SES Day Four: "Wrapping Up"
March 3, 2005. New York, NY. The last day of the conference is always a short day, in order for people to be able to get out of town. However, the sessions certainly do not decrease in quality. On the contrary, many of the subjects that had been spoken about already during the week were able to come to the forefront. I started my morning by attending the “Advanced Link Building Forum,” and finished off with an interesting session about “Search Ads Beyond Overture and Google.”
The Advanced Link Building Forum was moderated aptly by Detlev Johnson, from Position Technologies. The speakers included a veritable “who’s who” of linking specialists, as well as representatives from two search engines: Google and AskJeeves. The first speaker was Keith Hogan from AskJeeves. He touched on some of the factors involved when the AskJeeves algorithm takes linking into account. He provided the thesis that, in order for a site to rank well, it must be “accepted in its community.” AskJeeves uses the Teoma method of grouping sites first by industry, and then by relevance and “importance,” which mostly has to do with linking. Ask.com does provide directory submissions, which allows a site to be listed within its community category, and can help even further in ranking within other search engines due to the reputation of the directory.
Keith cautioned that all linking initiatives should be managed regularly. A site owner should always know who is linking into and out from the site. He also advised that site owners avoid “tricks,” which may lead to short term gain, but long term loss. Such tricks include the use of link farms or blog-spamming, both of which are losing value rapidly as search engines update their algorithms to look for “unnatural” linking. Matt Cutts of Google, always a very straightforward and forthcoming speaker, began his presentation by comparing “Instant Link Popularity” schemes to “Lose Weight Fast” advertisements found on late night television. If it sounds too easy: it probably is.
Cutts went on to caution that website owners should avoid “free-for-all” link sites, also known as “link farms.” He suggested avoiding automated link request programs. Other methods that will not work with Google include using hidden links, links that are hard to see, and “triangular links.” He laughed that if “triangular links” could be effective, why wouldn’t Ford link to Chevrolet who would in turn link to GM? Obviously they would not, so he wondered how this idea could be actually considered. He finished by advising that website owners should link to useful sites only, and that it is most beneficial to link to the most detailed point in a site that is relevant to the page from which it links. As often recommended at Instant Position, a site should be designed first and foremost with the user, not the search engine, in mind. This goes for linking as well.
Eric Ward of EricWard.com spoke next, and offered a couple of very valuable lessons. He gained his notoriety by being the marketing expert first hired by Amazon.com to provide help with linking. He recalled joking with his wife: “who would buy books on the Internet?” Eric is very well respected within the industry as being one of the leaders in content announcements and link building strategies. Eric first comment regarded using “buzz” sites to help increase traffic to a website. Many people have tried to capitalize on building link popularity in order to attract search engines, but forgotten the main goal of the most valuable links: to drive traffic to the site.
Eric listed some interesting sites that can “make your site famous in a hurry,” including pages such as: www.usatoday.com/tech/webguide/front.htm, docs.yahoo.com/picks/, eduhound.com, and even www.komando.com/koolsites.asp. For the last one, he cautioned not to “scoff,” as hundreds of thousands of viewers visit this site.
Next, he discussed the very popular topic of using RSS feeds to help syndicate your content, describing the products offered by Feedster.com and syndic8.com, among others. Eric does provide a guide to building links and publicity for RSS feeds. The last topic Eric briefly covered had to do with Link Loss and reclamation. He emphasized the importance of doing proper research to find inbound links, especially before changing content or more importantly URL’s of your site.
Greg Boser from WebGuerrilla spoke next, echoing many of the statements made by the previous speakers. He also touched on the importance of having a company Blog setup with an RSS feed, and populating it with fresh information on a regular basis. He described the importance of setting up the RSS feed so that a link to your site is embedded. This will help to make sure that anyone that uses the information will be providing a link to your site, even if they remove text links from the content. Another interesting way to build link popularity by capitalizing on proprietary content is to embed a “straight link” within the product information page of software that you may sell.
Greg Boser also made some very important statements in regards to Google PageRank, which were immediately validated by Matt Cutts of Google (to a point - e.g. “we can neither confirm nor deny…”). Websites should “stay in the same PageRank neighborhood.” For example, if your site is a PR5 and you suddenly get a bunch of inbound links from PR9 sites, this would seem strange to Google. Another alarm might go off if you use identical anchor text within all inbound links. Greg advises varying this as well as landing pages.
Debra Mastaler of Alliance-Link.com spoke last, and provided some equally important information. She speculated that the recent shift in Google rankings that occurred after an algorithm update in February might be very closely related to a more advanced link analysis. Debra mentioned that many people that had “site-wide links,” especially on non-relevant sites, were penalized and dropped greatly in rankings after the update. Her most insightful observation, in my opinion, was when she described the idea of emulating a “natural linking pattern.” In essence, a good website will gain both inbound and outbound links over a period of time. Like Boser had mentioned, if a site suddenly has a bunch of inbound links, there might be something “fishy” going on, and this would be more likely to raise the attention of search engines.
The second session I attended on day four was mostly for my own information about so-called “second and third-level PPC engines.” You can find out information about a few of these at this page at Instant Position. Briefly, however, this session was moderated by Danny Sullivan. The speakers all had some useful observations related to the PPC industry. Peter Hershberg of Reprise Media’s bottom line was “test everything.” This is certainly true as it pertains to any facet of marketing.
David Hills of LookSmart spoke of the importance of the relationship between advertisers/agencies and the search engines that provide paid search. He noted that the SE’s provide customer service, performance, tools to monitor performance, and the ability to easily change and monitor the campaigns. In return, the advertisers provide clients as well as product ideas and methods to help increase customer spending. This is certainly a fair trade. Dan Ballister from FindWhat spoke about further API improvements that will be made available to developers and marketers that are promoting the FindWhat/eSpotting products. This was certainly timely, especially with Yahoo’s announcement that they will soon provide an API.
Mr. Ballister also spoke about FindWhat’s efforts to “simplify the global buy,” making it easier for those that may want to advertise in other countries and languages. He noted that it was most important for a publisher of content to improve traffic quality, saying “the temptation is volume, but the responsibility is quality” when it comes to providing listings to Internet paid search results.
Overall, SES NYC 2005 was a very informative event that I would highly recommend to anyone in the industry or to those that may be interested about learning more. Please feel free to email any questions to me regarding the sessions I attended or topics I discussed in these Recaps. Chris Boggs: firstname.lastname@example.org.