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What The Experts Learned At The Search Conferences

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To round out our conference coverage I asked several of my conference friends about what they learned. I talked with SEO experts, expo presenters, and Jackie Jahosky, who’s gained fame for her in-session response to Site Match: “I just don’t like it.”

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Conference Views

Matt Bailey of the KarcherGroup stayed holed up in the expo hall with the vendors, explaining the virtues of organic optimization to the conference lunch crowd (they fed us up by all the vendor’s booths). Here’s what he discovered about some of his fellow vendors: “did you know that most PPC vendors do not know the first thing about “organic” search results? I think I had 3 vendors ask me what ‘search friendly dynamic content’ meant.”

That’s disconcerting. PPC vendors should know the value of organic optimization, if only to know when PPC really is the best marketing choice.

He’s got some strong feelings about the value of PPC (which I guess is natural coming from an organic optimizer ;) “I think there are only a small percentage of companies that can afford to pay-per-click for high-volume traffic streams, especially when they have low to non-existent means of converting visitors. Even if you are a B2B with a long sales cycle, justification will be hard to come by.”

Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineWatch and SES conference organizer, added a new business track to this conference with an emphasis on search engine marketers. Here’s what Matt thought:

“The CEO track on the first day was tremendous. A little too much emphasis was on selling a business, but it is important. I was just discussing with Jenn Laycock the difficulty in hiring new SEO’s and training them. It is one of the most difficult jobs I’ve ever had to train. If it comes down to training a new SEO or acquiring a one or two-man SEO agency, I can certainly see more benefits in acquisition.”

About Yahoo, the talk of the conference, he said, “the Yahoo stuff is amazing – it’s so similar to what LookSmart did a few years back, the only difference is timing and a new search engine, plus, everyone was expecting a change.

“Still, who cares? It’s just another profit machine at this point.”

Zing!

“Was anything besides Yahoo newsworthy at this SES? I’m still trying to figure out what to do with SEMPO.” (Update – Matt informed me on 030904 that The Karcher Group decided to join SEMPO.)

Speaking of SEMPO (the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization), Christine Churchill, Co-chair of the SEMPO Technical Committee, and founder of KeyRelevance.com attended both the PubCon and SES conferences and offered some interesting insight into how search engine marketing is changing.

“I came away from the conferences with several strong impressions. First, it is amazing how mainstream search has become. Suddenly big name companies are interested in search and they are throwing large sums of money in it.

“Another impression I have is that search marketing is evolving. Search used to be limited to us technical types who liked to get our hands dirty with the code. Now it’s less code and more marketing, more usability, and more conversion oriented. Search has entered a new phase in its life cycle.

“In the past I was always appalled when I’d see a top ranked page that was unfit for human eyes. I think the emphasis has migrated from building pages to please search engine spiders to building pages that enhance the user experience. I see this phenomenon in both the organic and paid sides of search.

“Personally, I think this is a healthy trend.”

How about your site? Have you focused too much on ranking and not enough on usability and how well your site actually converts? Christine’s comments speak towards the rising awareness among site owners that traffic is not enough.

Jackie Jahosky of Specialty-Lighting, who publicly decried Yahoo’s new SiteMatch program, found the link building sessions especially useful.

“I had never heard about “authority sites” before this conference and have already been looking at the authority sites in my category to find potential linking opportunities. In the past I never really spent too much time getting other sites to link to me other than the important directories, etc. This is something I am definitely going to work on and may even hire someone to do some link building for me.”

She’s gotten quite a bit of press lately around the web, from SearchEngineLowdown to the LA Times. I asked her what all the buzz has brought her.

“This is what the free press got me: A bunch of random guys wanting to date me & companies wanting to sell me stuff like this www.rocketposition.com. – what the hell is that about?”

Ahhh, the power of the press.

I caught up with Pierre Zarokian of Submit Express on the last day of the PubCon, which was actually in a pub (the WebMasterWorld conferences actually started in a pub – it’s a tradition).

Business networking was one of his highlights: “The best part of conference for me was meeting people like you and making industry contacts. I met some SEO’s that could be good link partners. I actually ran into one of our good clients at the show and was good to finally meet him in person.”

He also said he was hesitant to attend at first, “but what made me decide to go was the fact that Matt Cutts from Google was added to the lineup. I think that many people decided to go last minute after the big Google algorithm fiasco and Yahoo’s launch of their new engine and that fact the reps from both companies were going to be talking.”

His favorite session, which I have notes on and will write up for you shortly, was “European Search Engines.”

He had some harsh words about SiteMatch too. “My personal feeling is that Site Match is a waste of money for most people, especially if they have SEO’d websites. I think it is only beneficial for brand new websites or those that have fresh daily content. I am also really upset that this program does not give a ranking boost, especially given its high pricing structure.”

Garrett French is the editor of iEntry’s eBusiness channel. You can talk to him directly at WebProWorld, the eBusiness Community Forum.

What The Experts Learned At The Search Conferences
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