When I attend conferences, I always try to pick out the most important takeaways of information at each session, and then apply these nuggets to client sites or to my own. This year’s San Jose SES 2007 did not disappoint, and if anything, I learned more than I even expected to.

I’m not here to give you detailed coverage of the sessions, because that is already done so well by so many others (summarized at the end). What follows is a recap of what I consider to be my own takeaways, or “session nuggets” of each presentation, in most cases pulled directly from my own notes taken during each session.

Day 1
Public Relations Train Wrecks in the Interactive Biz: Disaster Can Be Avoided!

Interactive marketers know that public relations and marketing are hopelessly
intertwined. Yet many in the interactive space do not understand how to develop
a successful relationship with key publishers. Don’t just issue a release and
hope for the best. Learn the difference between productive efficient contact and
annoying drivel. This unprecedented and candid discussion with today’s top
interactive marketing editors will reveal train wrecks (no names please) and
best practices for you.






My first session of the show was the most disappointing, and I found very little to take away. Both speakers simply provided tidbits of information about what ticks them off, and did not offer many otehr details.

The goal of the session was explain “how to develop a successful relationship with key publishers”, and although they didn’t tellus that,

My nuggets are:

1. Make sure the press release is preceded by a personalized note explaining who you are, why you are sending to them and what about it may interest their readers.

2. Don’t use boilerplate / templated releases sent by e-mail. If so, then you may as well just use an online submission service.

3. Use email CC to keep people within one press organization in the loop on any projects.

4. Use the telephone, it’s much more powerful and effective, if you really have news.

5. Make sure you know how important your contact thinks they are, and grovel accordingly, because they have so much power they can (and will) crush you.

The second session I attended was:

Universal & Blended Vertical Search

Search isn’t just for web pages anymore. Google’s Universal Search blends video, local, news and book content into the top 10 list. Ask.com’s new 3D approach is designed to make vertical results blend into a more seamless search experience. Yahoo and Microsoft also both give vertical results a presence in response to default search. This session looks at how these changes impact life for the search marketer.





Q&A Speakers:


My Session Nuggets:
1. There are actually 98 million blogs now, probably well over 100 million by the time you are reading this.

2. With the introduction of images into universal search, it only makes sense to use JPEG’s with your news releases.

3. There’s an important article I have to read – Danny Sullivan’s “Invisible Tabs”

4. The inclusion of images, news items, and videos in the top 10 makes it even more competitive for text based pages, however, it does open a huge opportunity to rise to the top in the less optimized forms of media.

5. When Tim Mayer showed his slides, the “big three search engines” were Google, Yahoo, and Ask! The Microsoft name was gone, and there seemed to be a general theme throughout the entire conference, that heavy praise was being laid upon Ask.com.

The third session I attended Monday was:

Contextual Track – Earning Money From Contextual Ads

This session looks at the way publishers can generate revenue by carrying
contextual ads offered by major networks. Learn about some programs out there and tips on getting more from the ads you carry.



  • Danny Sullivan, Conference Co-Chair, Search Engine Strategies SanJose



Session nuggets:

1. Meta tags determine relevancy for Google Ad Sense ads… cool!

2. Try image only ads for better click through rates

3. Crazy egg offers cool heat maps

4. Open ads is a great ad management platform

The fourth session I attended was not until Tuesday, as I took the rest of Monday afternoon off, and spend some high quality NON search related time with a friend from high school that lives in Sacramento.

Day 2

The first session of the day was a “keynote” that was basically just a
commercial for Ask.com, and I did not stay for long.

The second session Tuesday was:

Podcast & Audio Search Optimization

More and more people are “podcasting,” on-demand radio-like shows people
can listen to on MP3 players or their computers. This session looks at
various search engines specifically for podcasts and how to best get your
audio content found through them.



Session nuggets:
1. Webmaster radio has a new site launching any day now – that’s great, and long
2. Transcribe all audio files. It’s well worth the effort, in the search engines
will eat it up.
3. Fill in all of the ID3 tag data. Don’t be lazy. Visit ID3.org for more
4. Audio files can rank highly in the search engines
5. Use the highest sampling rate possible when recording
6. Ensure that autodiscovery is enabled, so that IE 7 offers instant
subscription option to viewers. Auto discovery involves using this line of code:

<link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml” title=”FEEDTITLE” href=”http://FEEDURL”

and Feedforall a great tool I have found for creating code properly. This was an excellent session, and I encourage you to read the detailed session notes

After lunch, the session I attended was:

Images and Search Engines

Regular search engines can’t understand text trapped within images, and
this session looks at strategies to combat this problem for the image-intensive
site. It also examines how to generate traffic using your images via
image-specific search engines.



Another great session, but I didn’t take many notes because I was enthralled
with the content.

My nuggets:

1. Name your images correctly, using keywords in the filename
2. Use ALT text for all images. Readers of my SEO 101 section know that I have
never abandoned the use of the ALT text attribute, despite the fact that veteran
search engine experts have declared them worthless and dead for some time now.
Suddenly, with the introduction of universal search in Google, they are clearly
more important than ever.
3. Use the file extension in the ALT text too, like .jpg, .gif etc. this gives
you extra relevance
4. Include images with all of your press releases, and put them in Sitemaps and
RSS feeds
5. 1. If you haven’t already made an affiliate site for Squawkers Maccaw, it’s
probably too late, and the same goes for flameless candles 😉

Another excellent session, well worth a read of the detailed notes

The next session was:

Video Search Optimization

Producing video content? There are video search engines that specialize
in gathering up your video and making it available to searchers seeking
such content. This session looks at how to make your video more visible
in these specialized services.



Session nuggets:

1. Be sure to embed your video into HTML
2. Just like images, surround them with text
3. Use word video in your filenames
4. Be sure to tag your videos wherever possible
5. Use an encoding tool to complete all of the metadata. If the video is worth
shooting is worth doing right.
6. Tubemogul is an excellent tool for automated video upload that can save huge
7. The still image used for a video display is grabbed from an area 1 minute and
10-20 seconds into the clip

The final session of the day Tuesday was:

Are Paid Links Evil?

Search engines, especially Google, say don’t do ’em. But some search
marketers say paid links work. Are paid links subverting search quality?
Or are they simply a fact of life, here to stay? We explore the issues,
in this session.



This is likely the most written about session of the entire conference, with thousands if not tens of thousands of comments about it already on the web.

I also have a great photo of Matt Cutts Attacking Graywolf after the session on my own blog, thanks to
Mark at Smartz, a Bend Oregon web development company.

However, as I look at my conference manual, I did not take a single note! Why? Because I was riveted to every word this panel had to say, and didn’t want to risk looking away even for a moment.
The philosophical questions as to what constitutes a “paid” link could fill volumes of information, but my session nugget is this…

1. Keep buying links, and Google will keep trying to devalue them. You have a right to buy them, people have a right to sell them, and Google has a right (in fact, an obligation) to try to minimize their affect on your search rankings.

Day 3

The first session was:

Keynote Conversation With Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer, Vice President, Search Products & User Experience at
Google, talks with conference co-chair Danny Sullivan about Google’s
moves in search, including recent changes to add more personalized and
“universal” search results.

This was another commercial, although it was about a product I am more
interested in… Google!

Session nuggets:

1. Deleting items from your personal search history will affect the results
you are shown. I suppose I knew that, but it was nice to clarify.
2. Google is again considering clearly marking personal search results, and
perhaps giving users an easy way to toggle them on and off.
3. From a cell phone, if you are using the Google 411 service, and you speak the
words “map it” a map will be downloaded to your phone
4. Google Sky, an extension of Google Earth into space was launched recently,
and my son already had seen it when I got home!
5. Cost per action ads are closer than ever, but still no cigar

The second session Wednesday was:

SEO Through Blogs & Feeds

Not yet running a blog? Not syndicating your content through web feeds?
Then you’re missing out on an important area that can help your overall SEO
efforts. Learn more about the unique advantages blogs and feeds offer to
search engine optimization.



This was a highly detailed session, and there are plenty of excellent write-ups on line. If you’re interested in optimizing through feeds and blogs, then you have to read them all, because the suggestions and recommendations came fast and furious. Although it wasn’t billed as such, the talk was primarily of WordPress.

Session nuggets:

1. Use full text feeds
2. Edit your preferences to include a minimum of 20 feed items
3. Define multiple feeds, and make them all available for subscribers
(categories etc)
4. Yahoo Pipes is a great tool for mixing feeds (putting on your black hat for a
moment, you can see the possibilities)
5. Use synonyms in your post titles (Can you say LSI?)
6. Use sticky posts for categories
7. Stephen Spencer is amazing

My next session was:

Link Baiting & Viral Search Success

What better way to get links than by doing something that makes people
feel compelled to link to you? That’s link baiting — coming up with an idea, a
service, even a controversy — that gets people talking and linking your
way. A viral campaign is similar — a program, a system or an encouragement
that gets people linking to you over time. This session is designed for
experienced marketers. Beginners should only attend if they’ve gone through
the Link Building Basics session earlier in the conference.



This session didn’t disappoint either, and kudos to Rebecca, who has clearly been working on her presentation skills.

Her first presentation was at Searchfest, and while she was clearly knowledgeable there, she was also visibly (and understandably ) nervous, but in San Jose, she looked like a seasoned pro.

Session nuggets:

1. You really can’t game the system, and if you’re trying to, you’re probably going to have it backfire
2. Know the community you are submitting to by joining and using it for a bit
3. Search the community for your subject matter to see what they already like
4. Link to others and submit material that does not belong to you. While no one
gave a specific ratio of your content versus others, I would have to say that
it’s at least five to one, or you are just going to go down in flames
5. Ideas for viral content – flash games, viral videos, images, widgets, tools,
controversy, and mashups.
6. What’s a mashhup? Something that combines more than one tool or service into
one web application, such as Facebook applications
7. Nearly 100 million bloggers NEED something to talk about! Give them a ball,
and they will run with it.

The next session I attended was completely self-serving:

SEM Pricing Models

How should you charge for SEM work? Monthly fee? Percentage of ad spend?
Percentage of sales? We explore a variety of options, in this session.



I found this session to be enlightening and helpful, but I’m not sure any of the nuggets I got would help you much. However, I found it interesting that more than one panelist quoted Web Guerilla’s Greg Boser, who has supposedly said something like: “Whatever you’re charging, triple it”.

Here’s my nugget for the session:

1. Rand Fishkin charges $8,000 per day for personal training, and $1000 an hour is his posted rate on SEOmoz. If that sounds too high, I predict you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, as the pioneers and experts in our field continue to rise above the masses. Rand mentioned that $1000 an hour may be prohibitive, but
it’s likely only prohibitive for those wasting his time.
If this subject is something that interests you, here is an excellent write up of the SEM pricing sessionn.

The SEO Reputation Problem

SEO is a four-letter word to some people that stands for snake-oil
salesmen and blog spammers. Yet SEOs are also highly in demand and plenty help website generate traffic that converts. This session looks at SEO’s reputation problem and explores possible solutions.



While I found the presentations interesting, and the Q&A discussion stimulating, I didn’t really learn anything that I didn’t know. What I was hoping to find was an easier way to explain to clients and prospects that anyone that guarantees ranking for anything in this industry is essentially a snake oil

The one nugget that I did have?

1. Just like paid links, Google talks out of both sides of its mouth and accepts ads that guarantee top rankings, which we all (should) know is a scam. Just do a search on Google and look at all of the “guarantees” that Google appears to endorse, that add to the shady reputation of our industry..

I’m not allowed to sell the “best” anything on Google Adwords, and they will supposedly disallow ads that offer unsubstantiated claims. Yet when it comes to our industry, they seem to take PPC ads from anyone for any key phrase, with no attention paid to the impossible claims made on the landing page.

In my opinion it is up to the search engines to scrutinize its advertisers in this area heavily, because that is the only way these websites are being found. They certainly aren’t appearing in the organic results, or getting referrals from other happy users.


Thursday mornings, 9 a.m. session was another excellent one:

SMO: Social Media Optimization

Community-built web sites, the popular Wikipedia and new sites allowing content
being shared through “tagging” can be a great way to tap into links and
search-driven traffic. This session looks at some social media services and
strategies to tap into them in an appropriate manner.





The session nuggets:

1. Todd Malicoat says to read the ClueTrain Manifesto (Cluetrain.com) – and
he’s right!
2. Have a hook to any story- without one, it’s pointless
3. Appeal to the use youthful (i.e. juvenile) audiences at these social media
4. Successful distribution takes place within the first 24 to 36 hours max, so
leverage all of your contacts
5. Flickr comments are not nofollowed 😉 – heh
6. Twitter DOES actually have a useful purpose! – (bar meetups at conferences)
7. Don’t focus on marketing these sites, focus on using them.
8. Content must be “tagged” but there is no standard for commas, spaces, dashes,
9. You can buy text links to your own video submissions to youtube and Google
video etc. 😉 (Nice one Neil)
10. Much thought and creativity should go into everything you do, and don’t try
to game the system, because it will come back to bite you in the… reputation.The last session of the conference I attended was:

User Generated Content & Search

Looking for good content to please search engines but don’t have a lot too
spend. How about turning to your users? Discover the wonderful world of user
generated content!



This was another good session with lots of interesting stats and tips, and I’ll include a few in my nuggets. Although product reviews did not encompass the entire session, several of my clients are e-commerce retailers, so that seems to be what the majority of the notes I took relate to.

1. User generated content, in my opinion, is the very definition of Web 2.0

2. E-commerce sites need product reviews

a. Recent surveys show 92% of online shoppers say they WANT product reviews
b. Recent surveys show only 28% of online stores offer reviewss
c. Petco reports 20% less returns on products containing reviews
d. Netshops reports 36% higher sales, and Petco 41% increase on products containing reviews increase sales of those highly rated items significantly, and allows you to dump the dogs

4. Ideas for getting user reviews –
a. Follow-up e-mails, “review the product you just bought”
b. Offer gift certificates
c. Offer rewards, and even cash for reviews
d. Users crave recognition, and seeing their name, or giving them special
privileges on your website in exchange for submitted reviews is an excellent way
to build up user content. Some people will become superusers, and deserve to be

5. There are third-party providers that allow you to easily implement reviews
on many different platforms even proprietary ones. Thanks to Matt McGee, for
telling us what some of those services are:

Bazarr Voice

Power Reviews

Expo TV


There are some great write-ups of all of these sessions, and nobody could possibly read them all. However, if you’d like to try, here are some sites worth visiting:

SEO Roundtable has meticulously detailed coverage of 64 entire sessions. For my money, they have the best and most complete San Jose 2007 SES coverage wrapup.

BBruce Clay’s gang, especially Lisa Barone did an excellent job with coverage of 17 sessions

Anvil Media’s (and SEMpdx’s) Hallie Janssen managed to cover 9 sessions for Search Marketing Standard

Top Rank online marketing has videos, and tons of session coverage, and can never be missed.

As always, Web Pro news has great coverage including some videos. I wicsh they had an SES category, but that doesn’t take away from the excellent content there if you dig for it.

And of course Barry Schwartz has wrapped up everything in the known universe about SES San Jose for Search Engine Land, so if I haven’t given you enough resources, check this out!

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Scott Hendison is an internet marketing consultant,
based in Portland Oregon and the CEO of Search Commander Inc. He works with businesses in five countries, and is a founding member of SEMpdx.

Scott Hendison
Scott Hendison is the CEO of Search Commander, Inc. and one of the founding board members of SEMpdx. Find out more here.
Scott Hendison
Scott Hendison
Scott Hendison

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