SMX Advanced in Seattle was held June 3rd and 4th, and just like last year, I thought it was an excellent show.

Even though I took copious notes, rather than recap all the sessions, which has already been done so well by many others, I thought I would blog about only the newest information I learned.

Not all of the information below came from the sessions, and in a few cases, they came from conversations in the hallways, or even after hours. Not everything here might be useful for you to know, but I found it all to be pretty interesting.

Here then, (in no particular order) are my own top 10 SMX Advanced nuggets of knowledge:

1. Google news
When Google news displays results on the same line, more often than not, it pulls images from one source, and the story snippet from another. I was surprised to hear that, but I’ve verified this to be true.

This makes a great case for making sure that you optimize your images for search, including using an alt tag, surrounding the image by relevant text, naming the image with the word photo, pic, or JPEG etc. in the filename, and ensuring that your images directory is crawlable, and not blocked with your robots.txt file.

2. Where you search from, matters
To hear that he originating location of the search plays a part in the results even for non-geographic search terms was a surprise to me, but besides hearing it from Rand Fishkin during his presentation, a couple of other people confirmed it as well.

I had always assumed that the difference in search results that people might see came only from the fact that Google has multiple data centers, and this is still partially the case.

The apparent truth of the matter though, is that if three people search for “plumber” from different parts of the country, they are all going to be served different results, even if they are on the same Google datacenter.

When I first heard this I was skeptical, but I’ve since been able to verify it (occasionally) by picking just one Google datacenter, and then using different proxy servers to search for the same non-geographic key phrases.

I did this for a few phrases, and sometimes the top 10 were a little different, and sometimes they were identical, so it appears that the variance kicks in only when certain search terms are used.

How does knowing this help you? Well, I guess it doesn’t. Throw in Personal Search, (where Google users can get completely different results when they are logged in), and you quickly realize that SERP reports are becoming even more useless as time goes on (but clients still want ’em, don’t they?).

3. “Who you link to” matters more than ever
Okay I admit that this isn’t really something I learned here, but it seems to have gained more importance than I was aware of over the past few months. More than one speaker referred to “co-citation”, and checking out your link partners websites to ensure that they’re linkworthy.

We all know that linking to a bad neighborhood will closely associate you with that site, so logically, linking to the most authoritative sites in the world can’t hurt, can it? As Google cracks down even further on link sellers and other garbage websites, you want to be sure that you are not recommending them from your own site.

Conversely, linking to authoritative informational websites that are valued highly by the search engines actually does help establish you as a trusted authority of of information. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t give you a huge boost in trust, but these days, every bit helps.

So, might displaying the RSS feeds of the highest authority industry relevant sites help you? I’ll bet it might…

4. Yahoo offers dynamic URL rewriting
Most search marketing professionals know that long ugly URLs strings used to be problematic for the search engines. While they have all gotten much better at crawling strings with multiple variables,
it’s still better to make sure that you have search engine friendly URLs throughout your website.

Sometimes though, technical issues make that unacheivable, so Yahoo site explorer has apparently been offering on-the-fly dynamic URL rewriting since last August, which I think would be a pretty big deal, if they had more market share.

I asked a Google engineer if Webmaster Tools was going to be offering this, and pretty much got told that they didn’t have a problem crawling dynamic URLs, so no, because they don’t have to. For complete details on the why and how Yahoo is doing this, see this

5. Changing registration info can harm a site
Wow, really? During the session titled, “Buying Sites for SEO” more than one speaker talked about not changing the who is information after purchasing an old domain name.

I think it was both Gab Goldberg and Todd Malicoat that suggested using a legal agreement and an escrow service to ensure protection for you, the new owner, but if you could avoid changing the actual registration information, it would be preferable.

The reality is, due to expense and inconvenience, (not to mention the risk of the old owner coming back at you), most of us will not take this step. Whenever I get a chance to grab an old domain, the last thing I would ever have thought of would have been to keep the old registrants information.

I suspect that it’s more due to the combination of factors, like changing hosts, changing registrars, changing Whois information, and changing the content all at once that can trigger a filter causing the search engines to take a closer look at the website.

Still, if you buy an old site, and can manage to retain the content, it appears as if the experts agree that you’ll do yourself a favor if you take the extra steps necessary to work out a way to keep the registrant information intact.

6. Downloadable file from Google Webmaster tools is not totally worthless
When you are logged into Google Webmaster tools, and you go to statistics – top search queries, you get to see two rows of phrases, but only the top 20 on each side. Below the left column there are two links, one to “download data”, and one to “download all query stats” for your website.

It’s probably been six months since I last bothered downloading the “all query stats” file because I found it to be pretty much useless. Although it comes in a CSV format, and importing it into a spreadsheet leave you with your columns of key phrases mashed together and separated by brackets like this –
etc.

I can remember wasting over an hour trying to make something out of this data, and I just scratched my head (okay, maybe I beat my fist on the desk) wondering what I might have done wrong, and finally just moved on. To this day, I still don’t understand why Google doesn’t fix it.

However, a top affiliate marketer named Carsten Cumbrowski has apparently created a tool he calls the
Google stats converter, and it’s really quite useful. Simply visit his site, upload your file, and get it converted for instant download.

Unfortunately, Googles has seen fit to remove the one critical piece of information that you may really want, and that makes no sense to me. I want to see the same information they show me on that top 20 screen before I download the file in the first place, which is to see my ranking for each phrase.

Sure they show you a thousand phrases, along with the location of the search, the search type, whether images, mobile etc., and they even show you the number of clicks, but they won’t show you
where you rank! That seems to defeat the whole purpose in providing the file anyway, doesn’t it?

Why should you care where you rank? Well, if you knew what good phrases you are already already on page 2 and 3 for, then you could optimize some pages and shoot a few links their way to bounce to page 1.

I can’t understand why Google would remove this information other than to make our lives more difficult, so that’s why I’ll continue to use SEODigger. Although the information they provide is up to 90 days old, at least it’s quite helpful for helping a site realize it’s untapped potential.

7. Links from Meetup.com are not nofollowed
Not exactly earth shattering news, but hey, just like Flicker, having access to any well established
and frequently crawled site where you can send some link juice where you like is always nice. Besides, I’m trying to make a top 10 list here 😉

8. Google penalties officially cleared up
Most of us have heard about the supposed Google -5 penalty, or the -30, -60, -90, or even the -950,
were people claim to have verifiable proof that Google has dropped them these exact numbers of spots. I’ve seen these posts, participated in a few myself, and had no doubt they existed.

During the “You & A with Matt Cutts session, Matt verified that yes, there ARE varying degrees of Google penalty, ranging from lowered PageRank, to lowered ranking of varying degrees. Of course we all know it’s even possible to be completely removed from the index, but he said that the penalties are not “specific numbered penalties” that get assigned to different situations.

So now it’s completely cleared up, right? Google does penalize sites as they see fit ranging anywhere from one to a thousand dropped spots, and the exact reasons why are clearly defined right here in the
Google Webmaster guidelines
.

9. Age of your inbound link matters
This is another one that I guess I knew, but unfortunately there’s really not a lot we can do about it. What I didn’t know was that it appears to have become increasingly important, and most people I talked with about it seemed to agree.

A brand-new link is not going to do you as much good as a well-established link that’s been around for a long time. This is good news for well-established sites with lots of links, but bad news for competitors trying to break in to new markets with new domains.

This opens up a couple of other questions that I was unable to get answered – namely…

  1. Does the age of the anchor text matter? – It’s long been established practice to review your own inbound link profile, and go back to some of your old partners, and try to get the anchor text changed, but might that be “resetting the clock” somehow? Bad idea?
  2. Does changing the URL of an inbound link matter? – If you can somehow actually get a link partner to change the inbound link text, then it’s probably no more difficult to get them to change the target. Anyone that’s tried it has seen that help in the past. However, does changing the target URL to a deeper link but would that “reset the clock” somehow?
  3. What about changing the domain entirely for that old link? Does that reset the clock too?

Maybe Matt from Google can answer these questions but maybe it’s too specific and would give away some details they’d rather not share?

So, just remember that building trusted links is more important than ever, but in the grand scheme of things, the Internet is still very young. Someday, that link you obtained way back in June of 2008 is going to be old, crusty, and quite valuable, so get to work.

10. I still have a lot to learn
I heard a lot of people saying that for a supposedly “Advanced” conference, there sure was a lot of basic information, and I suppose that to some degree that was true, but only if you stayed in sessions where you are already an expert.

The Give it up session notwithstanding, (where for the first time, I heard “dark side” suggestions and comments at a mainstream conference), I find it very hard to believe that anyone could have a problem finding things to learn here, and saying it wasn’t “advanced” enough. What did they expect? I talked to a lot of newbies there, and trust me, plenty of them were pretty overwhelmed!

As we all get smarter in our chosen niches, we’re always going to find less in our usual session choices, but by branching out of my own comfort zone and attending sessions in a wider variety of subjects, I’m going to be able to continue my quest for knowledge in the Internet marketing world.

I met lots of people and heard several amazing speakers that were far more knowledgeable than I am in their areas of expertise. At a small conference like this, you get to rub elbows with some of the brightest minds on the planet, and pick their brains.

Just a few that come to mind immediately were Jonah Stein of ItstheROI, Jay Young of Str0ud, and Christoph Cemper of Cemper.com. I’d never met any of them before, and it was a nice “advanced” treat.

I also want to extend a special thanks to Jonathan Hochman of Hochman Consultants for picking up a large dinner tab at the Edgewater, and Stephan Spencer of Net Concepts for patiently answering every stupid question i could think of to ask him.

9 thoughts on “SMX Advanced 2008 – Top 10 Nuggets of Knowledge

  1. If this all you learned, I’m not sure the dollar amount of attending is worth it. Matter of fact, I know it’s not. You could have learned many of the things you wrote about in places out there for free. I guess people like “rand” make it more credible, huh? 🙂

  2. I didn’t say that was “all I learned”, I just picked out some specifics, and made a post.

    However, I did have a real interesting conversation with someone at the SEOmoz party about the tactic of wasting people’s time by creating controversy just for the sake of controversy, and guess whose name was the first one to come up?

    Thanks for your input…

  3. That’s great to hear although I don’t create as I don’t have to. You all make the most pitiful posts , and do so on a daily basis.

    Trust me bud; I’m not the only one who thinks those conferences are total crapola. I’m just the only one who seems to call you all out about it. You need to expand your knowledge about actually WHO makes up this industry. You would soon realize that conference goers are a VERY small part of it. …. and for good reasons.

    BTW: I’m happy I’m known at the conference. It gives me the warm fuzzie-wuzzies. LOL

  4. Scott; You say my name came up about controversy? Heck; have you read the many submissions at that spin website owned by the same person who runs that conference? Come on now; if you think little doug heil is creating controversy, I invite you to take a read at some of those SEO type blog posts. My goodness; what a whole lot of bullocks and BS and crap. Words cannot describe the crap.

    Matter of fact; I just took a call from a SEO who has been in this industry for about as long as I have, but with a low profile. He called me specifically to introduce himself and to tell me he agrees totally with me about ALL things about this industry and what I write. Go figure? He’s from Canada and he aTTENDED the conference you speak about. He totally hated it. He also is posting in the Lisa Barone thread and just cannot believe the sorry people who praised that lyndon character and who also make up the “majority” of spin members. That’s a fact.

    You can ridicule and talk about me all you want… and I want you to do so, but just remember that there are many more in this industry who do agree with me about most things. That’s another fact.

  5. Scott, what a nice, concise summary of the conference. I’m working on mine right now as well & I pulled some of the same things you did as the biggest takeaways. The “Where you search from” to me was not as interesting as “where links are coming from.” I found Richard Zwicky’s assertion that links to a site based in Washington State from another site with an IP address in Washington State are more valuable particularly interesting.

  6. Thank David – You know, I guess I never realized it before, but I had always recommended joining lots of local groups for local clients (getting a link) and those links, (whatever the anchor text) always did help.

    But supposedly, where you host your site isn’t supposed to matter, right?

    However, what if the site linking to you (that’s physically right down the block) is hosted across the country? Is it really less valuable then?

    That seems silly, but if so, there’s a strong case to be made for everyone to host locally, right?

    Maybe Matt will weigh in?

  7. Scott thanks for the recap. As someone who doesn’t attend conferences because of my schedule it’s helpful to hear what is going on and what the latest news is. As for the age of the links to your site, has anyone come up with a time frame.

  8. Scott S – Well, the only time frame that everyone agrees upon is “the older the better” – but, we still don’t know if there’s a “clock reset” of any kind, if the anchor text changes (I suspect not) or the target url changes (I suspect so).

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