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Ask The SEOs

This was the final panel of SMX Advanced, and it was pretty intense. It was one big, fast and furious Q&A. Sadly, without associated PowerPoint presentations from the speakers, as well as the chaotic nature of this Q&A, it was tough to take notes this time around.

This panel was an all-star panel of SEO celebrities, again moderated by Danny Sullivan. Panelists included Bruce Clay of Bruce Clay Inc., Alex Bennert of the Wall Street Journal, Greg Boser of BlueGlass Interactive, Vanessa Fox of Search Engine Land, Todd Friesen of SearchFanatics, and Rae Hoffman-Dolan of PushFire. This was a very spirited discussion among titans of the industry, so let’s see what was gathered from them…

Penguin – Of course there was a lot of talk of Penguin, since it was so fresh in everyone’s minds, as well as potentially damaging to so many websites. While many people are wondering why Google keeps changing things with updates such as Penguin, it was stated that Penguin is actually nothing new; it’s just a refinement of the algorithm to help Google identify violations to their guidelines. Apparently giving it a name, as Google does with their actual updates, confused a lot of people at first and is one reason why people are seeing it as a penalty even though Matt Cutts said it wasn’t.

Links – This was a pretty heated topic of discussion, as links – especially paid links – are coming under more and more scrutiny thanks to things like Penguin. The consensus is that it’s time to stop engaging in shortcuts – such as link wheels, article directories and low-quality directories – because Google is getting closer and closer to catching up with people who use these shortcuts.

Link building should be a byproduct of everything else you do for your site, like content building. If you build engaging content, people will link to it. It sounds like it’s time to give up the shortcuts and become even more natural when it comes to link building.

According to the panel, Google only remembers the bad links in your link profile, and sadly, having a lot of age on a site won’t help against the effect of bad links. This isn’t the only time Penguin will smack us down, there will be more revisions, so if you think you have bad links, get rid of them now.

This all seemed pretty dire to me, but I could see where they’re coming from. Whole link networks have had to shut down due to recent Google updates, and it would be insanely stupid to think that we’ve seen the end of it. If you have time, take a deep look at your link profile and clean it up the best you can as soon as you can.

Engagement & Audience Growth – Engaging with your audience, growing that audience and keeping that audience should happen through a variety of signals. Social media is a great signal, depending on the industry apparently, but all types of signals should be used. While these signals weren’t specified, I can easily imagine what some of them are, like content creation, events, customer reviews, testimonials and forums. Engaging in all of these signals should definitely help your audience grow in the long run.

In conclusion, while Matt Cutts said don’t write the epitaph for links yet, this panel sure felt like it pushed me in that direction. The negativity surrounding links seemed nearly palatable, though I can understand why. Despite that, this panel was very spirited and fun to witness, and I’m glad I got what information I could to share with you and my colleagues.

This concludes my look at the SEO portion of SMX Advanced 2012. I hope you have enjoyed what you’ve read, and if you have any interest in engaging in Wpromote’s services to help your site better manage any of the topics I’ve discussed, from links to pagination to authorship and anything in between, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Thanks for reading!

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