By Evan Carmichael on June 11th, 2010
Search Engine Strategies Toronto Day 1 yesterday was jam packed with cutting edge tactics and great networking opportunities. Day 2 of the conference series was no different, opening with an interactive keynote from Maile Ohye of Google, followed by information sessions on Twitter automation, paid search, site clinic and more.
Day 2 Keynote with Google
Maile Ohye, Sr. Developer Programs Engineer of Google, talked about the recent Mayday update and its effect might be here to stay. For the future, Google also plans to have social search take properties from your social circle to make search results more personalized. However, the social graph is still in its early stages of development and its reach will not go beyond a user’s primary contacts just yet. Maile also says that soon, presence on social networks might play a vital role for your content distribution as real time search for media will take the popularity of your content into consideration.
Linkbuilding is always a popular subject with the public for Google, and the senior developer would like to see linking being thought of as a real business expansion. Google takes link quality very seriously and block-level link analysis will show that not all links on the same page is treated equally. There are hundreds of other components when it comes to search engine rankings and webmasters need to focus on effectively providing users what they want.
Google Webmaster Central is becoming increasingly versatile and will continue to develop into one of the most important tools for webmasters to communicate with Google. Maile confirms that speed is an important factor as slow websites hinder users’ search for the most relevant information. Last but not least, make your suggestions to Google Help Forums because Google listens!
Tracy Falke, Social Media Specialist of Freestyle Interactive and Paul Madden of Crea8 New Media gave a very interesting presentation on Twitter, everyone’s favorite micro-blogging platform. The theme of the presentation was centralized around automation. Bots can tweet and retweet valuable information but they could never engage in a meaningful conversation with a human being. The wrong kind of automation could lead to a reputation crisis and perhaps even jeopardize brand equity like John Deere’s @DeereRobot.
Don’t be the loud drunk guy at the bar. Invest in content and not the platform.
Paul believes that to get a decent return on your investment in Twitter, you must engage as much as possible. The follow-and-unfollow game still works but to do it correctly, you will need semi-intelligent tools. Use Twitalyzer to analyze your Twitter presence and match your audience’s activity for the best return in investment. While it is possible to code a bot, it is impossible to code a person. Paul uses automated tweets but steps in for real human interaction when engagement happens. One of his rules of thumb is to never post more than one link for every ten general tweets. He had one of his bots follow someone from the room and it was amazingly hard to distinguish its behavior from a normal user.
It is social media. Retweeting spam, using auto direct messages and asking for follow are bad behavior. Don’t be anti-social.
Introduction to Paid Search
Matt Van Wagner, President of Find Me Faster holds a very informative session on paid placement as a form of search advertising. Pay-per-click and search engine optimization campaigns are complementary; while SEO will yield a good return on your investments in the long run, PPC will act as a insurance policy and gateway for secondary traffic. Matt briefly discusses important concepts such as keywords, ads, bids and landing pages and goes on to give great tips on time, geographic and demographic segmentation. It is important to target your audience not only to drive conversion but also to save on campaign costs. Also, expenditure on content network sites needs to be monitored for effectiveness; conversion might be low when users encounter ads in a passive browsing mode.
Since the competitive landscape of keyword research has changed, a lot of what used to be key information are now publicly available. This makes it hard for anyone to hold a significant informational advantage over the rest of the playing field. Matt addresses this by alluding to the story of two men’s encounter with a bear; you don’t have to outrun the bear, you just have to stay slightly ahead of your competition.
I asked Matt for some good books on paid search and he recommends Pay-Per-Click Search Engine Marketing: An Hour a Day by David Szetela, Joseph Kerschbaum and Michael Flores, Winning Results with Google AdWords by Andrew Goodman, and Advanced Google AdWords by Brad Geddes.
Canada-Specific SEO & PPC Issues
The proximity and relationship of Canada with United States have created a unique problem for Canadian businesses on the internet. Heather Dougherty of Hitwise, Ian McAnerin of McAnerin Networks Inc. and Guillaume Bouchard of NVI each gave their takes on what are some of the Canada-specific SEO / PPC issues and solutions.
Some statistics could provide companies with relevant insights. For example, Yahoo and Bing have a stronger presence in French Canada in comparison with English Canada. Queries with added Canada and Canadian geographical modifiers had higher click-through rates, likely due to the prevalence of U.S. results in searches. Canadians also responded better to fact-based advertisements over emotionally charged commercials that work well in the U.S.
Also, be mindful of the difference in sentiments that exists in seemingly similar markets and try to avoid using alienating terms like ‘foreign’.
Tough Love: Get Your Site Tuned Up
Jonathan Allen of SearchEngineWatch and Dawn Wentzell of Outspoken Media provided some critiques, a few tricks and tips for those who were brave enough to offer up their sites for the site clinic. Some of the suggestions include:
- get Google Rich Snippets
- use Cascading Style Sheets over Table tags to divide up content
- be descriptive with product page title tags
- create relevant tools for linking opportunities
- use iFrame to embed outside pages
- employ robot.txt to secured login pages and other sensitive areas
- stick with either with or without the www prefix to prevent diluting PageRank
The day ended with an Open Mic session on Black Hat vs. White Hat, where everyone just enjoyed themselves over conversations, drinks and cowboy hats.
The amount of knowledge and interactions makes it easy to see why this conference series garners so much attention from the industry leaders. My experience with Search Engine Strategies Toronto 2010 has been an amazing one.
What are your most pressing SEO concerns? I would love to hear your thoughts if you leave a comment below!
Tags: automation, business expansion, content distribution, Dawn Wentzell, developer programs, Google, Heather Dougherty, Hitwise, Ian McAnerin, important tools, information sessions, Johnathan Allen, link quality, Maile Ohye, mayday, media specialist, networking opportunities, NVI, paid search, Paul, paul madden, Pay Per Click, programs engineer, Search Engine Strategies, social graph, social networks, social search, stages of development, time search, Tracy Falke, Twitter, users search, webmaster central, webmaster tools