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SES Toronto: SEO is Dead. No it’s Not.

Posted on Jun 14th, 2011
Written by Lee Odden
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    SEO is DeadModerated by Jonathen Allen, the SEO is Dead. Long live SEO! session included a number of “salty dog” SEO experts: Terry Van Horne, Jim Hedger and Garry Pryzklenk.

    Essentially, the key questions discussed in this panel centered around what is it that we’re doing as marketers that could be considered as SEO vs. Marketing.  Other topics included: Google +1, personalization, evolving nature of SERPs, “Trust Rank”, analytics and other technical aspects of SEO were discussed.

    Moderator: What does search engine optimization mean anymore? The thing about SEO is that there are many technical considerations. What ranking factors still matter? Should we still be considering tags, H1, Titles, etc.

    Terry: Title tags are one of the biggest factors.

    Jim: Beyond the URL the first thing the search engine will see is the title tag. You can gain a great deal of power from your title tag.

    Jim: Being a great SEO isn’t being a magician. It’s about being a great marketer that uses SEO.

    Terry: I’ve always followed the Document Object Model to identify what HTML attributes are important for SEO. Then you have other formats like RDFa and microformats.

    Jim: It’s important to remember we’re writing for two audiences: people and search engines.

    Terry: Spiders don’t buy anything

    Jim: Titles help people navigate the website

    Moderator:  Is link building a SEO tactic or a marketing tactic?

    Terry: Its a marketing tactic. I’ve been link building before I started doing SEO.  If you look at link building without SEO then you’re pretty safe when it comes to Google guidelines.

    Audience: How does personalization and Google +1 affect SEO?

    Jim: Search engines will continue to innovate and change. Just because things change doesn’t make optimization any less relevant. We may need to change how we do things and use different sets of tasks, but you’re still doing things to make it easy for search users to find your content.

    There’s not a lot you can do with personalization when it comes to SEO. Localization and personalization are very close to each other. Except personalization is mostly informed by your behaviors.

    Garry: Social is an area where Google wants to move into for signals, but I don’t think they want to have a high reliance on any one source. Google +1 is their attempt to mitigate reliance on external social signal. It does have some correlation between personalization and localization.

    Terry: The most important part of personalization, is that when people are logged in, Twitter becomes very important.  Tweets can take up a lot of SERP screen real estate from .  People say +1 is a ranking signal, I don’t believe that.

    Terry: As far as personalization, I try to use personas and optimize according to customers. You’ve got to look at audiences, not just keywords.

    Garry: Personalization and +1 is still new. We’re going to have to wait a little bit to see it gain some traction and see if it will have an impact.

    Moderator: With Twitter, we know Google uses the firehose of data. With +1, content posted can appear on a Google profile and can also appear in real-time search results. Is that SEO or marketing?

    Audience: Now that traditional SEO is changing, what are some of the key things we need to be looking at for the “new SEO”

    Jim: What’s old is new. In the beginning there was Alta Vista. Search engines of that day were just about acquiring content. Content was king before links became commoditized by Google.

    Today, quality content, making your sites accessible and usable is important. Usability is polite. Accessibility is the law.

    Audience:  The +1 is all user generated content.  I don’t see anyone outside of techies ever using it. What do you think the shelf life will be?  Also, what about Bing?

    Garry: Buzz died pretty quickly because it was so similar to other services. With +1 it depends whether it gets traction or not.

    Bing conversion rates overall have been very good with PPC. Bing is also a center of innovation and could be a real competitor.

    Terry: +1 really is only known and used by techies. There’s nothing obvious about what will happen with +1 for users, whereas with other sharing buttons, you can tell it’s for Facebook or Twitter.

    Moderator: +1 on PPC ads provides better demographic data for advertisers and can positively affect quality score. Google has a lot of data that shows if you integrate social, with display and PPC you get better overall lift.

    Panel: Google is a bit naive about how they approach social. They have engineers deciding to make things that will be cool, but don’t really make an effort to explain to users why it’s important. Google +1 is a good example of this. There are many reasons why advertisers and Google would want people to use +1, but not many compelling reasons for people to use it.

    Jim: Is SEO dead. SEO dies every day. We spell die wrong. It should be “dye”. SEO is dying, changing every day.

    Audience: I’ve not seen having a mobile optimized landing page or site helps your Google ranking on a Google mobile device or search.

    Terry: I’m of the opinion that “mobile” sites will be obsolete because HTML5 will improve. Mobile and website from a code perspective will converge.

    Garry:  Is an optimized site on mobile a great user experience when you have to pull back on certain features to accommodate mobile limitations?

    Terry: If you’re looking at your users with mobile, you’ll give them a different experience than on the web.

    Audience: When you’re logged in, it seems everyone has a YouTube or Gmail account these days. How many queries happen when logged in vs. logged out?

    Terry: Since caffiene you’re pretty much always logged in.

    Garry: If you’ve ever logged in, the cookie will persist whether you’re logged in or not.

    Terry: Google is also pulling data from Chrome and the toolbar, whether you’re logged in or not.  Keep in mind advertising networks like Google’s DoubleClick can read those cookies too.

    Audience: Can you name the top 10 signals you’d advise someone to use that is a large player, software, international, high end.  That already has #1, #2 ranking positions.  What are your top 10 signals for the “uninitiated”.

    Jim:  Titles, description meta tags, text and links

    Terry: Title, copy and links

    Garry: Agree with Jim. Quality of content is king because that’s what will attract links.

    Jim: Site structure and quality of site structure is also important.