SES, SEO, Blogs

Blogging the conference has been a great way to test some ideas about blog ranking and watch Google struggle to bring the most relevant content into the main search (they’ve done pretty well with blog search, not so well with regular search which will have all the blog content listed in a week or so, basically too late to be all that helpful to users).  More importantly the stuff from *this year* will probably be ranked above the SES San Jose 2009 information that is likely what people using that term are searching for effective next year.   I’d think they could simply increase the value of ‘freshness’ for listings tagged as events related.

I had a nice discussion about this “events” ranking challenge with Jonathan from Google at the party. The problem is that to combat spam Google does not push out blog content immediately, meaning that if you search for “SES San Jose”, especially a month ago or so, you would have been likely to get old, dated content rather than the current SES page you’d normally want to find. This appears related to linking issues (newer has fewer), but also I think the regular engine is allergic to new content, which is why you’ll often find the most relevant Google stuff at the blog search if it’s a topic that is covered heavily by blogs such as SES or CES Las Vegas where I noted the same issues of “stale content” in the main search with “great content” in the blog search.

I remain convinced that some of the challenges faced in ranking could be solved by a combination of more algorithmic transparency from Google combined with greater accountability by publishers who’d agree to provide a lot more information about their companies so that Google can get a good handle on the credibility of the online landscape. This webmaster ID is happening now in several ways but I’d think it could be scaled up to include pretty much everybody publishing anything online (ie if you don’t register you’ll be subjected to higher scrutiny).

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SES Site Clinics

SES Site Clinics
Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

A good team including Dave Naylor, Greg Boser, Dani Horowitz —- on stage is evaluating some websites that have volunteered to be reviewed:

Hmm – not sure on the advice here but they are suggesting Lang avoid full URLs to make server handling more efficient, and avoid putting unrelated content at the site (use a different domain) to be more competitive in that specific niche. ie Generalizing can be helpful in some cases but make it harder to rank for very competitive terms.

s-l-o-w is a problem.

Greg: Narrow title tags to be more focused. Focus on a small number of key phrases or words you want to rank well for rather than several.

Dave: Does not like the navigation on home page – thinks it is weak and will possible get site downranked. Title tags suck all the way through. Cross linking is important. Cannot be excessive, but can be used e.g. to link blog and websites advantageously.

Debby and Greg: Tables are bad. Use CSS. Separate content from layout. Greg – improve titles. Debby – make title tags *backwards* from the breadcrumbs – ie from most specific to the generic. [e.g. diamond studded shock collars, dog collars, dogs]

Blog advice: One of the most powerful tools you have. Check templates. Avoid the template sponsor links at footers? Edit the post URL to exclude date.
Ranking well for Asthma products but no good conversions. Greg – avoid images for important terms – use words or layer image on top of text which is “awesome” according to Dave and Greg. Caveat – be careful overdoing this.

default.asp as home page – avoid multiple home pages.

Question to audience – how many companies use blogs with the site? (very few raise hands). Greg and Dave: Get a blog! Google ranks blogs over product pages. keep bots out of the https.

Greg – use subdomains but keep in mind search engines are sensitive to host name spam.

SES San Jose Final Day – local search

This is an excellent presentation but I haven’t had enough coffee to take good notes, and unlike some of the other conferences I’ve covered like CES and MIX there isn’t much traffic to the conference posts anyway. Anxious to check other blogs covering this to see if they had much of a traffic spike, which one would really expect from search related news.

I’m lazy so only posting the summary from SES:

Local & More
Special Kelsey Group Presentation: Local 2.0: The Evolution of Local Search
What percentage of online searches are local? If you consider searches that end up having some influence on local buying activity, the opportunity is put into perspective. But there are still large gaps between the point of search and the point of purchase. How are online mapping, shopping engines, and directories starting to fill these gaps with user-generated content, video, or inventory data that funnel searchers towards local businesses? And how can marketers utilize these tools to get local searchers to pick up the phone, schedule appointments, or show up at their stores?


Domain name auction at SES San Jose

I’ve heard of these auctions but never attended on before. The idea is to have a live event that is also online, so anybody who has registered can participate from anywhere.

I’ve got hundreds of names aquired over the years so it’ll be interesting to see how much these names fetch here at auction.

Monte, Moniker’s top guy, is introducing the event now.

Hey, I just won a $200 credit for having signed up online. (didn’t use it – few name I’d want in this batch) and just sold for 200 each… $300

Wow, just fetched 30,000 from room bidding.

They closed , not going to allow bigs under 50k . closed at 100k! Seems very, very high to me. Wow, this just went for $350,000 after an online bid for 300k.

Update – this did NOT sell and I’m not understanding what happened. The process is frantic and I think designed more to get people in the frenzy of bidding than anything.

I’m wondering how you regulate the ease with which you could boost prices with fake bids (I do NOT think they are doing that since the credibility hit would ruin them forever, but it’s odd seeing bids come in from the internet, invisible).

OK, so the auction went way over time, then to add an insult to the deal when I got to the Vivid party thrown by Moniker and Webmaster Radio at 9pm the place was way too loud to talk, the “open bar” was not open, the plentiful food was not there, and there was some VIP thing going for … the special people?

Not impressed at all.

Black Hat / White Hat SEO Session at SES San Jose

Black Hat SEO Session at SES San Jose
Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

The SEO session here at SES San Jose is packed as everybody struggles to get competitive advantage, though I’m concerned that even some fairly advanced SEO folks simply don’t understand how seriously they may damage their clients or sites with a number of techniques that are no longer tolerated by Google.

Jill’s making an excellent point about “incompetent SEO” who, in her words…suck. I think she’s right that there are a lot of very bad folks doing SEO – I’d suggest about 90% or more.

Boser – the sites that rank are the ones that put in the effort. He says that you could generally replace the top sites with any others wihout bothering users.

Boser: buying links remains a key tactic for competive markets.

Naylor: Common mistakes are from within the organization where their link buying goes over the thresholds. Good black hats “know the threshholds” at which the search engine will identify link buying problems.

Disagreement (hey, cool) Jill’s Whalen suggesting good SEO is simply common sense, Todd Friesen suggesting it’s not. Jill says it’s not about tricking the engines.

Boser: Must compete now, so using paid links to get the clients going is both acceptable and needed.

Widget marketing – ?

SEO Champion question: He’s angry but not clear why – some conflict with Greg Boser over SEO stuff.

Boser: Links are about blending in to your niche. Hotels dominated by aggressive search spam for years – a tough industry. Hard in those space to follow the rules and compete.

Bruce Clay: Doing things that are way out of bounds is much riskier for established sites. You can’t afford to burn your own house so consider these risks.

BMW: Burned themselves buying links for short time. Greg – less consequence for the big players. WordPress also got a hand slap for link abuses. [ yes, but if we use a “user quality” metric we’d expect big players to have fewer consequence rather than severe punishment].

Matt Cutts from Google (audience). We take action on a lot of big sites. Some panel argument with Matt here about how fairly Google applies the rules. Boser: Forbes is spamming – why no action?

Naylor: Legal site in UK. Restoration involved identifying the paid links that a company representative had purchased. Google found them in 4 months and banned the site.

Audience question: What about the user – isn’t their interest the best definition of white vs black hat? Todd may not understand what she means here, he’s noting that outright deception is out. But I think her question is more nuanced and the answer is generally yes. Naylor’s correctly noting that users may not care much if they get site A or site B, and that is often true.

Made for Adsense sites: Boser – it’s crap, and includes a lot of blogging content. [This topic is so complicated – I’m always amazed how everybody thinks that they know crappy from good content. I think you need to ask communities about what they want, and trust their judgement. I think Google is moving in that direction and it’s a good thing.  What if somebody has a fabulous site, better than competition, that is made for adsense?   Where is the line?]  Answer – community judgement.

SES Session Description:

Searcher Track
Black Hat, White Hat: Playing Dirty with SEO

Some say that “black hat” search marketers will do anything to gain a top ranking and others argue that even “white hat” marketers who embrace ethical search engine optimization practices are ultimately trying to game the search ranking system. Are white hats being naive? Are black hats failing to see the long-term picture? This session will include an exploration of the latest black and white issues, with lots of time for dialog and discussion.

Matthew Bailey, President, SiteLogic

Greg Boser, President, WebGuerrilla LLC

SES San Jose – SEO Rehab and Intervention

The crowd is starting to pour in now from the big SES car giveaway. I think they gave away three of them, but I was no eligible as a “press” person. Just one more huge sacrifice I have to make for the good of journalism, the internet, and global warming.

Andy has started out with a very generic a presentation, now noting that they no longer take English speaking clients. Europe was easier because so few there were doing SEO. [note to self – get the Mandarin lessons going ASAP]

Greg Boser – excellent point about importance of experimenting with different tools and techniques – you can’t necessarily know which may have positive impacts.

Dave – good points about worrying more about where things are going than your daily pagerank numbers which is only updating every 3 months anyway.

[Interesting. All these guys appear to be a lot less focused on the old style things people tend to worry about like keyword density and pagerank. I think the business leaders are moving strongly to PPC even as social media is making organic optimizing a whole new ballgame. Where are all the social networking / blogging / media optimization strategies?]

OK, not much SEO here, but the Twittering was really interesting. It would be great to integrate messaging into the session so people in and out of audience could ask questions – sort of a hybrid virtual / real space / real time environment…


Searcher Track
SEO Rehab & Intervention
It’s 2009 and rehab is en vogue from Beverly Hills to Talladega. This session will include 12 steps to finding harmony in a search-dominated world. Confessions from leading experts include how to get off PageRank, vanity news alerts, inbound link and keyword density analysis, and 301’s.

  • Anne Kennedy, Managing Partner & Founder, Beyond Ink
    (Kevin Ryan standing in for her)

SES San Jose – click fraud session

The intro talk by Tom Cuthbert is listing click fraud numbers that, at over 16% for overall and over 25% for content PPC, are dramatically higher than the few percent normally cited by Google. I’m anxious to hear Shuman’s take on this. Excellent slides…. will try to link them up later.

Erin Sheedy-Owen from Yahoo on catching fraudulent clicks. “We err on the side of the advertiser”. You’ll see these in your logs but won’t be charged for them.

Outright fraud vs Low converting vs unwanted clicks. 12-15% of the clicks are filtered and advertiser not charged. Large recent rise in bot fraud. (this was also noted by Cuthbert).

Yahoo goal is to respond to click fraud reports from advertisers within 10 days. Erin’s making the case that advertiser feedback is very important.

Waiting for Internet Advertising Bureau guidelines.

Deborah from Outrider, a Search Marketing agency managing 1.3 billion in search advertising.   [wow – wouldn’t this be approaching 10% of the market if it is annual? – I’m skeptical of this number’s relevance – maybe this is over a long period of time, though still….an impressive data set].

Client opinions vary from huge concern to little.

ClickForensics is their click fraud application.   Interesting – she just mentioned parked domains as a click fraud issue.  Traffic from a highly relevant parked domain name would probably be good.

Matt Greitzer from Razorfish: They manage 300 million per year in paid clicks.

Virtuous cycle of quality clicks [hmmm — IMHO the optimal revenue model for Google and Yahoo is probably not optimal for advertisers.
I don’t think folks understand this well yet and for agencies overbids are money in the bank too, but standards are coming too slowly because search profits will go down as standards go up.   That said, I have a lot of faith in the next speaker’s sincerity ]

Shuman Ghosemajumder from Google:

Google’s Proactive approach:   Filters – automated.  Invalid click reports available to check these out.    Less than 10% filtered this way.

Offline analyis – leads to credits to account.    Click quality adjustments.  Statistical anamolies.

Finally, reactive approach involves investigation and report.  Very, very tiny.  <.02% handled this way.

[yikes – so why were Cuthbert’s numbers so much higher?]

Smart pricing:  Google gets same ROI by adjusting cost per click according to conversion metrics – ie lower performing publishers command less PPC. [But how do they measure the conversions?]

Google Placement reports and other performanc metrics allow you to track your own campaigns with great precision.

Google competes on basis of ROI, so their incentive is to keep it high and kill fraud.

Google Dance 2008

The Google Dance Google Party at the Googleplex was great as usual, with excellent buffet BBQ, the most prized T-shirts in the business, and a lot more. Having trouble with Flickr uploader so I can’t put up all the photos I took yet but this really is a great event. It was fun this year to attend with my college bound son Ben and 4th one with my great pal John though I had to keep reminding Ben that Google is not your typical corporate environment, even in his chosen field of computer science. Of course he’s got four years to go and a lot’s going to happen in that time, though if the extravagance of the party and healthy conference booth attendance are any indication Google’s going to be the big player for some time.

Google Dance 2008
Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

SES San Jose – Orion Search Panel

SES San Jose – Orion Search Panel
Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

Live (well 10 minute delay?) from the afternoon keynote here at SES San Jose. We’ve got Matt Cutts, Robert Scoble, Danny Sullivan, Tim Westergren, Kirsten Mangers, Rich LaFurgy here to talk about search. I’ll try to add as the talk goes on…

OK, it’s over and was disappointing.   All the speakers are exceptional experts, but I think this casual approach did not work because rarely did we get any of the meaty search information both Matt Cutts and Danny Sullivan generally deliver.    If I was making recommendations to SES I would have had each of these folks do separate sessions in their areas of expertise and get into more detail.   Matt, for example, is arguably the world’s top search expert and Robert one of the very top experts on blogging and social communities.   No need to water their stuff down so much.