a must for best results
  • Create engagement by asking questions and not just promoting content
  • Optimizing like buttons in your stream
  • Create content that is related to trending news topics your users would relate to or resonate with.

For permission to reprint or reuse any materials, please contact us. To learn more about our authors, please visit the Bruce Clay Authors page. Copyright © 2011 Bruce Clay, Inc.