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Last week, I was given the opportunity to attend my first SEO conference, SMX Advanced in Seattle. Over the two days that I was there, I attended several panels on a wide variety of topics, from personalization to authority building to schema and authorship and nearly everything in between. While some of the information I heard wasn’t new, quite a bit of it was. Honestly, my wrists are still sore from all of the furious note taking that I did.

There was a lot to review from these panels, so I’ve separated my recap into multiple posts. Please enjoy the first installation of my SMX Advanced 2012 overview.

The Periodic Table of SEO 2012 Edition

Danny Sullivan, the editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, moderated this panel. Contributors included Chris Silver Smith from Argent Media, Jeff MacGurn from Cavario, Mark Munroe from Inflection and Kristine Schachinger from Sites Without Walls. The panelists covered a lot of ground, and the presentations were pretty dense. The main points were as follows:

Quality and Trust – While things such as quality scores are nothing new on Google, they’re apparently becoming more and more important. Google uses over 200 signals to determine the value of a website, and two of those signals that are increasing in importance are quality and trust. If you think about it, the two are highly intertwined. A high quality website – one that has well-written content, badges of authority from places like the BBB and TRUSTe, ‘About Us’ pages with human faces and so on – helps build trust with the user, who is more likely to engage in your products and services.

Optimize for the User Experience – This is becoming increasingly important. Mr. Munroe stated that SEO should now be called SUX, which stands for Search User Experience Engineering. Google especially wants to show their users relevant, accurate and trustworthy information, and they have mountains of data on how users interact and engage with a website, data we don’t have. Optimizing the user experience strives to bridge the gap between what we do know and what Google knows by giving the user a unique and engaging experience. This will take a lot of work, such as analyzing entry and exit pages, keywords used to arrive on the site, surveys and user testing, but in the end it should be worth it.

Microformatting/Rich Snippets – These are small pieces of data that help a search engine result be more rich and useful. According to Mr. MacGurn, rich search results get clicked on more often and bring in more traffic, since users find them more useful. This could also be entwined with the user experience topic above. Rich snippets also help with the increased use of filtering, as non-rich results get filtered out. If you have a site with products to sell, reviews of those products, events or offers; rich snippets will become more useful than ever in 2012.

Social Signals – Mr. MacGurn also had quite a bit to say about social signals and how to use them. He used a case study of the SOPA website blackout from several months ago to show how proper use of social signals and viral content can make an idea grow exponentially. Data gathered from this study and other social signals showed that people often share funny content at the end of the day and serious content in the beginning. Some suggestions included knowing when people use social media, like the example I just mentioned, as well as knowing the influencers in social media and developing relationships with them, so they can share your content.

In conclusion, there was a lot of valuable information in this panel, primarily about the user experience. All of the factors mentioned, however, can be combined into an excellent example of a holistic experience that helps the user and the search engines engage and interact better with your website. Other panels went into more detail on some of these topics, so stay tuned for more of my recap from SMX Advanced 2012!


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