Last year this session was one of my favorites at the conference, and this year really was no exception.

Each of the presenters did an excellent job, but a lot of controversy seemed to be generated at each person’s interpretation of what was appropriate to offer the crowd.

This post wasn’t intended to be a blow-by-blow description of what people talked about, and it may be hard to put it in context without reading exactly what that was, so here are some other posts about the session going is more specific details, at Bruce Clay, Search Engine Roundtable, Aloha Digital Marketing, and SEO Chicks.

Here are my thoughts on each speaker and whether or not they crossed the line…

Stephen Spencer
Stephan showed off his Google directory mining tool, and I don’t believe he crossed the line. If Google didn’t know something like this was in development I’d be shocked. I mean, it’s not as if he gave out the URL to everyone (grrrrr), he just showed people how he’s made his job easier using tools.

The rest of what Stephan talked about were very good advanced tips, and in my opinion there was nothing “dark” about it, and I certainly don’t think he crossed any lines at all.

Marty Weintraub
Marty didn’t really cross the line either in my opinion, but he was blatantly honest, and that gave it a somewhat evil undertone to many people.

Seriously, have none of us ever nofollowed a link we’ve exchanged? Have none of us ever beefed up a social networking user profile? That’s all he was suggesting, but he did it in a humorous (if not somewhat excessive) way.

*note – coincidentally, that very morning of the presentation, I received a connection request on a network called Merchant Circle from a Southern Soy Candle and I assumed that was him playing games, but he claims it wasn’t.

The thing is, Marty’s portrayal of his profile “Soy Candle” had ALL of the aspects required for a good and legitimate social networking campaign.

The specific details about her life are the exact same things required when you are doing this “for real” to your own profile. It looked “real” because it WAS “real”, but it just happened to be hysterical as well.

If he “crossed the line”, it was by mentioning that he uses proprietary software to make it appear as if his profile is visiting all of these blogs, and participating in communities, but really, how is that any different from having employee do that for you?

There are perhaps some valid claims though that some of what Marty talked about might be unethical, and there are some entertaining comments on this post.

Michael Gray gave a great presentation, disproving (at least to me) some popular myths about the Google Ad Words quality score. Nothing “black hat” there to me, no lines were crossed, and it was pretty much cut and dried, vintage Greywolf, making Google look bad.

Rob Kerry – evilgreenmonkey
Rob talked about micro sites, (sort of a mini-net ala Michael Campbell) and gave some practical tips too, about how to use advanced search parameters to find good .edu blogs etc. but then he started talking about comment spam software, and people got a little uneasy.

Then, where a lot of people probably might think he “crossed the line” would likely be his mention of using the Google removal tool when competitor’s site is down. (Harsh but funny and true).

Then he gave a blow-by-blow description of custom software to turn one piece of content into multiple versions, (also known as “spinning content”), and that’s when the bottom fell out for me.

As soon as I realized what he was describing, I looked at the people around me, and either everyone’s mouth was open in astonishment that he would talk about it, or, their eyebrows were pointed downward in confusion, but they gradually came to realization and their mouths opened too.

Did Rob actually cross the line? While I totally applaud Rob for his excellent job of “Giving it up”, I admit that part of me wanted to stand up and tell him to be quiet, for cryin’ out loud!

As a guest poster on Shoemoneys blog recently put it… STFU! – There ‘s such a thing is giving too much information in a public setting, and I think this may have been it. Still though, great job, Rob 😉

Todd Friesen
Todd gave some tips about reclaiming old Hotmail addresses to gain control of blogs, and getting 301’s from people who were stealing your images that were great, and exactly what I would expect to hear in the bar at Pubcon, and those were awesome, thanks.

He gave some practical advice too, about what to do after a Digg banning, and properly redirecting your old products to the category level, that I’m sure many people appreciated.

There was nothing “dark” about what Todd offered, and I do think he gave up some excellent advanced tips, and I’m really hoping we can get him here in Portland for an SEMpdx event. When I talked to him about it in Seattle, he sounded pretty positive, so stay tuned…

Rand Fishkin
Rand gave an excellent advanced presentation, including a very good breakdown of ranking in Google Local Maps, but he certainly crossed no lines, or divulged any real “secrets”.

He appeared to have made a conscious effort to provide good solid information that would not be controversial in any way, and I have no doubt that many people thought his presentation was the best.

I suppose there’s an argument to be made that a couple of the presenters did actually cross the line, but hey isn’t that what you would expect at an advanced search marketing session called “Give it up”?

I can’t imagine what people expected to hear besides some controversial techniques, and I just can’t help thinking that having a session like this is just sort of “asking for trouble”, but I still can’t wait to hear it next year…

7 thoughts on “Crossing the Line at SMX Give It Up?

  1. Great notes…For sure there are 2 different values to link exchanges: traffic/promotion and Google juice.

    Our clients’ link partners sometimes don’t understand the difference. It’s not our job to explain…still we go to lengths to be up and up by explaining beyond the call of duty.

    All conversation about naive trading partners aside, we inform them by specifically writing prior to encourage review of the written policy. THEN we write again to encourage questions regarding linking policies. There is a point where it’s just not our problem if they don’t get it.

    If our client agrees to a link exchange with sites that do no have near as much authority as our clients’(often), we have no issues with equalizing the arrangement by handling both nodes of link value separately.Traffic we send is worth more than the link juice they give us often anyway.

    No cash changes hands. No links are sold or bought. No guidelines are trampled. Google can’t have it both ways…either the value of a link is cut in half and we can share each half as we please, or let’s scrap NoFollow.

    Not understanding the division of link values is why clients need to hire SEOs like you.

    Regarding “Soy Candle.” It was a coincidence. 🙂 We have 1 inch think NDA agreements with clients for which we develop corporate ambassador avatars. Soy candle was make believe.

    I will say regarding the candy-ass furor surrounding the social profile aspect of my Give it up presentation: The problem is NOT fake avatars. The problem is fake avatars who are not committed, valuable, contributing, and holistic members of any community.

    Yeah…like everyone uses their own exact name and NEVER tries anything affinities on for size. L O FLIPPING L. This is truly a tempest in a teapot. Thanks for seeing through the tree hugger barf.

  2. As search marketers we are trying to help our clients implement strategies in support of an algorithm we can’t entirely know. If you’re looking for absolutes, go be a mathematician. We don’t have full transparency into any engine algorithm (nature of the beast) so there is a need, as in most things in life, for faith. Apply the right efforts, with the right intention and trust (based on past experience) that it will gain you the right results. As you said, “What did you expect?”

  3. I appreciate your viewpoints on my presentation and apologies if any of it made you uncomfortable. When drawing up points to discuss, I always try to consider the ramifications of what I might say.

    In this case I didn’t feel that any other internet marketers would be negatively effected by releasing this information, and that the matters discussed were simple enough to be of use to someone looking to try more innovative off-brand ideas. Alas, my darker techniques are saved up for discussion in smaller gatherings.

    All I can say is, everyone seemed to have fun in the session and actually came away with juicy information, whether they choose to act on it is up to them.

  4. Thanks Rob, and no, not uncomfortable at all. I just thought perhaps you really did too good a job of “Giving it up” 😉 –

    I enjoyed every minute of it, and look forward to hearing you again sometime… If I’m lucky, perhaps it will be in in one of those smaller gatherings.

  5. Credit where credit is due: It was actually Todd Friesen who recommended using Google’s removal tool for reputation management.

    Re Rob’s talk – I don’t remember seeing a lot of mouth’s open. I remember seeing a lot of note taking 🙂

  6. Typical Scott Hendison, I love it. Thanks Scott for your insightful report. Scott great way to give a report on the topic “give it up” with a give it up attitude. 😉

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