… Not including the “Give It Up” session, natch. Here’s my list of the primary takeaways from the organic SEO track at SMX Advanced 2007 in Seattle. This will be heavy on takeaways from Google/Matt Cutts due to the fact that the opening session was 45 minutes of Matt.
1.) Matt Cutts was really on a mission to drive home the message that Google is not averse to using human intervention in its SERPs. I think I heard him say it in each session in which he spoke. Google is removing the phrase “100% algorithmic” from some of the webmaster guidelines pages. This is a 180-degree turn from the old days when they went out of their way to emphasize that everything they do is automated. The folks who never believed that were on the money.
1a.) On a very related note, Google’s human intervention includes trying to ascertain what type of webmaster or site owner you are. They have tools that make it possible to see other sites that a person owns. Matt C. said “if you have a gambling site and a sweater site, this doesn’t mean the first will hurt the second … (but) if you have 200 spammy sites, shouldn’t that be a signal when we look at your 201st site?” In a separate session, he said small mom and pops will get the benefit of the doubt compared to a power webmaster.
2.) If you’re building links, be careful not to go too fast. Aaron Wall and Greg Boser talked about this: Look at the dominant site in the industry and figure out their link growth rate — how many inbound links over how long? Try to match that without going dramatically over.
3.) Matt Cutts: Pages that are in the supplemental index are not parsed the same as other pages. They have to be compressed. Google may not index and store every word and phrase of pages in the supplemental index. (Me: The Web is getting too big for search engines to store it all.)
4.) The engines have practically given up trying to combat the level of spam you get in the Viagra and similar industries. Peter Linsley from Ask.com said you could have 2,000 people working on it every day and not come close to cleaning it up. More optimistically, Matt Cutts said Google has two initiatives coming soon that they think will impact this type of spam.
5.) Yahoo (Amit Kumar): Mentioned two effects related to having duplicate content: a) Yahoo is less likely to extract links from duplicate pages, and b) less likely to crawl new pages from known duplicate sites. (Me: Does that affect just spammy, scraper-style sites, or would it also affect a site that just happens to have a lot of dupe pages for whatever reason?)
6.) Matt Cutts: Click-thru data is used with personalized search, but he wouldn’t confirm or deny if it affects general search results. He did add, though, that it would be easy to game and “very noisy” if they were to use it.
7.) Spam is measured by intent and extent. I hadn’t thought of it in such succinct terms, but that’ll make a nice explanation to use with clients who don’t understand why some tactics are okay in some situations. Several different speakers said this, from Todd Malicoat to the search engine reps and others.
8.) To turn off personalized search at Google, add this parameter — &pws=0 — at the end of the query string/URL. (Thanks Lisa)
10.) Matt Cutts was about the only person in attendance who believes Wikipedia deserves the high rankings it gets on almost any Google search you do. Seriously, almost every session had at least one Google/Wikipedia joke.
11.) Matt Cutts: Part of the Googlebomb algorithm doesn’t run in a “live” setting; it runs every couple months, or when Google presses the button as needed to deflect a Googlebomb from working.
12.) “Jason” masks aren’t a real good session prop.
Bonus takeaway: The way to a search marketer’s heart is through the stomach. Really, has anyone blogged about SMX Advanced without mentioning how great the hot lunches were? No. Everyone has mentioned it, and rightly so.
If you were at SMX, what are your takeaways?