Long before we were involved in running the first London Pro SEO seminar, I was a big fan of the ones SEOmoz ran in Seattle. I spoke there in 2008 and learned lots of great SEO tips, and also about how I needed to up my game every time I present.
It was inspirational to see the quality of advice given and the actionable tips and tricks that seasoned professionals were sharing.
The 2010 version was just as valuable, and I wanted to share the top tips from the event, this year and decided to do that by sharing the top slides from the two days' presentations.
Without further ado, here are my picks for the top slides (and tips) from this year's set (hint - you can click on the slides to see larger versions):
SEOmoz CEO Rand Fishkin kicked things off with an update of all the crazy changes happening to Google's search results recently.
Even for hardcore search addicts, there were new things to be seen, but the tip that I saw most people scribbling down was about the impact of video XML sitemap submission on existing powerful sites (even if you don't host the videos on your own site). This has been a big win for a bunch of sites I know of and is one of those things you just need to get on and do.
Adverbs were associated with a reduced chance of a re-tweet while nouns were associated with an increased chance. Pro-tip: try to stop talking about what you are doing and talk about interesting third party things.
Rand whupped me in our head-to-head presentation-off (with me now having won twice in London, we think there might be a little bit of home-court advantage going on).
In his version of How to Pitch SEO, he took the in-house pitching route and demonstrated formulae for valuing the traffic you are going to drive with your increased marketing efforts.
SEOmoz Director of customer acquisition Joanna Lord showed us how much information you can fit into a presentation if youtalkreallyfast. Her real-life examples of analytics segmentation were some of the most popular takeaways.
Define Search Strategies founder Marshall Simmonds was sharing knowledge from some of the biggest sites in the world including the New York Times and About.com.
When he shows you a chart like this one with what can only be described as cratering traffic from Digg, you have all the information you need to help you map out your social strategies over the coming years.
Our very own head of search Tom Critchlow spoke about advanced keyword selection and spent a good part of his presentation discussing ways to select and target the long-tail when many of the search terms in question haven't even been searched yet.
He demoed a mock-up of a CMS that pulled in relevant content to the primary page keyword to enable content writers to target the full long-tail effectively. To show that this isn't just a pipe dream, he then proceeded to show us this information collected automatically in real-time via a Google Docs spreadsheet, giving up some of our xpath secrets in the process. With this in hand, you can toy with moving the line between automatic and human content to suit the scale of your needs.
These were the same documents she implemented processes around when SEOmoz was still in the consulting game. If you want to see how some of the most valuable audits in the SEO world were constructed, you need look no further.
Conductor CEO Seth Besmertnik gave a great presentation on scaling SEO - including the immortal line "you want to be a monkey with a suit on". One of the biggest take-away lessons for me for organisations in the 'compete' phase of SEO when they have been spending large amounts of money on this area for some time was that you can create productive internal competition in much the same way as you would with sales teams.
When you reach the point of treating your whole organic channel as a P&L, and don't rest on your laurels about the traffic you are already getting from search, you need to listen to Seth's views. You can download his full presentation here.
To continue the theme of great strategic insights, Nine by Blue partner Laura Lippay shared her process for building a complete SEO strategy for big brands.
She began by telling us how a lack of strategic thinking resulted in a major loss of traffic for a site in her remit early in her time at Yahoo! (where she was head of technical marketing before leaving for the SEO consulting world). The slide I've picked shows the overview of Laura's split between data gathering and research and the specific actions you are recommending (emphasis Laura's).
As any of us who have worked with large clients will know, both the data underpinning your recommendations and the specific nature of your recommendations are crucial to implementation.
SEOmoz senior scientist Ben Hendrickson went a little geeky on us, talking about the developments in information retrieval up to the state of the art in probabilistic topic classification algorithms.
With accessible examples about classifying pages about Lady Gaga and Poker, he demonstrated that it "would be nice if someone were to develop an LDA [Latent Dirichlet Allocation] tool to measure closeness to a specific topic".
Nicely, as I think the audience were lost at gamma functions, Ben proceeded to roll out his handy little labs tool. Updated since his presentation, the tool computes the cosine similarity of a page to a topic. This is a metric that is better correlated with Google rankings than the best link metric he has previously computed (which is what the slide above shows). Geeky? Yes. Awesome? Definitely.
The actionable take-away is that you may be helped in the rankings by mentions of related words and phrases and hindered by those that muddy the water about your topical relevance. So if you are writing about the Rolling Stones, make sure you mention Keith Richards and avoid talking about gemstones.
Portent Interactive founder Ian Lurie was given the difficult challenge of telling a bunch of advanced SEOs things they didn't know about blogging. He did a great job, even before the no more secrets panel where he gave up his secret Levenshtein Distance method for fixing broken links. Ingenius.
Rob Ousbey covered manual linkbuilding and getting more tweets about his tip that girls get more links than for the more substantive parts of his presentation. Alongside showing us a linkbuilding email that actually works, he also offered up his tips for getting links your competitors can't get - nicely meshing with Wil Reynolds on competitive analysis:
Seer Interactive founder Wil Reynolds was typically lively when talking about how to reverse engineer your competitors' rankings. Having seen the energy he puts into not only analysing, but also monitoring changes to his clients' competitors' rankings, I have to feel bad for them.
At one point, he unfurled a print-out of the kind of spreadsheet he enjoys analysing. The slide above shows his formula for comparing exact and phrase match anchor text links to all competitors for an individual keyword ranking. Great stuff and certainly inspiring me to do more competitor monitoring.
Rand was back on the second day to show off 25 sites that earned amazing links but one of the key takeaways from his talk was the increasing awareness and scepticism on social news sites about linkbait - and infographics in particular.
While the sky is not falling, and great content will always be capable of earning links, the detailed discussions taking place on Reddit (in particular) recently show that the average social news site user is growing increasingly familiar with the practice and its manipulation.
My top tips
For obvious reasons, I didn't want to include my own slides in my top tips above, but I did want to share with you some of my best ideas:
In my head-to-head presentation-off with Rand, I offered up for download a model I built to help understand the business impact of an increase in organic search traffic. It's still a work in progress, so please don't hesitate to share any ideas you have for improvement.
In my session on sexy reporting (surely a tautology - us geeks could just go with reporting), I delved deep into my Tufte-inspired notes to share tips for making your charts more readable. In addition to removing "chartjunk", I demonstrated how avoiding stacked charts can make your point many times clearer. Next time you go to stack bars or lines on top of each other, consider splitting them out into "small multiple" charts instead. I need to go update some templates...
At the end of the second day, we had a session called No More Secrets that was low on PowerPoint and high on tips. I shared a bunch of tools I've been using recently. I think the one that most people hadn't heard of was Run My Process.
This is a crazy tool that allows non-developers to draw a flowchart process and automatically build a simple web app to execute that process. With integrations to common APIs (and the ability to add custom integrations), this has the power to revolutionise your content creation and linkbuilding processes by automating the tedious bits and ensuring everyone works to the defined process.
If you like what you see here, you can now book tickets to the London version of the event, taking place on the 25th & 26th October at the Congress Centre in the West End. I also wrote up a sneak preview of the London event over at SEOmoz.