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Sifting for nuggets in tedium – SMX Advanced London 2010

SMX Advanced London 2010

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.

April fools and easy link bait

adrianland-dialaphone-aprilfoolThe 1st April 2009, many companies used classic April Fools as an excuse to bait for links and it has worked as I will show a few here.

One thing which was new this year was the large amout of Tweeting and other social media that was used to distribute.  And it allowed a very easy way to share to get the reach you can only hope for.

If you use Twitter you can see trends. Here is the  April fool trend.

Here are some that passed infront of me today

  • The Guardian newspaper is going to give up ink and move to twitter!
  • Amazon launch the amazon floating cloud environment (face) for computer processing in blimps!
  • A big one on social media was Google artifical intelligence stuff! and another about how they turned a VP’s office into a beach with suitable pics.
  • Dialaphone launched a coin operated pay as you go phone.
  • MSN messenger can guess you mood and display it in your profile.
  • Hotels.com has deals on hotel rooms on the moon.
  • Expedia has a sales on flights to Mars. If you see the page, they are sold out! but you can get a discount code.

There are plenty more examples from BBC iplayer in toasters for your breakfast fix, through to android driven cars to companies making their site look identical to their competitors.

Techcrunch has a long list – check it out too >>

Its seems to be very wide spread this year.  Well done to those who participated.  What will we see next year?

EConsultancy’s Digital Cream March 2009

I have to say, its been a first in a long time that I have actually enjoyed an networking and discussion event.
This is an invitation only event and as you say you can go you specific what topics you are interested in.

The day is broken into 3 x 1 ½ hour round tables of 8 to 10 professionals on a selected topic. The table is sponsored by a company and that is how it is free to all of us. Luckily the tables I was on the sponsor did a few shameless plugs – but had enough humour in that delivery not to be intrusive.

I was on three sessions:
1) Online Copy, Content onsite and ePR
2) Social media and how to monetise it, and
3) SEO

It was a who’s who of digital marketing and on the whole there was a good mix of experience and learners. Each bringing something unique to the table.
The rules are that no comments/case studies or people can be cited directly, in a bid to aid open and frank discussion.
But I thought I would post a few comments which are a mixture of my thoughts and collected observations.

1) Online Copy, Content onsite and ePR

Most people are working on improving onsite content. This is in terms of entry pages, working on conversion and for purely old-school-doorway pages. And the more conversion orientated are using content to aid and remove fall out from action orientated paths on site.

There was general consensus that those who are working in multi-lingual sites were struggling with translation versus localisation. And we having to accept what they were given due to time or resource constraints.
It was clear that there are so many definitions and tactical uses of content throughout every organisation. But on the whole, everyone believed in quality content. But varied in whether they thought they had any or were going to get some!

2) Social media and how to monetise it

You cant monetise social media at the moment was clear from all. And that all people that we spoke to described their activities as ‘dabbling’ rather than a full on deliberate strategy.
The best practice was fairly well agreed that companies need to Listen first before they jump in.

And when trying to spark conversation or form opinions that identifying key influencers is essential.
One company was proactively searching for keywords in Twitter and when they found a potential customer with a problem their company could solve they would intervene, supply the solution and get that satisfied individual to buzz about their company. Which I think is genius.
Measuring of Social media varied by company. Some didn’t measure at all. And other were using existing or classic KPI to judge its success.

There were some interesting discussion how some retailers are allowing their customers to contact them through more informal channels. And this allowed them to work with angry people and fairly often turn them into advocates.
There was a discussion on how employees who use social media ‘could’ damage a reputation or get them or colleagues into trouble. And there was insight into how some companies are putting in social media education programmes!
We all agreed that we would need to learn when a company should ‘Shut up’ in social media before they alienate the crowd.

3) SEO

This was a good and lively table. I enjoyed this discussion a lot. The conversation meandered from how to work with agencies to brainstorming specific concerns/dilemmas some of the participants are having today.
The topics were varied and to write this up would take more patience than I actually have. All in all it was fun.

Overall, I enjoyed this event, picked up a few tips and meet some interesting people. Well done EConsultancy. Can’t wait til next year.