Search Engine Strategies Conference – New York 2011 Recap

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First off, wow, what a great week at SES! After a much needed mental detox from the overload of great sessions and networking events, I wanted to throw some perspective your way from what happened at SES New York this year.

Hopefully you have had a chance to stay tuned to all of the great speaker highlights via our Facebook fan page.  For those who didn’t, here is my take:

Search Marketing, without question, forces us to be as proactive as possible. I had the great opportunity to participate in the first day panel, Search: Where to Next. With all of us on the panel thinking further out than just around the corner, we fielded questions and provided insight on what the world of “Search” and how it will look like years from now. Most all of us agreed to some extent that search will not be overrun in the future by social, apps, personalization, etc., but that these verticals and topics will definitely change the landscape of the user experience in the future. Key takeaways include:

Focus on Content, image and video delivery will become more prominent in the future. Quit building junk pages cause you think you are SEOing you site. Your content has to be engaging to be valuable in an increasingly social sphere.” – Josh McCoy

Content is exploding. Build out long-term content- stuff you can keep on your site for 5-10 years. Look at the technical aspects of your Web site. Advanced SEO is taking the basics and doing them over and over and over again.” – Rob Garner

While everyone seems to be buzzing about the importance of social media and its relationship to search, it is imperative to remain posed on your on-site optimization. Shari Thurow provided instruction of the foundation of SEO in the session, Information Architecture for the Modern Website.

Information Architecture provides context where as an xml sitemap simply provides a list of URLs.” – Shari Thurow

Thurow, provided many great points on building the structure of your site to be representative of your categorization and prioritization of your content. This is the human element to building the taxonomy of your site instead of just ensuring URLs are being indexed. Additionally, be mindful of how you label navigation and how you provide supplemental navigation across the site i.e., footer, breadcrumb, etc. Search engines use these queues to understand the overall theme of your site.

Continuing to feed my hunger for all things on-site SEO related. I sat in on a great session on technical SEO monitoring, Technically Speaking, This is the Way You Do It. This was a good presentation of tools and methodology for duplicate content issues and content delivery to the search engines. Of all three speakers, the mutual consensus was more of a reliance on what your log files are showing you. These are not looked at enough and I personally agree with this. Adam Audette of Audette Media provided a simple but important way of thinking when it comes to your site’s content.

Think in three steps regarding your site pages, crawl, index, then rank.” – Adam Audette

Another tough area to nail down in today’s SEO is duplicate content. Duplicate Content and Multiple Site Issues was a very beneficial track. This sessions speakers addressed several types of content webmasters utilize that at the end of the day is duplicate content. These include the gray area of “shingling” content, changing page placement of like copy across two different pages. Other styles of content that are still deemed as improper include synonym replacement in like content across pages or city/location swapping across similar copy.

Add value to your content!” – Eric Enge

Enge potentially solved all the births of duplicate content. Provide valuable content that is unique and not similar to the copy of other pages.

Looking outside of strictly how we optimize sites, there were multiple tracks on how to create and holistically maintain a viable SEO strategy for websites. As we see corporations recognizing the importance of SEO and taking their foothold in organic search I sat in on the session, Enterprise Level SEO. This track provided a good perspective on undertaking a large scale SEO initiative and how to develop a strategy that will scale with the growth of a large company. Key points included taking care of the SEO basics from the beginning, educating those within the organizations, setting governance to ensure you are on the right path organizationally, setting solid KPI’s and creating a community of individuals passionate about SEO success for the company site.

Enterprise SEO is a journey, make someone responsible for driving.” – Andy Milburn

Beyond building a viable strategy for a company’s success, a similar track I attended was Launching a Global Site. The similarity found here is that for many large organizations, the task at hand is creating a global presence that is molded to separate cultures without creating duplication or indexing issues with search engines. Motoko Hunt from provided several considerations for building a web presence across the world in applicable countries. These include minding seasonal behavior and events in other cultures, how and where other cultures access web content and legal customs involved with doing business in other countries. Want to sell something in another country? Hunt also mentions all the considerations here, currency, shipping, culture restrictions for doing business in a given country. Bill Hunt of Back Azimuth Consulting also provided a great amount of information of what to consider when trying to provide content specific to certain languages and locations.

Location based serving of content is a bad idea. Google is from Mountain View, CA; can they see your content specific to certain countries? No.” – Bill Hunt

Extremely important to SEO is how we measure success. With this, I decided to attend Meaningful SEO Metrics: Going Beyond the Numbers moderated by our company president, Mark Jackson. This track was very informative as it demonstrates the need to show the value of SEO initiatives for different individuals within a company.

Reporting: Show causality, different reports for different employees, and show more data points for additional comparison.” – Matt Bailey

An important theme across all speakers here was the focus on “showing the money,” the value to a company that SEO brings to the table.

Rounding out the conference, I saved time for some very interesting verticals including local search and social media. The first session I attended relevant to this theme was Local Search 2.0.

11 billion searches in the U.S. last month, 20% of these had local intent.” – Andrew Beckman

Nothing is more enticing than some great stats to show the importance of thinking locally when it comes to search marketing. Speakers in this track provided insight on newer local offerings such as Google Tags, Google Boost as well as ensuring you create a local presence across authoritative local directories and other location categorized sites and ensuring that these sites all have exact and accurate data about your brick and mortar locations. The key take-aways here beyond what was discussed above was becoming the triple threat in local search, rank your site in organic, paid, and local listings for search queries with local intent.

Still not fulfilling my insatiable love for local search I stepped into Local & Social: The Future of Social Promotion. This track covered the need to have a social presence for all of your business locations as the world of social and local are coming together.

“Over half of online shoppers consult Facebook and Twitter before moving forward in Search.” – Gregg Stewart

One again, great stats show the importance of taking advantage of local-socially relevant platforms to give customers a voice for you, and inversely, an opportunity to reward your local customers.
Over the past year we have seen the impact social media is making on the web and more importantly, its affect on organic search with respect to linking and social citations. I thought it was fitting to attend, Social Media & Conversion: The Yellow Brick Road with the Eisenberg brothers.

Advertising is the penalty for not being remarkable.” – Jeffrey Eisenberg

Since most of us our not remarkable, it was a great introduction for all to listen to how you must advertise in social media. The resounding theme throughout this track was that those who are commercial instead of conversational in social media will always lose. Those who advertise in social media are interrupters while those who create a community and keep it about relationships and impersonal will build trust and create beneficial pathways to their brand.

These were not all the tracks that I attended during SES New York 2011. But, without a doubt these were sessions I felt were important to where search marketing is going. Moving forward, we will always need to mind how we structure sites so that they are search engine friendly. As the world becomes smaller we will also have to consider how we position brands globally. From a hyper-local standpoint, local search and local-social will only become more important. At the end of the day, we will have to consider how we involve entire companies in the pursuit of search marketing success and how we measure the positive effects of SEO.