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After two days of presentations and a good few hours going through my notes, here is the list of points that I took away from the organic search and social media tracks at SMX Advanced London (the premier high level search conference this side of the Atlantic).

I’ve bolded what I consider to be the very best tips.

What gems have I missed here? Were you on the paid search or conversion tracks?  Please share your SMX insights in the comments.

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Wolfram Alpha Keynote

  1. Wolfram Alpha is getting better by the day and should be added to the researcher’s arsenal. Fact Engine Optimisation anyone? Beular?
  2. Wolfram Alpha’s forthcoming widgets and plugins will be great ways to add content to your website. Keep an eye out for a sponsored link program too

2010 Ranking Factors

  1. Recommended reading: Random surfer vs Reasonable Surfer patent (Links on the page that people are more likely to click may be considerably more valuable than those they are not likely to click on)
  2. Tweets may or may not be treated as links by Google but likelihood is that they will be as this is where the bulk of the freshness links are occurring.
  3. There is a suspicion that data is not flowing from Facebook to Google. Bing on the other hand does have relationships and therefore likely to see effect of Facebook on SERPs here first.
  4. There is a strong correlation between position of keyword in title and rank [compelling evidence for keyword first, brand second].
  5. H1s not an important ranking factor (position on page more important than whether the header is defined by an H1 or not)
  6. Keywords in Alt attribute slightly better correlated with rank than use of H1 – but only slightly
  7. Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) (similar to Latent Semantic Indexing) looks very promising as a ranking factor so modify your SEO copywriting. Clue
  8. Are 301s passing less link juice? Perhaps canonicals are the solution. Perhaps you’ve just got to get off your arse and get the links moved.
  9. Now easier to get your home page ranked than internal pages. Has the value of internal linking been reduced?
  10. Mix up your anchor text more than you used to. Non keyword anchors are probably now a must
  11. It may be that more effort is now required to make pages appear unique. Have your search results style or category pages taken a hit?
  12. Have a process for checking website source code and robots.txt for hacking attacks – they are getting more subtle. Can use link tools to find strange anchor text
  13. Worry less about code validation and more about amount of code. Reduce and compress
  14. If a page in SERPs does not correlate with standard ranking factors, it could be due to freshness algo. An algo that is still evolving and not all that clever in the UK yet (Often see US results in QDF results in UK)
  15. Canonicals require care
  16. Archive your Twitter content, Twitter isn’t

Leveraging Digital Assets (aka Universal Search)

  1. It’s easier to rank universal content than conventional content due to less competition and less sophisticated algorithms
  2. Yahoo Answers content is very trusted and in some cases treated as universal content so worth having a proactive Yahoo Answers strategy
  3. Press releases viewed as universal content (Ask Jeeves)
  4. Search engines love structured data such as FAQ and help pages
  5. “Master the micro & inject it into the macro” – e.g. understand how to rank in Product Search, then gain benefits of being in main rankings
  6. Use microformats in general but specifically for product search (SEOGadget.co.uk has good guides to microformats)
  7. Video can improve the ranking of a site that has initial rankings
  8. If self hosting video, use commonly used video players to ensure that it recognised as video by the search engines
  9. Can use Facebook meta tags to specify that you have video in your page
  10. Your XML site map for Google should include video url, website url, meta data and compelling thumbnails
  11. One to watch: YouTube are experimenting with allowing you to link back to your site
  12. Google News is for everyone, not just news sites
  13. Images are important for getting into news (use standard sizes 300×250 or 180×150). Make alt tag same as headline
  14. To get into news your site needs to have articles from three different authors posted within the last seven days. Include author names in page and Google News XML
  15. If get rejected from Google News, contest it and be Billy Big Balls about it
  16. Consider separating out industry news (so can submit to Google News) and company news (keep as blog content)
  17. Rather than use fake rating services, use the more expensive (but lower risk) services that have individuals with a real love for content

Link Building

  1. The Inconvenient Truth of Link Building – value of links has changed as a result of low quality/no quality rot
  2. Zemanta and Outbrain worth investigating as part of a “link development” strategy
  3. There’s mixed opinions on the SEO benefit of Facebook like buttons but agreement on marketing benefit
  4. Google Reader’s “More Like This” functionality has a role to play in link building/development
  5. Speed is of the essence in gaining links. Yahoo Pipes can be used to keep you swift. Monitoring press release sites will show you what the news is about to be.
  6. Look into PuSH Bot if you aren’t already
  7. Link Building is about Relationship Building (PR anyone?)
  8. TagCrowd is useful for visualising excel anchor text data
  9. Reclaim old links – use tools such as Majestic or sift old server logs.
  10. Most influential links helping a competitor rank are likely to be those that link to the actual page ranking.
  11. Have a strategy for getting links from government and university sites (See Kelvin Newman’s excellent tips here)
  12. Narrowing down a large list of potential link opportunities to blogs updating daily will allow you to rapidly produce a list of target sites to start building relationships with – especially if you have a new SEO tool to pitch ;)

Keyword Research

  1. Create a keyword “Editorial Calendar” that considers seasons, scheduled events, trends etc and dovetail it with your plans for PPC campaigns, blogging, twitter updates, YouTube videos etc – prepare them in advance
  2. Use PPC for real keyword research
  3. Add Mozenda (a scrapping tool) to your keyword research armoury by thinking laterally. Combine it with Google XML API to scrape Google Suggest. (Alternative suggestion 80legs)
  4. Other research tools that are useful with imagination include: Xenu Link Sleuth, Microsoft ISS, Mechanical Turks
  5. Keywords can not be translated
  6. The length of the keyword long tail varies by language. Spanish short, Dutch and German longer than English
  7. Yahoo Suggest will through up different keyword ideas to Google Suggest

Here is a  quick recap as well as presentation slides from Richard Gregory’s session on Yahoo! & Microsoft Search Alliance: The New Search Powerhouse by Latitude

Social Media Measurement

  1. There is no simple formula for measuring value from social media. Majority of companies are still very unsophisticated in the way they are measuring social media. [Opportunity]
  2. Focus social media measurement for e-commerce on the impact it has on awareness, conversion rates and return rates
  3. Consider which search phrases should be attributed to social media rather than SEO
  4. Focus social media on customers you have, not the customers you want
  5. Social Media ROI may be reduced costs (e.g. of customer service). Consider costs of not doing social media
  6. Consider calculating social media impressions and compare to standard advertising impression metrics
  7. The number of hyper engaged individuals may be your most important social media metric
  8. Paid Social Media tools tend to improve workflow and are better at sentiment analysis when compared to free offerings

Video Marketing

  1. Use the YouTube Keyword Tool
  2. The YouTube algorithm is simpler, more based on popularity and tagging than the Google algorithm
  3. Blog post idea: Build top 10 lists from great YouTube content e.g. Mashable top 10 wedding dance videos on YouTube
  4. Consider using RDFa (meta data for video)
  5. Virals: “Shit that people like to share”
  6. Don’t neglect paid promotion for encouraging content to go viral
  7. Lest we forget: E mail is still the most used medium for spreading content
  8. As you deserve a break from tips, here are the videos used to illustrate what works:
    • funny ,
    • unbelievable
    • pose a question ,
    • informative (good for B2B – if it has real insight)
    • or piggyback on cult phenomena “talent imitates, genius steals”
  9. In B2B even a few views can = successful viral
  10. If someone embeds your video, work out how you can drive traffic to them
  11. According to a YouTube Senior Industry Manager initial results on tests of using Google’s audio to text capabilities within the ranking algorithm has been very favourable. Interpret as not being used yet but likely to become a signal in due course. He also suggested use of Google Goggles type technology for ranking videos was someway off.

The Facebook Opportunity

  1. The Content Network does work. It’s just called “Facebook Ads” and it’s quality score slap free
  2. Recruiting? Use Facebook Ads to target competitor brands.
  3. Facebook ads need to be refreshed regularly. Special offers, linkbait, localised and personality driven ads work well
  4. Apply keyword research approaches (especially lateral thesaurus) to Facebook interests (but remember they are interests, not keywords)
  5. Segment landing pages by social groups rather than keywords. Keep your landing pages consistent with your ads. Think 2, 3 or 4 stage sales process
  6. Facebook is awash with marketing opportunities and is the future of demographic research. Take advantage whilst you can. And don’t rule out B2B
  7. Philanthropy rocks on Facebook
  8. Friend your competitors friends (but do not fake it). The refresh button is your friend (find more than six of your competitors friends). Can also use Facebook ads to target competitors friends
  9. Use Google Ad Planner (imagine this being delivered in a Baz Lurhmann “Use Sunscreen” manner http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfq_A8nXMsQ)
  10. Remember Facebook controls your fans and could separate you at any time. Get e-mail addresses
  11. LinkedIn profiling could be very interesting

Crisis and Reputation Management

  1. Journalists are hungry for information during a crisis – this is opportunity but speed is key
  2. Plan for a crisis possibilities: have press releases pre-written, PPC campaigns built, FAQ page written etc so you can saturate SERPs quickly
  3. You know you need to grab your brand name on social media sites. You might not have done it on these ones yet: Crunchbase, slideshare, Knowem and Scribd
  4. Some opportunities to increase “friendly” real estate proportion in the SERPS: Set up site links. Put in a sub directory. Update wikipedia page. Do a press releases to get into news. Go to affiliates, gave them a page to put on their site. Ditto for job sites. Add a linked in profile.
  5. “everyone has right to speak, but not necessarily be heard”
  6. Consider buying sites that appear on brand searches and have negative comments on them (through third party)
  7. Monitor both brand phrases and names of key personnel for negative comment
  8. If a site has a page with negative comments ranking, see if you could link build to another page on the same site or try injecting a new page (e.g. to a community site)
  9. Yahoo Analytics has much deeper detail about individuals coming onto site than Google Analytics
  10. Value of SERPs reputation management is still not properly appreciated.

Other

  1. Infographics garner backlinks when they show lots of data, complex ideas or boring topics in an aesthetically pleasing way.
  2. Give your best linkbait/virals to a high profile site in return for a link.
  3. Thank those that link to you – it opens the door for next time
  4. Investigate the Social Media for Firefox plugin
  5. Bait and Switch is now just Bait and build a Trusted site (some of the time anyway)

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