The level of chatter on the Internet about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is at an extraordinary level following the SMX Advanced Conference in Seattle on June 3-4, 2008. It dealt with Advanced SEO. Given that so many business owners and Internet marketers are critically affected by how Google ranks their websites, this naturally is a topic of wide interest.
To help those who do not have the time to read all the chatter, we here offer a helicopter vision of what is going on at such a session. Indeed that is all that is possible currently, since there is a 30 day publicity blackout on the detailed contents of some sessions
What exactly is advanced SEO? Apparently it does not include enough Enterprise SEO as Brent D. Payne defines it:
Enterprise SEO: It’s SMX Advanced talk about how to do SEO from within an enterprise level company. I personally met with people from Time Interactive, Viacom, NPR, etc. and things are different for inhouse people at large companies. An advanced SEO seminar should tailor to some extent to the larger companies out there that are trying to accomplish big wins like capturing keyphrases such as britney spears, george w. bush, etc. How to work to rally hundreds of internal employees around SEO. How to build a proper presentation for niche audiences that are internal yet consist of 50 attendees per session. How to work with multiple CMS systems, inhouse CMS, etc.
Lisa Barone suggested that the conference content indicated that SMX Advanced Goes To The Dark Side. In other words, advanced SEO is more Black and Grey Hat than simple SEO. She cited some of the “advanced search engine optimization” techniques she had picked up during her time in Seattle.
- There are lots of old sites lying around on the Interwebz with great link juice. Buy them and capitalize on that. But do it carefully or Google will pick up on it and reset the score.
- Conditional redirects are awesome.
- Search marketers don’t need ethics. They’re marketers. Check the ethics at the door.
- You can never have too many .edu links.
- I need to grow some balls, stop fearing Matt Cutts and start buying links.
Her post has a daunting number of comments from many of the luminaries in the SEO world. Whatever Advanced SEO may be, it is clearly highly contentious.
Given the furor, Danny Sullivan, the conference organizer, has tried to clarify matters by affirming that Advanced SEO Does Not Mean Spamming. In his post although he regrets some of the conference items, on balance he feels that progress is being made.
Indeed, I feel like search engines and SEOs have made great, huge strides coming together. Things like Google Webmaster Central, Yahoo Site Explorer, and Live Search Webmaster Center – all offer tools and support that were hard for some, including myself, to ever believe would appear. At the same time, I feel like things are getting even more adversarial on other respects, most especially in the area of links and Google’s perceived domination of the web. And how to solve that, I really don’t know.
Meanwhile, if you can’t buy and sell links, even more attention is now focused on link baiting. Link baiting is all good, as Google itself has said on numerous occasions. But now look what’s happening. We have fake link bait — and then Google has to decide if those links can be “allowed” to count. In turn, that causes some people to think Google’s going too far. And when you have people feel one party is stepping over a line, it makes it easier for others to ponder why they’re following rules at all.
Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s web spam team, was one of the keynote speakers and he has some interesting reflections on the conference:
So I did feel that the black hat material was a mismatch for much of the audience (inhouse SEOs and people doing their first search conference). At one point I felt like I’d stumbled back into 2003, when the search conferences had official panels about topics like cloaking. From that perspective, several panels of the conference felt like a step backwards.
So what lessons can those for whom even simple SEO is a challenge draw from all this? The only obvious one at the moment is the link bait topic that Danny Sullivan refers to. If your business can use as a hook something that is shady and of wide interest, then you can get the eyes and the links and in turn Google will send you the visitors. For SEO, that link bait hook is clearly the Black Hat version of SEO.