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On Wednesday, the 5th annual search marketing conference, Searchfest took place in my humble town of Portland Oregon. This is always a great conference with amazing speakers and really smart people asking really smart questions. I attended the advanced track sessions and thought I’d share my favorite takeaways from the day.
Conrad Saam’s rankings rant and recommended SEO KPIs: Conrad expanded on his previous ranking report rant by offering a handful of more effective KPIs to track than rankings. In addition to rankings, he tracks things like: % of links that go to the home page (important to monitor as you seek to grow deep links), number of keywords driving traffic (long tail) and the number of landing pages driving traffic (page indexation indicator). His general point is that by only tracking rankings you can miss the big picture – like what is actually driving traffic and performing well.
adCenter PPC tip: if you pause a phrase match keyword, it automatically pauses broad and exact. FYI.
Rand’s link building signals of the future: although he repurposed one of his recent blog posts, this was an insightful and forward thinking presentation. Rand talked about how things like brand signals and author authority may possibly play a larger role in ranking factors in the future. He also shared some tests that they had run at SEOmoz which had indicated that social sharing actions such as retweets of a given blog post can have a lasting impact on rankings.
Joanna Lord’s general enthusiasm: Joanna gave a fabulous synopsis of the latest and greatest coming from Google AdWords. The biggest takeaway for me was to remember to take advantage of the Opportunities tab in order to mitigate management paralysis and consider Google’s ideas because most likely, competitors aren’t using this yet and there may be some great nuggets.
Log file analysis: this session left me wishing with all my heart I had Todd Nemet’s skills. At Nine by Blue, Todd has created a web log parser that can provide incredibly valuable SEO data. Through this “old school” approach, webmasters and SEO’s can track metrics such as most crawled pages by bots, time to discovery for pages, new referring links and crawl efficiency. In addition, analyzing log files usually results in identifying issues that if addressed, will improve organic visibility. For example, the 503 response code (server unavailable) will often cause Google to back off and crawl your site less.
In short, there were tons of big ideas and little helpful tips from some of the best and brightest in the industry. The future of search engine marketing will (hopefully) move away from being obsessed with keyword position, move towards a more sophisticated way to determine rankings and even include a throw back to analyzing log files to understand bot behavior.