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SES NYC 2011: ‘SEO is Dead. Long live SEO!’

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SEO is Dead. Long live SEO!

Session description: SEO is dead… No it’s not… Yes it is! It’s been an ongoing debate for quite some time now. So what’s the truth? Does SEO still give you the necessary oomph to rocket you up the search engine charts like it used to? Or is SEO a “just in case” best practice routine these days? Can anyone prove it does work; can anyone prove it doesn’t?

Moderator: Frank Watson, CEO, Kangamurra Media
Fionn Downhill, VP of Strategy, SyCara Inc.
Todd Friesen, Director of SEO, Performics
Marcus Tandler, CEO/Partner, Tandler.Doerje

Quote marks indicate direct quotes. Everything else is paraphrased.

The skinny

It’s a small room with a standing-room only crowd, and folks keep shuffling in and out from the back few rows.

What they said

Frank: To a degree, I understand why people are saying SEO is dead. With the impact of Panda, I think we really have to start looking at optimizing for the user.

(One of Frank’s many asides during sessions at this conference: If you have any sort of reviewable product, you have got to be using Google Hotpot. Eventually it’s going to be like Google Maps.)

[To the panel] Across the board, apart from Panda, what have been the major impacts of search results and change?

Marcus: It’s more about your traditional approach being dead. It’s not any more about becoming No. 1 for your keyword. It’s about having as much real estate on the results page as you can. You want to be everywhere that Google is giving you the free traffic.

Todd: We talk about search domination. SEO has gone just far, far beyond your root domain. Take up that real estate and keep it all to you. The more real estate you own, the more likely you’re going to get the click.

Fionn: “When’s the last time you saw a search with just 10 blue links?”

Todd: Want to see true universal search? “Search for Charlie Sheen right now.”

Marcus: Everybody is saying, look at your competitors. The thing is, you don’t always want to look at what people are doing right now. Google is probably always working on something to address that stuff. It’s more about sustainability.

Audience participation

Frank: “Does anyone have any question for the conference that they haven’t had answered at this conference yet?”

Todd: “Seriously, Frank, can you be any more lazy?”

Q: “Can you optimize for Facebook and Twitter?”
Fionn: Anything you want to show up in search results, treat it like a web page (text for videos, descriptions, titles).
Frank: Sign up with KnowEm, and point everything from your other social media profiles to your Twitter profile. Same thing with Facebook.
Fionn: “Welcome to the new wave of spam.”

Q: “Should I still buy domain networks?”
Todd: Hire an expert.
Fionn: “You can commit Google suicide.”

Q: “With the changes and localization, how would you go about clearing up some of the differences in rankings right now? How are you tracking rankings now?”
Todd: I absolutely hate tracking rankings. You don’t need to look at ranking to see if it’s working. See where your traffic is coming from. We have tools and we tell our clients, “These are our tools, and these tools are the standard.”
Fionn: Ranking reports are useful to inform your SEO effort, but if you’re giving out ranking reports as a measure of success, you need to learn more.
Marcus: About local… “get reviews, get reviews, get reviews.” And be everywhere. Yelp. SuperPages. Get listed in all those pages. On your website, make sure your contact page is index-able and crawl-able.
Frank: I think we also need to go back to looking at the Google Dance. Go back to some old-school stuff.

Q: “It’s becoming harder and harder to get backlinks. You can’t buy them, or create content farms, so the only thing that’s really left is linkbait. And that requires a lot of resources. And the price goes up for clients. How do you address that issue?”
Fionn: We have a client who sells tires. We do a blog for them, and we do quality “how to” tips, and people link to the blog all the time. For example, we have “How to winterize your tires” and within that post we’ll have a link in that goes to the winterized tires.
Frank: Hire an intern. Hire a bunch of college interns. They come up with the wackiest ideas in the world.
Todd: Several companies can do this for you. They’re very creative and this is their strength.
Marcus: Search on Digg and see what worked before.
Todd: Also, go back into the archives and see what did well and you can post again.
Marcus: And while you’re looking at it, click on it and make sure it still works.

Q: “How do you apply this strategy for 10,000 products?”
Todd: You don’t have to do it for each product. You go out and get the links to your site, you build that authority, then you go into advanced things like UI and site architecture, and it will filter down into those pages in your site.
Fionn: Often overlooked: onsite linking, especially for eCommerce sites, which can have a huge impact on your SEO.
Frank: Go in and clean up your site and get rid of pages that aren’t getting traffic.

Q: “What qualifies as duplicate content? What percentage?”
Fionn: It doesn’t matter what we think. It matters what Google thinks. So don’t do it.
Todd: If you’re telling people how to write copy, then tell them: don’t plagiarize.
Marcus: Quote from articles, and link to them.

Q: “If we shouldn’t call ourselves SEOs, what other names do you suggest?”
Todd: “I’m a search marketer. But I don’t care. Call me whatever you want, I still make money.”

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