SMX West is in its final day and it’s been a great three days of sessions. Today’s panel, What’s Needed for SEO Success in 2013 and Beyond is filled with industry experts including Greg Boser (@GregBoser), Annie Cushing (@AnnieCushing), Janet Driscoll Miller (@janetmiller), Duane Forrester (@duaneforrester), Rae Hoffman (@sugarrae) and Matt Cutts (@mattcutts).
Session is getting started with Danny making light of the fact that we had to walk close to a mile to get lunch. Danny’s introducing the panel (see above) with various jokes taken at Matt Cutts’ and Greg Boser’s expense.
Danny is opening with a general question about authorship. Is authorship the new page rank?
Matt’s response: Reputation will matter more and more as we move forward. Over time, we (Google) will be caring more about identity and social. He’s also saying it would be great to see commenters on blogs who have authority to get credit for that also. Matt is recommending implementing authorship on your site.
Greg: Believes it’s a natural progression as human page rank is harder to game. He raises a good point about authority for authors needing to be adjusted such that a post by Danny Sullivan gets its due credit on Search Engine Land, but something on his personal blog about a topic he isn’t as authoritative about, shouldn’t be given the same credit.
Rae: Asks a question about individuals “selling” their authorship in ghost posting and how that will be monitored.
Matt: mentions that there are FTC legislation against “sock puppet” accounts and that there are checks and balances to make sure ghost postings aren’t allowed under an authority account.
Annie: Seeing posts in the SERPs with authorship photos getting higher traffic.
Danny asks a follow up question: Will brands have some version of authorship
The question is shifted slightly to if brand and authoritative domains will pass some of their weight and authority to the authors that post on them?
Greg: Believes that some of that value will be passed to a blogger or writer.
Matt: We saw this in Danny’s move from SES to starting Search Engine Land. It took a bit of time but his authority was built quickly.
Greg: Believes that if you start a new site as a blogger, your authority will help give trust to that new site or domain. Additionally, larger brands and sites are struggling with how to implement authorship due to legal questions and who owns content etc. Thus, for the “small guys” there is an advantage to move quickly with authorship
Janet: Asks Matt a question about authorship for videos, pictures etc.
Matt: He believes that some form of authorship will come to more rich media. He has no timeline for that.
Rae: Asking if authorship value will flow both ways. Will her “value” give credit to a blog and visa versa.
Greg: Notices that Google has been wanting people to use one identity, your name, across accounts. He believes this is a signal that Google is paving the way to have a much more transparent approach to who is behind content an assigning value accordingly.
New discussion topic from Danny: Shifting to links… Now that we’ve gone through penalty linking through advertorials. Is the world of linking going to break down? Shouldn’t we all just shift to social?
Matt: Links in his opinion have many many many more years ahead of us as valuable. Black hat tactics that were used in the past are getting less and less successful. Google’s put a lot of time and energy into shutting down link networks etc. Thus, good links that are built naturally will still provide value for a long time.
Matt: Its easier to be real than to fake being real. Thus, come up with a really great idea, make a fantastic user experience and content and great linking will follow.
New discussion topic from Danny: Where is social going? If links are the democracy of the web, there is so much more social sharing. Will social indicators and sharing ever eclipse links?
Duane: Not sure they will ever eclipse links but there will come to a natural equilibrium. Social is a great way to understand what people are talking about and find interesting and can form hypothesis from that to determine what is relevant in search. They give us great intent. Social will continue to play a big roll but its not determined how it will be fully used just quite yet.
Danny: Out of the box, links had issues and the algo’s have refined over and over and over again. How are they refining social indicators.
Duane: There is SO MUCH DATA to deal with and they provides their own challenges.
Matt: Processing the social data won’t be the limitation. The challenges and limitations come down to noise or intent.
Greg: Likes the point about links and social coming to an equilibrium. We (SEO’s) are all looking for the date when we all “switch” from linking to social. He doesn’t believe that’s the correct mindset and that we need to keep focusing on both and how they work hand in hand. It’s never going to be one or the other.
New discussion topic: What’s going on with mobile as it relates to mobile?
Matt: Mobile is going to surprise a lot of people. Be sure you look at how your site looks and performs on mobile.
Duane: Mobile usage will go from 9 billion to 25 billion devices. Look into responsive design and how your site renders on a phone. Think about how people are looking for content based on their situation/location etc. Though we are talking a lot about social, you can do mobile NOW.
Danny: But what about concerete SEO things to do on mobile?
Matt: It’s important to make sure your site is lean and loads fast as that’s important on mobile.
Danny: Will Google mobile bot look at sites and penalize sites if they’re not mobile friendly or responsive?
Matt: He wouldn’t go that far to say there are penalties that would be applied. He saw a stat that only 4% of sites are optimized for mobile. It’s something you can do now. Google can crawl as both a desktop robot as well as Google mobile. Thus a WordPress site (like Danny’s search engine land) that has mobile optimized themes can be seen across devices.
Duane: As more and more people move in the direction as mobile, is your business moving with them to mobile?
Annie: Look at your data and isolate mobile to see how many people are hitting your site from mobile devices and look at how the site performs against your goals. Use advanced segments in Google Analytics to evaluate your traffic.
Matt: Look at your server logs and break out mobile vs. desktop. What you will see is an exponential curve and you ALWAYS want to pay attention to exponential curves.
QUESTION: What do you suggest for someone starting in SEO?
Danny: Check out search engine land and check out the SEO section. Also go to Google or Bing and look for SEO guide.
Greg: Stop using the word SEO… it’s no longer about “tactics” its about “strategy.”
Matt: What Google wants is what users want.
Duane: There are best practices that you need to understand. You need more than just tactics. You need to have good negotiating skills, know basics about psychology, how to work with other teams, you need to know usability, you need to know paid search, you need to know ROI. If you’re still an SEO saying “my job is just to get traffic” then you’re not long for this world.
Janet: Clients still want “ranking” but they don’t exist anymore. You need to educate and shift the discussion away from rankings and educate about how “ranking” is really about getting traffic and traffic is about getting sales/leads/conversions etc.
Duane: Keep your company focused on what is actually important to your business goals. Forget about rankings.
QUESTIONS: A client/company doesn’t want one author associated with their brand, what do you suggest?
Matt: That is something we’ll look at in time. It’s fair feedback.
Rae: You could use the rel publisher tag.
Greg: Believes that Google will still know where you’ve moved to if you leave one company or blog and go to the next. Google will be treating your authorship like your career.
Matt: Google tries to compensate and accommodate if people don’t install their markup correctly.
Danny: What’s up with Bing? (as it relates to authorship)
Duane: We’re watching what’s happening with Google and authorship. They may have their own version in the future but that’s not confirmed. In the meantime, Schema.org is open to anyone. Make sure you are testing your markup language using tools. Be very careful about it as so many people get it wrong.
Danny: Will you every provide a tool to show who the top authors?
Matt: Doubt it… anytime there is a leader board people want to spam it.
AND THE SOUND IS GONE…
Greg: Blames the sound on Google censorship.
Duane: “Matt… is this sound (not provided)” ?
Danny: “The sounds working just fine in the PPC room!”
A ROAR OF LAUGHTER…
QUESTION: Do we used company branded profiles for authorship (“Verison_Bob”) or their own personal accounts when blogging for a company?
Matt: Finds it annoying when he sees “Verison_bob” and would prefer the personal side. One way to compromise is, as a business, let a person be their personal brand. But don’t leave it just to one person so all of your eggs aren’t in one basket.
Duane: Consider as a company having social tasks and blogging etc as part of “what you do” as employees
Greg: Likes what Raventools does. Both personal and business twitter accounts are made known.
New discussion topic: What do you consider to be the most important SEO “think” for 2013
Duane: Usability. Pay for testing, invest in usability. Your customers are happy with you when they can use your site effectively. That makes people want to talk about you and that makes Bing happy
Annie: Shift your focus from keywords to landing pages and how they perform. You’re not seeing keyword data in your analytics reports from organic anyway. Focus on whats making you money
Matt: Global view… its going to be the same in 2013 as previous years. Think about what a user wants and then give it to them in a compelling and interesting way. Tactical … annotate your web forms so that when a Chrome user gets an auto complete form field. When their ready to give you money and buy, autocomplete will help that. When you’re using the disavow tool, remember one URL per line and its a text file, not excel etc. Lastly, “when will the next Panda update be” – he’s updating that it is coming relatively soon, not a specific day as reported. Panda updates are going to be changing. In the past, updates caused a fair amount of ranking data to change in one day. In the future, you’ll see more gradual ranking changes. Expect more gradual shifts.
Rae: Authorship. Be creative… SEO is harder now. It’s not as easy as it used to be so step up your game. The sooner you accept that you need to put some serious effort into this, the better off you’ll be.
Greg: Embrace the big data thing! Mine your data, look at internal data to help guide your strategies.
Janet: It’s not about the rankings. You’re a marketer first and an SEO second. Thing broadly beyond the classic “SEO”. Its about usability. Use more rich snippets as you can to get the visibility and traffic.
Aaaannnnnd we’re done.