Today was a hard and long day sifting through mediocre, lack-luster, single tracked ?Advanced? SEO at SMX advanced. The overall score was <50% of the speakers I would says were either good/enthusiastic or insightful. I am afraid that I think the organisers should vet the speakers and their presentations before they charge a lot of money for this event.
I will be putting this on the formal feedback form too, so don’t worry I am not just blogging for my own ego and not prepared to give real feedback. Today was just tired. At least one of the presenters had references to the last time they presented the same deck which was quite a while ago ! To be able to speak at a conference and be an expert amongst peers should be a joy and not (by some of the faces & delivery) a chore! It is easy to whinge – I guess one I day I should volunteer and put myself out there to be ridiculed.
But, to also give credit where credit is due, there were some nuggets. And half way through SMX Advanced London 2010, I am still confident on what we are doing with the day job and have a few inspired extension ideas and things to do when I get back to office.
So, what was good?
The Day 1 keynote from Barack Berkowitz from Wolfram|Alpha was right-up-there to spark my inner geek. I had seen and used Wolfram literally on its launch but not since. It is definitely going places. The idea of a fact engine, who has the ambition of “democratising knowledge” and providing answers must be a good thing. And in the long term, I genuinely believe services like this will be a game changer. There were some concerns/comments from the audience regarding where they get their data from and how they will monetise its service in the future. Berkowitz answered the questions fully, which is refreshing from a speaker these days. That much of the data is “curetted”, which he defined as chosen/verified by a team of scientists, academics or subject matter experts. That much of this is public information, obtained from official sources such as governments and some licensed from ‘expert’ sites e.g. weather services. The monetisation question was explained as their next challenge and may include paid listings e.g. answers provided by advertisers and/or that the user could buy additional information behind their query. So effectively micro-data buys rather than whole data set buying that is normally out of reach of the average individual/student. I am going to be looking out for their widgets which are coming soon. The data geek in me loved the way they dynamically charted traditionally non comparable metrics or something simple by charting comparisons e.g. life expectancy in UK versus France.
In the SEO ranking factors in 2010 session, Rand from SEOMoz referred to the patent granted to Google about the “the Random Surfer Versus the Reasonable surfer” as excellently written up last week by Bill Slawski on SEOBook’s blog.
This re-inforced the view that I and many others I know have had that not all links are treated equally. It makes perfect sense, and the equal distribution of “rank” or “link juice” which we have observed and tested is in their thought process too.
The other question posed publicly was whether the audience thought that social media affected the SERPS. Eventually a conscensus that I can subscribe to was proposed that it does. That a trending topic may affect the settings, the ones on the search bar where you can choose freshness over established ranking. So, a trending topic, may play with these filters and you will find that established text based listings may be replaced temportarily by references that have no history or inbound links; but may be from a site that has still has domain rank.
It is always good to Andrew Girdwood go on a rank about “link building” and how this was wrong and how it should be “building links . The whole panel agreed that building relationships with sites was the future of ethical link building, and people who are just doing link building were doing it wrong !
There were a few cheeky little tips on how to automate spam by a few of the speakers. Who obviously supplemented those comments that it was a bad thing to do.
I hope day 2 is a bit better.