Day Two Recap – SMX Sydney SEO SEM Conference 2008

Day 2 of SMX Sydney started off solidly and finished with an unexpected twist before we headed underneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge for the after party.

Following My Definitive Guide to Maximise Benefits of Conference Attendance definitely worked because I learnt a lot, made connections with smart and influential people and improved my profile in the SEO community :-)

Any Aussie SEO’s who didn’t attend should kick themselves because of the opportunities they missed. I spoke to Adam Lasnik, Gord Hotchkiss, Danny Sullivan, Rand Fishkin and many other speakers for 5-15min each, how often can you get an opportunity like that?

gord hotchkiss smx sydney
Gord Hotchkiss – Enquiro – SMX Sydney

danny sullivan blended search smx sydney
Searchengineland.com’s Danny Sullivan – SMX Sydney

meg tsiamis smx sydney
Meg Tsiamis – Dlook – SMX Sydney

googles geo mission smx sydney
Googles Geo Mission – SMX Sydney

google maps on mobile geo location
GSM Triangulation in Action - SMX Sydney

ani babaian smx sydney
Ani BabaianMicrosoft Live Search – SMX Sydney

ani babaian and adam lasnik smx sydney
Ani Babaian (Microsoft Live Search) & Adam Lasnik (Google) – SMX Sydney

SMX Sydney international speakers
SMX Sydney international speakers

Onto the summary of the sessions I attended distilled from 12 pages of notes:

Understanding Searcher Behaviour by Gord Hotchkiss – Enquiro

Canadian Gord Hotchkiss demonstrated that it’s not only the Americans who are innovating in the SEO and PPC space with his in-depth discussion about why people make the decisions they do.

I spoke to Gord at the after party SMX under the bridge. He’s a smart fellow interested in researching topics thoroughly and offering considered opinion eg: he writes a few in depth articles at his blog Out of My Gord rather than lots of shallow “echo chamber” posts which a lot of SEO/PPC bloggers are guilty of doing.

  • Gord loves to ask “Why?” questions
  • Human hardware (our brains) determine a lot of our behaviour and actions
  • We’re more alike in the choices we make than different (Shown through Visualised click tracking of a group of people)
  • We scan search results 4/time (short term memory)
  • Choice is good for making decisions, owning all 5 top positions in search is bad (Try telling clients that!!)
  • Why we pick the results we do – relevancy, quality of description, brand recognition
  • What ppl click on in SERPS: Organic (#1 27%, #2 13%, #3 7%) PPC (#1 8%, #2 4%)
  • Choices are not arbitrary – you make them based on baggage in long term memory & experience. Not rational choice even if you think it is

Blended Search by SearchEngineLand.com Editor-In-Chief Danny Sullivan

  • Danny told us about a cool trick that all SEO and PPC people should know: just add &gl=us to the end of a query in Google to force the display of Google US SERPS and PPC results even if you’re in another country. Change the last 2 letters to get results from other countries eg: &gl=uk for United Kingdom, &gl=au for Australia etc

    Aside: I found a similar trick you can use on MSN search eg: Mobile phone loc:uk but I found that it didn’t work consistently.

  • Google Book search is a dark horse that not too many people have examined for SEO purposes. Unfortunately it’s only part of blended search for Google USA users. You can submit your book to it as long as you have an ISBN, Danny wasn’t sure if ebooks qualified
  • Image search automatically indexes as long as you don’t bar it from the image directory on your site using robots.txt . It’s influenced by the ALT tags, descriptive filenames and text around the image. Make sure you enable “enhanced image labeller” in Google Webmaster tools
  • Google Newsyou need to be a big name to get accepted as a source. Not true, corrected by Ciaran Norris: See Google News Help for Publishers for details about submitting your website to Google News.

    Use News sitemaps. For some bizarre reason URL’s need to have 3 digits to work in Google News. The indexing bot only visits once, so any edits later on won’t appear in Google news.

  • Video – thumbnails only appear in SERPs for Youtube and Google video. Meta data is important to get good rankings.
  • Local search – Every year since 2006 has been “the year of local search” :-) . Claim and optimise meta data on Google Maps/Local Business listings, WARNING: Anyone can claim your Google maps listing if you don’t!!, if you don’t have a physical location get a PO BOX.
  • Google Product search – not in Australia yet :-(
  • Blog search – Get a XML sitemap ++Good. Also use RSS feeds. Blog search uses both as a source. Having a content system that uses XML RPC ping means the search engines and RSS aggregators can quickly index your content
  • Q & A: Danny says Yahoo Search Assist has a good design to help people refine their search query as they type. Checking Yahoo results in different countries is difficult, try a HTTP proxy.

Local Search Vendors Panel

  • The audience was quizzed: 30% are looking to buy local search listings, 75% from more than 1 search directory.
  • Much of the audience said they didn’t see much traffic from local search
  • The vendors agreed that 40% of their database changes every year – its’ really high maintenance because businesses are opening, closing, moving etc all the time and their contact details and location changes each time
  • Monte from Aussieweb said his site didn’t have review functionality because he feared litigation from people who disagree with the comments made by users
  • Dlook charges $488/year or $49.50 / month. No contracts. Dlook power Vodafone mobile search. They are the most innovative local search site, most of the others have copied features from them
  • Truelocal listing = $888, data is syndicated to Google and Yahoo local search. Encourages user reviews. On 3 Mobile and Virgin Vibe
  • Sensis powers itself and Microsoft’s Live.com.au local search
  • Aside: Whereis is an excellent product which I use quite often. However we all know that Sensis search products like Yellowpages and Whitepages are terrible. Everyone I asked at SMX Sydney agreed with me but no one was prepared to go on the record.

    As that’s the case I’ll show you some quotes from an SMH Online chat forum titled: Does White Pages search suck?:

    What does Telstra spend all that money from obscene fees and charges on anyway? It sure as hell can’t be on improving the search engine behind Whitepages.com.au and Yellowpages.com.au, because I’ve used both and, frankly speaking, the bucket of crap infesting Sensis is more appropriately labelled as a “search, search and search again” engine, and any positive results produced by it are probably the result of obscure planetary alignments and the disembowelling of a large number of chickens – Douglas Jackson


    Yellow pages is just as frustrating. Its a sad statement on the site when users such as myself prefer to go to Google to get a phone number of an australian business
    - Chris Rhodes

    The whole office knows when I have used whitepages.com.au. When I tell people in my office that I need to get contact details for someone, they generally leave the room. Why? Because searching on whitepages.com.au usually results in a tirade of potty-like expletives from my mouth.


    I’m not sure when this happened. The site used to work, but I’ve taken to just googling for a business name rather than using the WP service. I’m trying to save the company’s workers comp – although I’m not sure that the civil liabilities act covers WP induced terret’s syndrome.
    - james bw

  • Google Local search – says 70% of household use the internet as a information source when shopping locally for products and services. Showed a live simulation of Google Android operating system doing a local search.
  • Microsoft Live Search – presented by Ani Babaian showed what Microsoft Live search is doing in the USA as a proof of concept to show what will eventually be available here.

    Some really interesting ideas eg: Mobile voice activated search via free call 1800 number to find out petrol prices, movie times etc. GeoIP problems with some of her examples.

    Microsoft is really pushing Maps technology into the 3rd dimension eg: Microsoft Virtual Earth Now With New Enhanced 3D City Models. This enhanced 3D map detail will soon roll out to the more than 250 cities where 3D models are currently available, beginning with the 20 major metro areas in the USA and Europe enabled by a new engineering process which allows for 100% automated modeling of structures and trees. The examples will really blow you away!

Aside: a Sydney Google engineer showed me how Google maps on his blackberry could be used with GSM base station triangulation to determine his current location at no cost.

Unfortunately this technology is in its infancy as you can see by the photo at right because it was only accurate to within 1700m (1.7km or just over a mile) and the location dot showed that he was on the other side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge to where we actually were. It really needs GPS assistance from base stations to work more accurately

Webmaster Tools – Ani Babaian (Microsoft Live Search) & Adam Lasnik (Google)

Adam and Ani put on really good presentations, it was really unfortunate that such top class speakers only had 2 dozen people turn up to their session :-(

Both Adam and Ani are excellent evangelists for their respective companies, genuinely interested in the products/services they offer and eager for suggestions as to how they can be improved.

Adam could work for the UN, he’s very diplomatic even when completely disagreeing with someone or being baited by another speaker/audience member :-)

  • Adam Lasnik: “Tattling is the new black, smite your enemies” by dobbing them in using Google webmaster tools. Use the iGoogle webmaster tools gadget to get updated data. His team takes feedback from across the web about Google products & services. All webmasters should bookmark Google Webmaster Central
  • Google’s Challenge: to be fair, effective and scalable
  • When you report spam in webmaster tools it will not generally result in a penalty because of the admin time cost. Will be used to improve algorithm … Audience didn’t seem to happy with this answer as they get frustrated by splog and scraper sites ranking well.
  • Google may well publish videos to help people understand social media etc
  • Will consider allowing webmasters more control over getting rid of some sitelinks which we know aren’t popular and suggesting more popular pages instead.
  • Adam thinks that there are a lot better ways to spend time than doing “pagerank sculpting” … it’s worrying about “minutia” according to him
  • Ani Babaian: Microsoft Webmaster Centre will launch in June/July
  • There will be lots of cool tools but unfortunately she isn’t allowed to make forward looking statements
  • Some interesting existing tools include: Keyword Services Platform which should of interest to PPC people

Aside: Spoke to a local Google Sydney engineer about Google Sydney’s project to build a customisable platform for streaming content about the Games for Olympics sponsor Lenovo using iGoogle gadget technology

The SEO Clinic

The three teams of expert speakers had a look at a few sites owned by conference attendees randomly drawn at the beginning of Day 1 and gave them actionable information to improve them.

Team 1: Mike Motherwell & Guy Wayland
Team 2: Danny Sullivan & Rand Fishkin
Team 3: Gord Hotchkiss & Adam Lasnik

Sites that were reviewed included: Goldenchain.com.au, hotelclub.com.au, cruisingrestaurants.com.au, seek.com.au, discovertasmania.com and my site bhatt.id.au/blog.

This session was really funny because Danny decided he didn’t like reviewing the Tasmania site using Internet Explorer and started downloading and installing Firefox with User Agent Switcher addon in the middle of his presentation :-)

The Long-table – International speakers Open Q&A Session

One big issue reappeared here. It seems clear across conference attendees that very few people like Google’s new searchbox within SERPS results and I heard Adam lasnik from Google defend it several times saying their data showed that users liked it.

International speaker at SMX Ciaran Norris asked a question about “search within search” and was clearly unhappy with Adam’s reply because he said sites effected by it can lose CPM revenue and also valuable user data which would have been captured by their internal site search boxes.

I think that “search within search” goes against Google’s stated goal of getting users off Google as fast as possible by sending them to the best search result.

Conclusion


Overall kudos to Barry Smyth who organised the event and all the people who attended – where were the speakers from Yahoo? Are you serious about your Australian presence or have you given up?

From all perspectives the money I spent attending SMX Sydney was well spent. I learnt that SEOwise my sites are pretty well optimise, lots more people know my name and about my blogs.

I’m definitely going to write more SEO related articles from an Australian perspective because lots of people told me they liked my writing style, some are even going to use my Day 1 & 2 recaps to help them create reports about SMX for their boss at work.


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9 comments on “Day Two Recap – SMX Sydney SEO SEM Conference 2008

  1. Saurav Craze on said:

    Hi Neerav,
    The &gl=us,etc thing by Danny was amazing. How I wish such seminars were coducted in India. I have a question, Is there any way in which we can get our blog featured at better ranks for search query generated from other country than mine?
    Saurav

  2. Andrew Ballard on said:

    Well done, Neerav – another fantastic summary! I’m particularly interested in the presentation from Gord Hotchkiss – I might ask you some quick questions offline, if that’s possible.

    Many thanks!

    AB

    EDITOR: no worries Andrew, bit busy next few days – you can call me on Thursday

  3. Awesome work Neerav. I really appreciate your recap of this conference. Wish i could have been there!

  4. Top stuff.

    I have you RSS’ed and I am intersted in other Search marketing events. Are there any good informal get togethers, discussion forums etc that you are aware of?

    Please publish any events you think are worth attending

    Cheers

    EDITOR: Thanks Ryan

    There are plenty of other meetups and chat groups for web industry people. I’ll do a write up about them in the next few weeks.

    Anyone who reads this and wants to include their meetup/group in the listing please contact me

  5. Roman on said:

    Hey Neerav!

    Thanks for the nice trip in Manly!
    I’ll definitely have a closer look on your blog in the next few days.

    Roman

  6. Ciaran Norris on said:

    Neerav – another great write-up. One minor point though:

    “Google News – you need to be a big name to get accepted as a source.”

    Nope, not at all. You need to tick a number of boxes, one of which is having at least 5 contributors, but you don’t have to be big. We get some nice traffic from Google News, and we’re no New York Times. Check this out for details:
    http://www.google.com.au/support/news_pub/bin/topic.py?topic=11665

    EDITOR: Thanks for the correction Ciaran

  7. Neerav

    Great coverage of the conference mate. And thanks for the detail on the Local Search Roundtable – I was in the main room at the time and missed that one.

    Andrew – Gord Hotchkiss gave us some amazing insights into Searcher behaviour. Fascinating stuff.

    Leigh

    EDITOR: thanks for linking to my Day 2 recap Leigh :-)

  8. Chuck on said:

    That is a ton of useful information. Thanks very much. Local searches still suck. Getting US SERP’s from google is a must. But I think only a total newb would not be in the know. Wish I could attend something like that.

  9. Pingback: Survivor, Entrecard and Stuff | Dipping into the Blogpond

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