Eric Lander’s Day One Recap of SMX Advanced in Seattle

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As I mentioned last week, my intent wasn’t to live blog the events here at SMX Advanced in Seattle. So far that theory holds up to be a good one as each consecutive session draws a bit more from it’s predecessor.

With the panels having ended for the day, I can’t help but give a glowing review of what I’ve seen, heard and witnessed.

On the record, I don’t want my opinions here to reflect Rhea’s experience at the conference, so please look for her coverage as well.

The Morning Keynote
My day started off with attending the Kevin Johnson keynote that had Danny Sullivan serving as the moderator. If there was ever a buzzword bingo, every attendee would’ve won. Twice.

That’s not intended to be a knock on Kevin… I just heard things like “paradigm”, “client-focused” and “strategic” ten times too many. Seriously though, let’s give credit where it’s due; Kevin stuck to his take on things and spoke in what I’m sure Microsoft deemed as “safe” responses.

For me, the gist of the keynote was simple. To borrow a bit more from Kevin’s album of repetition — “Google is entrenched”.

They’re entrenched because they have a large brand, they’re recognizable and to a limited degree, even sexy. Five years ago, search marketers were all about Google. Today, it’s mainstream media and consumers who share that same love affair.

The potential weak spot for Google, in the eyes of Kevin Johnson and presumably Microsoft in general, is their predictive and stale user itnerface. There hasn’t been any major innovations to the interface, and because of that — Google is less likely to change.

To help combat the entrenched competitor, Johnson detailed plans to be more nimble, effectively allowing Microsoft to adapt faster to consumer needs.

Sadly, those efforts are unlikely to be realized unless Microsoft can step up and deliver a larger audience for both search and through adCenter distribution. All of the loyalty and incentive laden programs in the world won’t do anything if the market share is as small as it has been over the last few years.

To sum up the keynote, I was a bit uninspired. I wanted to see Microsoft talking aggressively about their planned attack on Google, or in the very least, add some drama to the Yahoo! stories. I didn’t get either… Only some “plans” that were countered by their own admitted weaknesses.

Blow Your Mind Link Building Techniques
The first panel of the day for me was the Blow Your Mind Link Building Techniques which featured Roger Montti, Stephan Spencer, Jay Young and Todd Friesen who was sitting in for Rae Hoffman.

Roger Montti covered some basics surrounding EDU link generation and development, and introduced the audience to the use of some advanced search filters on Google to help locate potential link candidates. Next, Jay Young took the floor in what was clearly the most vibrant shirt I’ve ever witnessed.

Jay’s panel focused on the the purchasing of links and their impact with SEO. Not to be outdone by the shirt, Jay offered up some of the more memorable quotes of the day. Such lines included the catchy “bring brass balls and big bucks” and the controversial declaration that: “We’re not in this for morality, we’re in it for marketing… Put the high and mighty stuff away”.

I caught a bit of a response going around Twitter following that, but Jay raised some eyebrows and really got people talking about the panel and their opinions on links. Up until that point, the morning lacked any solid user interaction — so it was great to get a stir out of the crowd.

The final presenter was Stephan Spencer, who frankly, would not be served any justice with my coverage of his information. If you have never seen Spencer’s powerpoints or panels, you’re absolutely missing out. He packs his screens with relevant information that’s enough to please anyone in the crowd… but when he speaks, he delivers it that much better.

Stephan’s information is best suited for those who are into bulleted lists and expounding upon them. Take a look at Barry Schwartz’s coverage of the panel on Search Engine Roundtable.

(I recall Stephan mentioning that the presentation would be available online, but I haven’t yet found the link. If anyone happens to have that, please do post that along for readers to enjoy!)

Bot Herding
Bot herding was the next organically focused panel that I sat in on. I think I became intimidated when it came to taking notes though, as I was seated next to Lisa Barone from Bruce Clay’s live blogging team. Rather than cover the panelists content, I’ll lead you to read her full post, Organic Track: Bot Herding.

The panel was my favorite in that it gave Michael Gray a forum to combat Evan Roseman, a Google engineer on their treatment of sites. A lot of either misinformed SEO’s or amateurs to the space mistake Michael’s view on Google as an attention getting scheme. The truth is, he’s spot on with his opinions and rants. Google has unfairly given a number of sites (oh, hello Wall Street Journal) what anyone with a brain would deem preferential treatment.

What’s worse to me is that many dismiss his arguments without first considering their validity.

Anyway, the panel was a great success, which is no doubt attributed to the controversial and opinionated content that was presented. Besides, putting search reps on a panel with successful search marketers is always going to generate an interesting experience.

Two more quick notes on this one… First, it reminded me of an old, controversial post I wrote called NoFollow: An SEO Red Flag? Second, Adam Audette introduced a deeper view of nofollow’s usage than I expected, and he did it wonderfully. He’s already gone to the length to make his thoughts available on his blog, so be sure to read 8 Arguments Against Sculpting PageRank™ with Nofollow.

Buying Sites For SEO
The last traditional panel I attended was Buying Sites For SEO. This was cool in that it allowed Jeremy Schoemaker to make the first panel (I’ve ever witnessed) at a search conference via Video. Jeremy posted his thoughts on his blog but also posted the same video on YouTube for all to enjoy:

The other panelists did a great job of course, so check out the coverage again on Bruce Clay’s Blog and Search Engine Roundtable.

I learned a lot of great information from this panel and was impressed with what Todd Malicoat and Jeremy Wright brought to the table. Both did an excellent job, and having not seen Jeremy present before — I was really impressed with his stance and confidence on the topic at hand. Jeremy introduced a number of metrics that his company, b5 media, uses to evaluate potential acquisitions and partners. While we tend to skew our thoughts towards SEO values and properties, I was pleasantly surprised and introduced to traits and elements that I frankly would have overlooked.

That’s It?
Yes, and no. First, there’s a networking event that’s set to kick off in about an hour. I want to make it there because there was a lot of follow-up questions and thoughts I had for some of the panelists. Second, I need to be a more active author here on Search Engine Journal. While I could blog for hours on end about the dozens of ideas and thoughts I have had on the content of today’s panels… That wouldn’t make a lot of sense.

Instead, I’ll be posting a similar recap tomorrow and then following up in the coming weeks with some more focused and specialized coverage that hits on the many topics discussed.

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  • shoemoney

    “This was cool in that it allowed Jeremy Shoemaker to make he first panel”

    Are the typos and misspellings a tribute to me ? 8)

  • Eric Lander, Associate Editor

    Typos!? What typos? I don’t see anything wrong here 🙂

  • Eddy DeMelo

    Nice recap! I’m still bummed that I didn’t get to go. Maybe next year. Anyway, I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s recap and the upcoming articles!

  • Edward

    Hey, you attended the same things as me!

    SMX Advanced was pretty awesome.

    In response to page sculpting, I believe that Google’s algorithms probably have some sort of way for compensating for the “privacy policy” pages on the web – they probably have some way of “categorizing” pages as non-important – rendering PR sculpting useless. It definitely seems like a waste of time.

  • Gab Goldenberg

    Can you give me some feedback on what you liked/didn’t like Eric? Seems like I was pointedly left out, which is cool if you thought I sucked n would rather not have said so and embarass me. But I’d really like some constructive feedback if that is the case.

  • Eric Lander, Associate Editor

    @Gab – I’ve gone back through my notes and also accessed your presentation online via SMX. Both though seem to be pretty thin, which is why I didn’t cover your presented topics in my initial post. Were there only 5 slides to your individual panel?

    Either way, here’s my quick recap… I liked your recommendations of planning ahead, finding niche sites in a space and treating the situation as something incredibly important.

    You likened buying sites for SEO to be similar to climbing Everest. I get why you did that (to hammer home the point of planning ahead), but I’m not sure it’s that serious for most site acquisitions.

    I was not sold on how you presented the concept of submarine crawling. For example, I’ve seen many questionable sites with search queries being indexed. Perhaps there was too much focus on that concept? Or, too much reliance on an assumption of Google and WP powered search boxes?

    Really though, that’s only my opinion.

    In terms of how you presented – there’s no problems there. You speak clearly and are certainly comfortable in your approach, As always, your material was well prepared and you presented it well.

  • Gab

    I had 5 slides onnly cuz I wanted people’s attention on what I was saying, not reading slides. Also, I tripped up with too many slides at SMX WEst. Your notes may also be thin cuz I was trying to copycat Seth GOdin and use pictures rather than text in my slides. Harder to take notes with that.

    “For example, I’ve seen many questionable sites with search queries being indexed.” I’d love for you to share them.

    That said, G are the ones who’ve said it’s something they’re doing for high quality sites; if you read my post on submarine crawling (“Understand Search and Value Links like Matt Cutts with Submarine Crawling) you’ll see why I think they’re doing it, and why I doubt that it would grow to average/crummy sites too.

    Everest wasn’t so much planning as
    a) research
    b) protection from google smackdown on bought sites
    c) strong domains/base camp = key.

    Glad you liked the style in any case :).