At the SMX Advanced conference in Seattle last week, the keynote session with Matt Cutts has become an expected feature, but it’s also one of the most highly anticipated and attended sessions of the entire conference. The search engines love to take advantage of search marketing conferences to make major announcements, and Matt Cutts has been known to drop both major and minor bombshells during these sessions. For instance, during last year’s session, he stated that the practice of “link-sculpting” (using “nofollow” parameters on links to advantageously design the flow of PageRank within a site) was now pointless, because Google had implemented nofollow such that it did not conserve PageRank, but instead a nofollowed link merely evaporated PR.
It was clear at this year’s “You & A With Matt Cutts” that he and Danny Sullivan had planned in advance to launch directly into addressing one of the top most-recent issues of interest to webmasters: the “Mayday Update” — so-named because the algorithmic shift occurred roughly around the first week of May, and because affected webmasters were left with a helpless feeling after their pages dropped in rank for long-tail search queries.
Matt and Danny opened the session in a really jocular fashion by wearing inflatable life-jackets, as a nod to the Mayday algo change. They followed that up by handing each other caffeine-free sodas, which they quickly deprecated in favor of fully-caffeinated Coca-Colas. (As you may know, Google began rolling out an infrastructure/processing change this year, called “Caffeine”, which allows Google to rapidly absorb fresh content, process it for ranking purposes, and display the new content in SERPs. Some webmasters who were concerned over the Mayday Update had wondered whether it might have been caused as some side effect of the Caffeine change.)
After the lifejackets and soda hijinks were over, Matt stated clearly and seriously that the Mayday Update was separate from and in no way caused by the Caffeine change. His statements further underscored statements he’d made earlier online. According to him, the ranking algorithm development team had decided, after consideration and testing, to publish a change based upon some “quality factors”, reducing the rankings of some deeper content pages for longer-tail queries.
Just as Vanessa Fox had opined in her piece on the Mayday Update, the weighting for keyword relevancy factors was likely reduced some in comparison to quality factors.
One thing that Matt suggested to those who wished to counteract Mayday’s effects was Continue reading →
Twitter, Real Time Search & Real Time SEO (Chris Silver Smith)
What You Don’t Know About You Tube (Chris Silver Smith)
We’ll also be helping with moderation on a few sessions, yet to be determined.
SMX Advanced is known for the bleeding-edge search marketing tactics presented, catering to an audience of agencies and experienced in-house marketers, and we expect this one will be no exception!
Be sure to get registered right away if you haven’t already, since the organizers keep this one sharply limited and it’s expected to sell out.
Note added after publication:
Christine Churchill will also be speaking at SMX Advanced London scheduled for 17 & 18 May.
Keyword Research: Beyond the Ordinary (Christine Churchill)
The Art of Measuring Local and Mobile Search Results(Christine Churchill)
Christine will also be moderating the Top Ten Customised Search Analytics Reports and QA Moderating the Advanced Tactics for Promoting YouTube Videos and Search Ad Quality Under the Microscope Sessions.
Both Christine Churchill, President of KeyRelevance, and Chris Silver Smith, Director of Optimization Strategies for Key Relevance, will be speaking at this year’s SMX West in March at Santa Clara, California. Christine will also be moderating the Analytics Action Plans session.
MAR 2 / 9:45am – Keyword Research Tools & Techniques (Christine Churchill)
MAR 2 / 3:00pm – Ranking Tactics For Local Search (Chris Silver Smith)
MAR 2 / 3:00pm – Keyword Research: Beyond The Ordinary (Christine Churchill)
MAR 4 / 1:30pm – Analytics Action Plans For PPC & SEO (Christine Churchill)
Don’t miss this valuable opportunity to learn search marketing techniques directly from us, and from other pros in the industry!
Not only is SMX an excellent conference to learn techniques from some of the top minds in search marketing, but search engines frequently choose to announce major new changes here.
With valuable opportunities to learn marketing techniques, plus chances to hear information directly from the top search engineers themselves, and great professional networking opportunities, make it a point to pencil SMX West onto your calendar. Register today!
I’ll be speaking at the Search Engine Marketers of Portland (SEMpdx) day conference, SearchFest, on March 9th.
I’ll be speaking on Local Search Optimization tactics, along with a couple of other marketers I’ve long respected (and enjoyed socializing with as well!): Matt McGee and Mary Bowling.
For those who may be debating between attending a couple of different West Coast conferences, I’ll be covering different material at SearchFest than what I’ll be covering at SMX West. At SearchFest, I’ll be some essentials for local search ranking factors – a somewhat intermediate level of content, as Local SEO goes.
Despite cold and the busy holiday season, search enthusiasts gathered in Chicago to attend the Search Engine Strategies conference. This year, I had the honor of presenting a solo presentation on Keyword Research. As long as there are search boxes requiring text queries, keywords will play an important role in being found on the web. Keyword research is a fundamental skill set all successful online marketers must master.
In the keyword session I discussed techniques for finding and evaluating keywords. I also covered a number of the keyword tools available to simplify, organize, and manage keyword research.
One of the main benefits of using keyword tools is that they give marketers insight into the popularity of a keyword phrase, which is another way of saying that they give you insight into the traffic potential of the phrase. Higher popularity in a keyword means there is an opportunity for more visits, but it is often associated with more competition.
Byron Gordon, SEO-PR, talked with me after the keyword session about how to conduct successful keyword research. You can watch our discussion in the video below.
Avoiding Keyword Mistakes
Keyword selection is both an art and a science. One of the common mistakes I see people making with a keyword tool is to dump a keyword list directly from a tool into their online marketing campaigns. The tools are helpful, but for best results, there still needs to be a human in the loop reviewing the keyword list for non-relevant or inappropriate words. You need to review your keyword list with several criteria in mind including relevancy, competitiveness, user intent, popularity, and performance.
While there are several tools on the market (both paid and free) that can assist in developing a list of candidate keywords, it is still crucial that you employ your brain to filter the keywords for maximum effectiveness. Otherwise, the list you develop, while extensive, will lack the necessary focus.
There are a number of excellent Keyword tools available to online marketers. Some of the more popular tools available to webmasters include
I’m obviously only scratching the surface on the tools available. In the session I talked about many more and gave demonstations of some of the tools in use. The important thing is tools can help you make better keyword decisions and give you a perspective beyond your own analytics. Not every tool “fits” with every keyword researcher. Try several of these tools (sometimes in combination) until you find a tailored tool suite that works with the way that you think and work.
In the keyword session I talked briefly about doing keyword research for different types of online marketing. For example, if you’re doing KW research for PPC, you have the luxury of going wide in your keyword list (budget limiting of course) and targeting more keywords (compared to keywords for SEO). SEO requires you to laser target your keywords, so you really have to cull your list down assigning a small number of keyword phrases.
SEO versus PPC Session
I was honored to be included on the session entitled SEO vs PPC the ultimate battle. The panel was a mock debate to determine which marketing technique was best – SEO or PPC. Representing SEO were the always-a-class-act Rand Fishkin, my favorite SEO bad boy David Naylor, and the provocative and insightful SEO rockstar Michael Gray. Representing the PPC were myself (Christine Churchill), Karen Weber, VP of E-Marketing, Irwin Union Bank and our moderator Brian Lewis, VP, Engine Ready.
I need to emphasize that this was a MOCK DEBATE, because it became clear during the session that many in the audience thought we were serious in our debate and that we were actually recommending one form of marketing over the other. In practice, my company KeyRelevance does about a 50/50 mix of SEO and PPC, and the synergy between the two often leads to us doing both for a given client.
To be perfectly clear, one is NOT better than the other. The goal of the session was to highlight the merits and differences of the two techniques and to stimulate thinking about when and where to use each technique. On the panel in our mock debate, panelists were tasked with defending one side or the other. In real life we believe SEO and PPC are complementary, not adversarial forms of marketing. It’s not an either/or decision… both techniques should be in your marketing arsenal. There may be circumstances when one might be more appropriate (like PPC being helpful with a new site or one needing immediate traffic), but many sites would benefit from both methods.
PPC Site Clinic
My final session was a PPC site clinic with Melissa Mackey, the Search Marketing Manager from Fluency Media and Ayat Shukairy the co-founder of Invesp Consulting. It was a real pleasure sharing the stage with such accomplished professionals.
Clinics are a chance for companies to get a free review by experts, so they are always a popular event, and many others benefit from hearing the points raised about the sites reviewed. Sites reviewed get recommendations that would be worth many times the cost of admission to the conference. That might be a good tactic to use to convince your boss why you should attend a conference. If you were to hire an expert to review your ads, it could cost thousands of dollars. If your site is chosen to be reviewed in the clinic, you could receive valuable, actionable advice for free as part of attending the conference. That’s a bargain you can’t pass up.
Why should you attend a Search Conference?
Search engine conferences are expensive, any way you measure it (travel expenses, time away from work, admission fees, etc.) so you really have to weigh the costs and benefits. Our industry is unique in the volume of changes occurring. Reading blogs, articles, books, watching SEO videos are all also good ways of learning about SEO/SEM, but attending a search conference takes you to a deeper level in your professional development. Attending a conference is like drinking from the Search knowledge fire hose: there is so much information shared, in such a short time, that you can’t help but come away from the conference with several nuggets of valuable insight that you can immediately implement and reap benefits many times the cost of the trip.
Don’t miss this opportunity to hear a couple of us from Key Relevance, speaking in person! Attending SMX can provide companies with significant benefits in terms of developing search marketing savviness. More than 150 of the world’s most knowledgable internet and search engine marketers will present at SMX East. Register now!
Let us know if you’ll be attending, and/or drop by one of our sessions to say hello!
The Associated Press (AP) recently announced a semantic markup standard they’d like to see adopted online for news articles – the “hNews Microformat“. The proposed microformat was announced simultaneously with their declaration of a news registry system to facilitate protection and paid licensing arrangements for quoting and using news article material. While the overall announcement and news registry system was widely ridiculed in the blogosphere (in part because of a confusingly inaccurate description which stated that the microformat would serve as a “wrapper” for news articles, and the overall business model and protection scheme seems both naively optimistic and out-of-touch with copyright “fair use” standards and actual technological constraints), but the hNews microformat part itself could potentially gain some traction.
So, if you’re an online marketer of a site which publishes large amounts of articles and news stories, is the hNews microformat worth adopting to improve your online optimizations?
(AP's Diagram Illustrating "Protect, Point & Pay" System & hNews Microformat)
I’ve long been a proponent of incorporating microformats within webpages as a component of overall good usability and potentially valuable formatting for search engine optimization purposes. Microformats can provide some additional, enhanced usability for advanced users who are using devices which can read the information and store it for future use, and they can potentially improve search engines’ ability to understand the content within webpages which could lend a marginal increment more SEO value.
Both Yahoo! and Google have been sending signals for the past few years that they consider some of the microformats to be potentially useful as well. They’ve both marked up their own local search results with hCard microformatting for end users’ benefit, and they’re both starting to make use of microformatting to give certain types of data special treatment. In the case of Google, they announced that they’d begin displaying some microformat data with slightly different listing layouts in the search results, a treatment that they’ve dubbed “Rich Snippets”. And, they say they’ll be rolling out more treatments based on microformats in the future.
With this background in mind, it’s not surprising that the AP has jumped on the microformats bandwagon, but it also appears that they’re trying to influence the development of them where news articles are concerned, with a major agenda in mind. They wish to include some sort of webbug in each news story’s markup, so that publishers of the content can be tracked more easily by them – it will be clearer when sites are reprinting news stories, and how frequently those stories are visited and viewed by consumers online.
Other portions of the hNews microformat appear to be more useful from both a search engine viewpoint and publisher site aspect. Labelling of items including keyword tags, headlines, main content, geographic locations and including author’s vcard info all appear to be valuable standards.
(I could really criticize their “geo” tagging of the articles as quite inadequate, though. Merely adding a longitude and latitude to an article seems quite short-sighted, because there needs to be further definition of what is being geotagged. If an article is about multiple locations, it would be ideal to label each geotag to tell what item is being located. Further, it would be ideal to label the article with an assumption of the geographic region that the article should be expected to appeal to. Is it mainly of interest to people within a particular city, state/province, region, nation, or is it of international interest? Still, having some geotag is better than nothing.)
For any marketers out there considering adopting the hNews Microformat standard, I’d advise waiting until the dust settles on this one. Other microformats developed perhaps more objectively, and there’s a lot of distrust and disaffection with the heavy news industry influence that is involved in this proposed standard. Currently, I’m not convinced that it will be widely enough accepted to become valuable for use. While having AP partners all adopting the standard may be sufficient enough to reach a tipping point where many other sites and companies will make use of hNews, Google’s public response to it was unusually cold-sounding.
Blogger/reporter Matthew Goldstein quotes Google’s response on the matter: “Google welcomes all ideas for how publishers and search engines can better communicate about their content. We have had discussions with the Associated Press, as well as other publishers and organizations, about various formats for news. We look forward to continuing the conversation.” While sounding expectably neutral and noncommittal, Google is also stating that this has not been widely-accepted by everyone, even within the news industry itself. This in combination with widespread skepticism within the developer/microformat community and blogosphere signal that hNews may have a very long way to go before it becomes something worthwhile for optimizing articles on publisher sites.
So, for now I advise avoiding this proposed standard, sit back and see how the dust settles. If you’re already syndicating content via RSS and Atom feeds, then you’re already distributing your content in a manner that’s easily absorbable and readable by search engines.
Christine Churchill and I from KeyRelevance are attending this year’s SMX Advanced in Seattle where Microsoft has really pushed to promote their new search engine vision, Bing.
Microsoft officially launched Bing (tagline “The Sound of Found”) this week, with a number of promotional spots intended to coincide with SMX Advanced to take advantage of the presence of so many search-industry wags who blog and the influential search marketers attend the conference.
Microsoft’s reportedly intending to spend over $100 million in advertising and marketing on Bing, and the launch party, dubbed “Bing presents In The Park 2009”, was virtually a return to the days of launch party excess predating the dot-bombs. The event, open to all attendees of SMX, was held in the Olympic Sculpture Park on the water front of Puget Sound and featured loud music, brief acts by weird performance artists, glowing Bing ice-cubes in free-flowing drinks, free nibbles, t-shirt giveaways, and a great view over the water.
I was privileged to have dinner just before the launch party with an old friend of mine who now does business development for Microsoft, and she later went on to Microsoft’s own internal Bing launch party over at the Fisher Pavilion at the Seattle Center, where news journalists had apparently also been invited for the outside portion of the event. By the time the launch party ended, and I walked back to the hotel along with Chris Sherman and Christine, there was a huge “search beam” light shooting up from the area of Seattle’s Space Needle into the dark night sky. I was completely mystified as to the significance, but it turns out that this was part of the “spectacular light show” that Microsoft engineered below the Space Needle in Seattle Center as part of their big launch.
The whole launch extravaganza was slightly marred, perhaps, by poor coordination/communication, since it probably would have been far more beneficial to have combined the Microsoft internal/journalist/press-conference with the SMX party, since the SMX attendees mostly had little idea as to what the light beam signified, and the journalists attending the light show sorta felt the launch hype fell short, since they didn’t get all the benefit of the party buzz and excitement, not to mention the free party food and favors. Never have a big launch without making certain the members of the press have access to drinks!!!
Part of the light show included a big, illuminated version of the Bing logo on the grass in front of the Fisher Pavillion.
The morning after, the SMX conference’s keynote session featured Microsoft’s President of Online Services, Dr. Qi Lu, interviewed by Danny Sullivan.
Lu answered Danny’s Bing questions with aplomb, though his responses were tempered by the knowledge that Microsoft’s past attempts at competitive thrusts against the Google domination of search market share have fallen short. Danny sported a t-shirt he’d apparently had custom-made for the occasion which exclaimed “Bada” across the front — a reference to “Bada-BING!”, of course.
For many of us at the conference who kicked the tires on Bing, the new search engine didn’t seem all that extraordinary or innovative. With the blended search results and Dr. Lu’s emphasis of improved relevancy work, it was felt by many that the engine features are still somewhat immitative of other players, though it’s perhaps now caught up some and might compete better. I heard some state that Bing was what Live Search should’ve been. More interestingly, I heard an anecdotal mention on Twitter from someone who said that Bing seemed to rank their pages a whole lot better than Live Search.
My take on it is that any search engine and presentation improvements they may have added appear pretty small and incremental thus far. But, their aggressive push to fine-tune the branding with the new name/logo, paired with the advertising and marketing warchest might have a chance of increasing their market share.
We’ll probably be posting more here later from the conference on Christine’s presentation on “Keyword Research Artistry” and my presentation for “Beyond the Usual Link Building”.
At this year’s SES in New York City the opening day keynote was Guy Kawasaki. Guy presented a lot of stuff about Twitter. Being a man who’s rather well connected, a thought leader in the marketing world and someone who has decent sense of humor, I found myself rather intrigued by this keynote. It was by far the funniest keynote I’ve attended in a long time, and I think humor goes a long way with me being more open to what a speaker is trying to convey.
Guy’s connections allot him a lot of “first cracks” at tools, websites and services that most “Non-A-List” people don’t have access to, so he gets intimately familiar with the marketing aspects some of these tools could be used for. Now with that being said, is every tool presented to him, or pitched to him make it to his list to present at keynotes? Likely not. The tools he did present actually can be used for some genuine marketing and measuring purposes.
I heard a lot of “grumbling” at SES that Guy Kawasaki is a spammer. “If one of us SEO’s told people to use these tools that way, we’d be fried at the stake“, was one cry minus a pitch fork or two. I found myself disagreeing with this line of thought. When you physically have the choice to follow or unfollow him and even the option to block him as well by very simply clicking a button to not see the spam, I find it hard to call what he does with his Twitter account spam. He does come close to the line with his use of TwitterHawk, but if he uses it truly as he showed the audience where he reviews the tweets before they are sent, then, I really don’t see how that is spam. This is using a tool to help market your message in a unique way.
Tweeting isn’t like searching. With search results, scheming websites are made by the thousands to spam the search engine results and as searchers we don’t have the control like you do in Twitter to just block the result and not see it every again (however, technically you can now with Google’s Search Wiki). With search spam you don’t have the option to “unfollow” like you do in Twitter. If you don’t like what Guy’s tweeting, simply go to his profile and click “unfollow” or “block” and what you call “spam” will cease – “walla!”
There are over 95,000 people following Guy Kawasaki. Apparently those people are finding something of value from the information he and his staff tweet out. We as SEO’s may label his tactics “unethical” or “gray”, but I have a hard time even doing that. I also asked the question on my own twitter, “Is Guy Kawasaki a Spammer or just a Marketer using tools in a unique way”. To my surprise, the opinions came back overwhelmingly that he was a savvy marketer.
I also heard a lot of people making such a fuss about Guy Kawasaki “ghost tweeting”. I took a step back and had to honestly ask myself if it was ghost tweeting if the person readily admits on stage he has people tweeting with him in his account, if he puts it on his profile and readily tweets about it. It’s not ghost tweeting, he’s being transparent, he’s been up front about it for a while now. Would I recommend a client setting off to do what Guy’s doing? Most likely not the same way, again the value to the audience dictates how to work the social media strategy.
Then this morning, Tim O’Reilly was surprised because of the New York Times article that included 2 paragraphs about Guy’s “ghost tweeting“. This particular tweet has been retweeted over and over again. Shock, Drama, Outrage! But why? The man has stated for a while he’s had help with his tweeting, he says he does it to an audience at both SES and SxSW, he has it stated on his Twitter account (also states names of who helps him) after asked to amend it by Dave Fleet, and readily admits it in his tweets when asked. I guess people would like him to add “TRGK” on his tweets for “The Real Guy Kawasaki” for the one’s he tweets? What’s the sense in that – if you don’t like what he and his team tweets – unfollow him.
Then there were outcries that Guy’s a “broadcaster”. I’ve been watching his tweet stream closely. The man (and Guy states it is him who responds, not his team) does interact with his audience, he doesn’t just send out link after link. If it was link after link that truly delineated a spam account from a ‘real’ account, wouldn’t CNN’s account then be considered a spammy twitter account? It’s about the perceived value of the content to the audience. Apparently Guy’s content is valuable to his audience because not only are his followers growing, but look how often he’s ReTweeted. In social media its about the value the end user perceives they are getting, if Guy’s figured out how to give his audience what they want through using tools like Twitterhawk and Adjix, more power too him.
Might some of his tactics float around the “grey” area of marketing and spamming? Perhaps, but I keep going back to those nearly 100k followers who not just speak to him but retweet not just his links but what he says to say they obviously don’t mind, obviously they are seeing value in Guy’s “Spam”. Ironic, no? I think this goes to prove a point that “spam” in Social Media it truly is about the value the end user is getting, not the tactic by which they receive it.
Another panel I presented on at SES London 2009 which took place this past week was Social Media Optimization. I had the fine pleasure of presenting with Jennifer Laycock of Search Engine Guide, Lisa Ditlefsen who’s recently launched her own company Verve Search, and Krista Neher of Marketess. I think it was the only panel at SES that was completely female dominated! Besides that, our panel seemed to flow rather nicely with each of us covering different aspects of social media.
I took the lead in presenting the basics that build social media. From how it rose to be a power that consumers now have, to defining your goals before you start, I covered a basic foundational structure of what social media is. The two main points I really wanted to stress is that 1) it’s all about the end user and 2) social media is a source of new signals about relevancy for the search engines. Beyond covering the basics of strategy and goal setting when it comes to social media, I demonstrated how someone used these aspects with phenomenal success, that person being the new president of the United States, Barack Obama.
Next to the podium was Jennifer Laycock who reinforced my presentation that it’s about the conversations with the end users. From there Jennifer talked about a few social media sites that could be part of any social media strategy. These sites, aren’t bleeding edge, but have been proven performers of where people are having successful conversations with companies. Jennifer started off with Flickr, showing how she effectively utilized it to promote her BentoYum blog. From there Jenn went on to discuss the objectives of successfully using Twitter in your social media marketing strategy. Moving on next Jenn discussed and then rounded it out with an overview of Facebook and LinkedIn with some.
Lisa Ditlefsen then took the approach of “how do you do this” with a look of how you need to do this with your in house team – whether you are an agency or a company. The first thing is that everyone needs to be on the same page, if you aren’t the strategy is going to fail. The idea you are working with also needs to be creative, otherwise its just going to whither away. Resources need to be planned out as well, because if you don’t have enough resources allocated to handle a successful strategy, or you need to switch gears to retool a strategy, your efforts can be for nothing. Lisa then highlighted two social media pieces, SEO Wars – a YouTube video her team put together, and a social media “Fun” piece put together for Rackspace. Some great takeaways were given for both of these.
To round out the panel, Krista Neher presented several different social media pieces that have been widly successful. The main point of her presentation that she drove home is that end users don’t care about your company. Something I couldn’t agree more with. For end users it is about the conversation, the sharing of the exprience. Krista highlighted the Blendtech videos, the Dove campaign for Real Beauty, and a few other very successful social media strategies that took into account the end user first.
Overall I think the panel gave a great overview of what social media is truly about, having been on the panel lasty year, a lot has changed and this was a really good well rounded view of how it has truly become a very strong online marketing channel to be strategized for.