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Well, I have had a great couple of days at Advanced SMX London. I watched some insightful and some not so insightful presentations and met some brilliant like-minded people who I am looking forward to catching up with again at future conferences.
Anyway, moving onto some of the takeaways from each of the presentations…. Advanced SMX is a panel led conference with typically 3-4 speakers on each panel. I tried to make notes for each one but apologies if I have missed some as it’s not always easy to take everything down and take key bits in at the same time.
Monday 16th May was day 1 of SMX and the conference was held in the Millennium Gloucester Hotel Conference room. Chris Sherman from Search Engine Land opened the conference talking about ‘The State of Search Marketing’. The session went over some of the recent changes and additions to Google. The main topics covered were Google Instant, Google +1, Personalised Search, Real-time Search, and Social Search. There are already lots of posts on these particular topics so I won’t cover in more detail than that.
A couple of facts from the session which I found interesting and wanted to share for those who did not know:
Next up was ‘SEO in 2011: What’s Working, What’s Not’ with Christine Churchill, Mikkel deMib Svendsen and Max Thomas. Best speaker on this panel, in my opinion was Mikkel. Other than wearing a fantastic suit, he was the first speaker of the day to say…..”Optimise for what people want, do not optimise for the search engines and you will never be caught out with algorithm updates.” If anyone should take anything away from SMX, it should be this simple piece of advice.
The next session title was ‘SEO for Google vs. Bing: How Different are They?’. On the panel was Gil Reich and Daniel Ruby. There were a few takeaways from these presentations but nothing mind shattering.
Gil Reich from answers.com brought up something I hadn’t thought about before; MSN, Windows and Bing all power each other and drive traffic between each other. Search on any of them and you will always be returned with a large number of results in some way shape or form for one of the other properties.
Then if we look at Google, within their results only some are pointing back to a Google property BUT they have adSense and AdWords ads on such a large number of sites that they are also powering traffic back to Google but in a more subtle way.
Some of the key differences with Google and Bing in terms of search are:
Daniel Ruby from Chitika had a few takeaways when it comes to comparing the organic Click through Rate for the three main search engines highlighting that Bing delivers a higher quality of traffic but does not have anywhere near the volume that Google can offer.
‘Link Alchemy: Creative Ways of Conjuring SEO Gold’ was next and this has got to be one of my top four sessions out of both days. Panellists included Patrick Altoft from Branded3, Rob Millard from Distilled, Kelvin Newman from Site Visibility and Pete Wailes from Strategy Internet Marketing.
Patrick was up first with some great link building ideas and tactics. Key ones for me were things that can easily be done across a various industries including product giveaways, writing press releases in-house and sending off to various PR contacts asking them to distribute for you and incentivising bloggers to include your images in their posts with a credit and link back to your site.
Next up was Rob Millard who focused on using social media to power link building. Tweet and build a relationship and trust with individuals/companies before you ask them for a link and expect to see a much higher take up rate.
Another great tip was how to find the right person on Linkedin to approach for links. For example, if you are doing the SEO for a company in the food sector, you may want to get in touch with the Marketing Manager for Tesco to see if there is a way of writing content in exchange for a link.
Search ‘Site:linkedin.com Tesco marketing manager’ and you will be returned their profile and other similar profiles in the results. Genius!
Final takeaway from Rob was to try linking to your Twitter profile instead of your website when commenting on blogs to build relationships and get a higher approval rate.
One of the first things that Kelvin Newman said which I found very interesting and very true is that that in link building, emotion plays a much bigger role in our decisions than we realise. The timing that you send emails, tweets or make calls asking for links is critical. So think before you act, EG – avoid Monday mornings and the end of month as these times can be some of the busiest.
A goldmine tip for me was a tool called ‘Toluna‘ which Kevin introduced us to. It basically allows you to survey around 200 people for just £30-£40. The results are pretty instant and Kevin saw a full set of responses within 30 minutes of posting the survey.
Pete Wailes was last up on this panel and his key point to make was that thinking broad when link building is the way forward. Before starting any link building project, sit down and brainstorm and pull together all ideas for obtaining links your clients field, whatever weird and wonderful idea you have. If your client has a double glazing company not all links need to come from sites about windows. Think broad and go after decorating sites, DIY sites, building company sites etc.
He also introduced us to Ben the Bodyguard app. I am not going to say any more here except click on this link and go check it out.
Richard from SEOgadget stole this session with some great tips on the subject and I have listed some of the points below. These should be reviewed, taken away and acted upon.
1. Thin internal pages/no content/boilerplate content were top of the tips and it is surprising how many sites are still culprits of this
2. Poor internal link architecture is another issue that Richard experiences time and time again and should be one of the main priorities to focus on
3. Excessive duplication of content via paginated navigation or faceted navigation can be easily resolved but just need to be careful with using rel=canonical and he recommended to use ‘no index’ instead and avoid blocking the pages in the robots.txt
4. Indexed staging servers are a common failing for sites and Richard recommended that you should 301 redirect the staged URLs to the main site
5. Canonicalisation is often not dealt with in full. It is not just the www/non www that needs to be looked at, you should also check for sub domains and https pages that may be indexed.
6. Soft 404 headers / no 404 response should not be happening
7. if-modified-since produces 500 error – use ‘feed the bots’ server header checker to review
John Mueller from Google gave an interesting presentation and got some great feedback from some of the more technical developers in the room. I am not what you would call overly technical so some of the information did go a little over my head so I don’t feel comfortable trying to explain what he covered Following him on Twitter is a wise move though (John Mueller)
Martijn Biejk spoke about website speed and performance and covered some great tips on new innovations that are available to ensure your website is working at its fastest.
Website speed matters because Google say it does. They announced that it was important and have put together a number of tools to help webmasters know how well their site is running. The new Google Analytics dashboard highlights this as they have incorporated a page speed report, which Martijn recommends everyone review and dive into the most critical pages, with the highest load time and fix.
Another good tip from Martijn was that if your website is hosted on a virtual server, you should avoid using .htaccess at all costs as it runs from disk and will slow down the load time of your site.
All in all the first day at SMX was really good, the morning did start off slow but moving into the afternoon it really picked up the pace and set the tone for day two of the conference. Lots more exciting tips came out of day two and my write up for the sessions I attended will follow shortly.
For more insight and the views from other attendees to the conference, set-up a custom search for #SMX on Twitter and look back over the past 48 hours tweets!
If anyone that went to the conference has anything to add to my recap, please feel free to leave a comment below.