I’m in NYC for Search Engine Strategies today and tomorrow, to cover sessions for Search Marketing Gurus. The first session I attended was covered by myself and another SMG blogger, so I’m posting my notes here instead.
The topic today was part of the “Search and the Future” Track and was called “SEO: Where to Next”. It was moderated by Mike Grehan of Acronym Media. Panelists were:
Marcus Tandler, Creativity in Action
Bill Hunt, Global Strategies International
Chris Boggs, Rosetta
Duane Forrester. OnlineMarketingGuy.com
Jill Whalen, HighRankings.com
This session may have surprised conference organizers. The keynote talk ran overtime, so there was a very long line waiting for the escalator from the Grand Ballroom to the session rooms. By the time I got into this session, it was full and standing room only. I sat on the floor in the back, out of view of the slides and speakers. People spilled out into the doorway and were listening to the talk from outside the room as best they could.
Essentially, this talk was focused less on the future of SEO and more of a review of the past and what no longer works, or in some cases, never did work. Mike asked questions from the panel and they offered their opinions based on their own unique experiences. Some of them, like Jill Whalen, have been doing SEO since the mid-1990′s.
What Are Still Useful for SEO Today?
1.Basic organic optimization, such as title tags and H1 tags are really critical, no matter what type of web site you have.
2. Although Mike disagreed, it was suggested the H tag (h1, H2, etc.) are still helpful in telling search engines what content is the most important on the page. Having an H1 will “trump” someone who doesn’t have it.
3. Build good infrastructure. This includes social media, press releases… Most big companies don’t need to buy links. Tricks don’t work for most companies.
4. It used to be that search engines just looked at text. Then links. Do they still have to? Yes. Web sites still need content to give strength to page.
5. If you are a small site or start-up, you can get links freely from places like the local Chamber of Commerce.
6. Focus on what makes your company relevant.
7. If you can prove authenticity, the links will come. SEO’s used to chase the wrong links and use things like reciprocal link software and site directories. As many long-time SEO’s have been saying all along (oh, since at least 1995!) – “It’s the quality, not the quantity” that counts. Relevancy counts.
8. Do not use automatic link software.
9. Study anchor text and what people are linking to. They don’t always need to be taken to your homepage. How about linking to an inside page that is more relevant to a search inquiry? It’s easier to change a link than asking for a new one. (Note from Kim: You can request specific anchor text for your links.)
Without a doubt, SEO is changing. It’s more difficult to implement properly. Yes, links are still important but not to the overblown proportions they used to. For example, there is Universal Search.
Most people don’t understand what Universal Search is. There are now many ways to bring in traffic from search engines now, including video, images, podcast transcripts, PDF’s and even optimized FLASH. This means there are far more ways to arrive at a site other than a homepage.
1. Ranking reports are dead. Logically, this is because no two people are seeing the same report anymore. Today and more so in the future, we have personalized search, which is search based on your personal preferences and search history, as well as where you live. Rank reports will be different when done from different places.
2. Jill Whalen says that rankings don’t equal traffic. There are many reasons for this. One problem is bad SEO and ranking for words that nobody uses to get to your web page. Look at your conversion rates. They show the performance of your SEO campaign, show trends around specific category areas, and you’ll need to compare ranking reports with other types of reports to get a full picture of page and site performance. Ranking reports are not metrics. Therefore, it’s best to not base important decisions on them.
3. Study how rank converts to traffic by using analytics and conversions measurement. You want to see what keywords convert to sales. Management is interest in metrics like leads/conversions/referrals/page views. You should be asking, “What drives revenue”?
4. Concentrate on your “Digital Assets”, which are things like video, images, multi-media
5. Online marketing is not a level playing field anymore. Therefore, insist that developers know SEO and “bake it into the web site”. (Note: I would add that UX/Usability be “baked in” as well.). Companies are wasting money on incompetent SEO and not getting results. One place to look for money leaks is in-house development with those not trained in SEO.
6. Absolutely STOP focusing on just Google! Nobody knows what they’re doing next. Focus on other sites, like social networking sites.
7. Do not buy links.
8. Make FLASH search engine friendly.
9. Match the intent of your searcher with the right content in the right context.
10. Be multi-skilled. It’s helpful to know different programming languages, CSS, HTML. SEO reaches into other areas and “we have to break barriers”